Building Resilience of Smallholder Farmers in Rwanda
In Rwanda, the agricultural sector plays a critical role in supporting the country’s economy, accounting for 80% of employment and 90% of the country’s food needs. To sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women and children under two and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate, the five-year, $32.6 million USAID-funded Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity focused on the sustainable intensification of Rwandan smallholder farming systems, with emphasis on climate-smart, nutrition-sensitive approaches and social behavior change across 10 districts of Rwanda in the Eastern, Western and Southern provinces.
With an approach guided by the activity’s motto, “Farmers Grow More, Sell More and Use that Income to Eat Better,” productivity throughout the districts improved by 50% across the board after five successful years of Hinga Weze implementation.
“Today, farmers are producing more and earning more money,” said Laurence Mukamana, Hinga Weze chief of party. “This, in turn, is helping them to expand their businesses by having increased capacity and access to loans and market information, and to invest in their family’s health by producing and purchasing diverse, nutritious foods.”
From 2017-2022, Hinga Weze worked with local government and private sector partners to improve farmers’ knowledge of good agricultural practices — such as the utilization of improved inputs and planting methods — through trainings, extension and demonstration plots.
Hinga Weze trained farmers in key agricultural methods, including integrated soil fertility management, integrated pest management and climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive agriculture, enabling producers to plant a variety of resilient and nutritious crops, produce higher yields and increase incomes and food security.
Hinga Weze also equipped farmers and agribusinesses with skills in entrepreneurship, business development and financial management by providing training, scaling up the use of digital information systems and facilitating profitable market linkages between producers and buyers. This strengthened farmers’ professionalism and access to agricultural finance, helping them enhance their competitiveness and revenues.
The activity also strengthened extension services by supporting the government of Rwanda’s Twigire Muhinzi national extension program and helping farmer promoters, farmer field school facilitators and youth to provide in-person and digital extension services to farmers.
At the same time, Hinga Weze created and strengthened solidarity savings groups, which mobilized farmers to save, build assets and improve bankability through the collective mobilization of capital. They also partnered with financial institutions and business development service providers to create agricultural loan products and processes that meet the needs of smallholder farmers, facilitating their timely access to markets and capital.
Ensuring its activities prioritized inclusion, Hinga Weze partnered with women, youth and persons with disabilities to provide agricultural equipment, income-generating assets and more through grants and training on farming, entrepreneurship and nutrition-sensitive agriculture.
Using the Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) approach, women and men were trained on joint planning and saving, family budgeting and good feeding practices.
Meanwhile, over 14,500 youth benefitted from Hinga Weze support by participating in “Youth for Change” activities on nutrition, agribusiness development, extension and accessing capital through grants and loans.
Persons with disabilities were also assisted to access special grants and customized equipment, helping them reach new markets and participate in productive farming activities.
To boost nutrition across the activity’s 10 districts, Hinga Weze implemented nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions that increased productivity, while supporting farmers to grow nutritious foods for consumption and sale. These activities not only helped farmers increase their incomes, but they also helped improve household- and community-level nutrient uptake, dietary diversity and food security.
Alphonsine Nirere, mother of two and resident of Nyabihu, a district in the Western Province where many children and pregnant mothers lack sufficiently nutritious diets, reflected that before joining a Hinga Weze care group in 2017, she did not have access to a nutritious or varied diet. As a result, she lacked vital nutrients during her pregnancy, which affected her children’s development.
At least 83 care groups like Nirere’s were supported to establish income-generating activities, like poultry businesses, enabling thousands of households to increase incomes and consume improved diets. In total, over 440,000 women and children were supported to improve nutrition during the activity’s five years of implementation.
Working through care groups, households and communities, Hinga Weze also provided seedlings, promoted the establishment of over 60,000 household gardens and developed a cell kitchen where parents were introduced to methods for cooking meals for children under two.
Hinga Weze also worked with communities to strengthen agriculture’s resilience to the impacts of climate change by introducing smart climate-agriculture practices that improved productivity, while protecting the environment for future generations.
Rains in many Rwandan districts are no longer reliable, droughts are prolonged, and when it does rain, flooding is often extensive. In the drought-prone Eastern Province, Hinga Weze introduced sustainable agricultural practices and solar-powered, small-scale irrigation technology in response to rampant droughts.
In some of the hilliest parts of Rwanda where farmers faced floods and other impacts of climate change, Hinga Weze partnered with districts and communities to establish and rehabilitate 2,000 hectares of radical and progressive terraces, which benefitted over 8,000 farmers by increasing their farming yield and incomes.
Together with its community partners, Hinga Weze supported 734,383 smallholder farmers and improved nutrition for over 35,000 households since its inception in 2017.
Hinga Weze serves as an example of how partnerships between development implementers, national governments and local communities can effectively and sustainably improve food productivity and security.
Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity: Increasing the Resilience of Rwandan Agriculture
An Integrated Approach to Address Climate and Food Security Challenges
Reducing Postharvest Losses for Persons with Disabilities
Changing Male Perception Toward Domestic Duties in Rwanda
Improved Post-Harvest Handling Techniques Increase Income for Rwanda’s Smallholder Farmers
Feed the Future Activity Supports Female Pineapple Growers in Rwanda to Strengthen Economic and Social Resilience