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Chapter 7: client-focused agricultural research and outreach.

This chapter summarizes the assessment of agricultural research and technology transfer in Rwanda, with a focus on the Agricultural Sciences Institute of Rwanda (ISAR) and its downstream technology transfer partners. It develops principles for a national strategy to address revealed weaknesses and proposes an action plan for addressing specific capacity constraints in the system. The emphasis is on (a) creating a research and technology transfer system that can help mitigate food insecurity for the bulk of Rwanda's population (very small-scale farmers); (b) promoting commercially viable export agriculture across both traditional export cash crops and high-value horticulture; and (c) improving the performance of animal and animal product industries, postharvest and storage research, and other related topics.


An efficient agriculture research and technology transfer system can fulfill three desirable yet unmet needs in Rwanda:

* Boost food security by increasing the productivity of basic food crop and animal production systems so that more food is available in rural areas and cheaper food is available in urban areas. Productivity will increase primarily through commodity-specific improvements. But closer integration of animal and crop production systems and the spread of field-level agroforestry practices that have dual roles in erosion control and livestock feeding can also help.

* Stabilize and improve the sustainable utilization of Rwanda's natural resource base, namely, its land, soil, and water resources, especially hillside and marais production areas. The tighter integration of animal and crop production systems and the expansion of multipleuse agroforestry systems will be important components in improving the sustainability of hillside production through better soil fertility and improved erosion control. These efforts can have strong impacts on the sustainability of production systems lower in the watershed (marais lands) as well as on yields at all hillside levels.

* Increase the volume and profitability of commercial value-chain production for local and export markets. This will require strengthening existing or emerging chains in products such as Arabica coffee, potatoes, rice, milk and milk products, and high-value horticulture for regional or international export.


The three areas constitute the "user needs" that the evolving agricultural research and technology transfer system must satisfy (figure 7.1).

The first two activity areas are partially "public goods" areas because end-users cannot fully pay for these research and technology transfer services. For example, the public research system must always be ready to solve urgent production problems such as disease or pest attacks, while continually working to increase per unit productivity on important food crops. The third area, market-oriented value chains, has the potential to be more self-sustaining or to produce a larger portion of the funding needed for its own research and outreach.


Rwanda's agricultural research and technology transfer system is performing poorly. Structural and functional problems weaken both the research and the technology transfer subcomponents. The following problem areas form the basis for recommended actions:

* End-users of research and technology are isolated from different stages of problem identification, system planning, and execution and evaluation of technology development and transfer.

* Private sector and civil society are removed from the development and dissemination of agricultural technology in a value-chain framework, and the profit-loss aspects of farming systems and value-chain systems are often ignored.

* Government and donor funding of research and technology transfer is insufficient, disorganized, and poorly prioritized. Cost-recovery mechanisms and financial autonomy are needed for ISAR and downstream partners to be at least partially financially self-sustaining.

* ISAR is underperforming in terms of the execution of contracted research activities, the transmission and packaging of timely results to users, and monitoring and evaluation of system results.

* Technology transfer to farmers--through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), farmers' unions, cooperatives, independent projects and projects based at the Ministry of Agriculture, private sector companies, and the Ministry of Agriculture's own priority programs conducted with district and sector agronomists--is poorly coordinated and fails to meet performance standards. Lessons learned are not communicated effectively.

* Key state research and training institutions lack trained staff to produce the personnel that national plans and policies are demanding and nongovernmental partners need for their work. Incentives to retain and motivate staff at key institutions are lacking.

* The two national institutions of higher education in agriculture, the National University of Rwanda (NUR) and the Institut Superieure d'Agriculture et d'Elevation (ISAE), have inadequate capacity to train the scientists and technicians needed by Rwanda's future agricultural industries.

* The decentralization of the research and outreach system (both within ISAR and at the district and sector levels) is not yet producing desired results and needs modification.


Weak links between research and extension and internal weaknesses in ISAR's funding and management have so far been the greatest hindrances to effective transmission of improved technology to producers. Research is often conducted without considering the real needs of farmers or value-chain participants. No mechanism exists for the consolidated gathering and dissemination of information on all innovations and technological solutions to potential users, although the Center for Agricultural Information and Communication (CICA) to be created in the Ministry of Agriculture by the new Decentralized Extension Project (PVD) promises to create such a mechanism.

Research results fail to reach end-users because the capacity for dissemination is weak, whether in pilot tests in farmers' fields or in mass dissemination campaigns such as the recent campaign to replace existing varieties of cassava with mosaic-resistant varieties. This failure occurs because the system is fragmented, with information flowing in bits and pieces.

The research being conducted in public (ISAR) laboratories is adaptive in nature. This is appropriate given the state of agricultural transformation in Rwanda and the backlog of more general knowledge of plant and animal systems appropriate for Rwanda, which largely needs to be fine-tuned in order to have substantial impact in farmers' fields. ISAR has severe problems in human resources, funding, internal management, and delivering on contracted research, but these problems are more concentrated and easily solved than the more complex real-world challenges of making proper use of available technology in the promotion of specific commodity subsectors and the development of models of sustainable production in hillside and marais-land farms.

Over the next 10 years, ISAR staff will need substantial strengthening to carry out its mandate and respond to the activity areas identified above. Its greatest relative strength is in areas where its basic research programs are well geared to what is needed to improve basic food crop production and can support improvement in widespread local cash crops (bananas and sorghum for local beer making, for example).

ISAR's ability to handle integrated small farm management, watershed management, and related areas, such as crop-livestock joint products and agroforestry, is weak. The established programs are not designed for ease of outreach and impact at the farm level. However, the integrated watershed management program has made a good start at showing the way forward in this important area.

ISAR is perhaps weakest in its ability to support the development of commercially important value chains. In some areas (such as in the tissue culture production of seed potato in Ruhengeri), its technical competency seems to be responding reasonably well; in other important areas, however, such as coffee and tea research, almost nothing has been accomplished in recent years, despite funding to ISAR by these industries. Little is being done with ISAR's model coffee plantation and washing station at Rubona. The overall technology transfer system for crops (between ISAR and its downstream extension partners) remains fragile and very dependent on donor intervention to function.

Animal research appears to be even more limited. Most of what is being done in Rwanda seems to involve observational trials of the productivity of improved mixed-race animal species, feeding trials, and the introduction of exotic breeds (such as Holstein and Jersey dairy cows, Boer goats from South Africa, and wool sheep breeds) for genetic improvement of farm-level herds and repopulation of domestic herds. Animal health research is not covered by ISAR, and only a few observational trials are undertaken at the central laboratory of the Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA) at Rubirizi. Most technology transfer involves RARDA and NGO programs in artificial insemination, animal health campaigns, and cooperation with groups promoting the provision of improved livestock to farmers in support of campaigns such as "one farm, one cow" for milk production.

For horticultural crops, no research or technology transfer systems are operating (except for passion fruit and temperate fruit tree trials). The Rwanda Horticulture Development Authority (RHODA) was created at the Department of Agriculture in 2007. ISAE is planning to create a horticultural department, which will begin training operations and industry collaboration within two years or so. ISAR has a small horticultural unit. But rather than developing products that have high export potential-such as ethnic varieties of vegetables (cabbage, carrots, lettuce) or ornamental flowers (orchids, roses)--the unit is devoting most of its effort to donor-funded projects for preventing indigenous vegetable species from disappearing.


Compared with its competitors in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda), Rwanda has little private sector participation in the larger-scale, formal-sector portions of agribusiness. With a few notable exceptions, most commodity chains have seen only limited growth of modern private sector companies that take an active role in the more technically complex and potentially lucrative segments of these chains. Much of the growth in recent years has been by cooperative structures fostered by donor and NGO development projects. These cooperatives have become the training ground for potential independent Rwandan entrepreneurs of tomorrow. They also introduce modern production and postharvest processing technologies.

Given the embryonic development of formal private sector agriculture enterprises, it should not be surprising that private sector participation in technology generation and transfer has been limited. Three private or semi-private enterprises (Rwanda Flora, OCIR-The, and OCIR-Cafe) all report having recently provided funds to ISAR for contracted research but not having received the contracted research output.

The parastatal and private firms operating in agriculture have provided some technology transfer to producers, but this technology has generally come from sources other than ISAR. For example, much of the technical expertise required to set up and operate 150 washing stations for Arabica coffee has come from private sector actors in East Africa and, to a lesser degree, South America. Coffee-marketing expertise has come from Europe and the United States, the main markets for specialty coffees. The technology used in the rapidly growing milk industry has generally come off the shelf from the vast storehouse of accumulated knowledge of dairy production and processing systems in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Rwanda Flora's production technology for roses comes largely from the huge Kenyan export floral industry, with other key pieces of technology coming from Israel, the Netherlands, and other countries.


ISAE and the Faculty of Agriculture of NUR are the leading institutions of higher education in agriculture in Rwanda. Student populations have been increasing rapidly in recent years. ISAE currently has more than 1,500 students in its three-year advanced diploma programs, some of whom enroll in an additional two-year training to qualify for a first degree. Laboratory facilities at ISAE have been well equipped with support from the African Development Bank. NUR has a Faculty of Agriculture with 359 undergraduates and 27 graduate students in agroforestry and soil management. (1)

Both NUR and ISAE have weak linkages with the farming and agrobusiness sector. They have limited capacity to deliver advice and information to farmers and agro-entrepreneurs. Farmers and investors require expert business and technical guidance for technology selection and purchase, marketing, financing, project analysis and business plan preparation, and credit and training for specific value chains. Building institutional capacity at NUR and ISAE to meet these needs will allow the agricultural research and learning system to support the national goal of creating a dynamic agriculture sector that drives economic growth.

Another problem is that research output at both institutions is low and not linked to the needs of economic and social growth. ISAE (a much smaller and newer institution than NUR) is much closer to performing its role of providing technical agricultural training and commodity industry support than NUR is to performing its more demanding role of training research scientists who will be able to contribute in the results-driven world of 21st century agriculture. NUR needs a well-structured strategy on how to meet complex user needs requiring a blend of good science training and the development of business-oriented entrepreneurial skills useful in private sector development.


A set of actions is proposed to address the weaknesses in Rwanda's agriculture research system.


Three central problems need addressing. First, and most important, greater capacity is needed in both community-level programs (such as integrated farm and integrated watershed management) and commercial-level programs for developing attractive commodity value chains for national and export markets. Second, there is an almost total lack of systematic data on the cost of producing commodities and consumer products in value chains. This information--and related comparative and competitive advantage analyses--is needed for informed policy decision making in support of government and private sector investment in the sector. Third, the legal and regulatory frameworks required to develop modern agriculture subsectors and enhance the capacity for exports are only very partially in place.

To address these issues, the Government could consider the following recommendations:

* ISAR needs to reengineer its research program to focus more on applied research than on basic research. This research should provide improved models for integrated small farm systems, with greater emphasis on animal-livestock integration, agroforestry, and enterprise selection for higher farm income; community-level integrated watershed management programs, in cooperation with district and sector governments and local community organizations; and improved technology generation and delivery to help solve bottlenecks in the development of traditional cash crops and newer nontraditional exports in high-value horticulture.

* A specialized applied research unit should be created and funded as a core program to coordinate the collection of cost-of-production data (to be implemented by the new agricultural data collection unit in the National Institute of Statistics and comparative and competitive advantage analyses of Rwandan agricultural value chains. The location of this unit needs to be carefully chosen, so that it can play its policy-advisory role in an impartial manner.

* In association with the new World Trade Organization-funded Rwanda Horticultural Exports Standards Initiative (to be located in RHODA) a comprehensive study and action plan should be developed to establish the needed legal and regulatory framework for domestic fresh and processed food products and those quality, origin, and phytosanitary standards required to be competitive in various regional and international export markets.


A functional environment for business development in Rwanda requires greater participatory preseason joint planning and in-season operational coordination among three groups: (a) local scientific and learning institutions, such as ISAR, NUR, ISAE, and KIST, as well as independent consultants and trained personnel scattered across other institutions; (b) technology transfer groups, such as NGOs, farmers unions, and donor projects, as well as RADA, RARDA, and RHODA (2); and (c) private sector partners from specific commercial value chains. (3) Participation by farmers, farm groups, and value-chain stakeholders is required in the research and technology transfer system in priority setting and planning, funding (including financial accountability), performance contracting, and the monitoring and evaluation of results achieved.

To address these issues, the Government could consider the following recommendations:

* Increase participation by farmers and other value-chain stakeholder in annual research planning and feedback meetings of ISAR and key institutions (RADA, RARDA, RHODA) by involving them in a planning meeting to agree on the main research program to be supported with core funds and competitive funding and a review meeting to consider achievement of results and progress toward meeting set goals. Create a client-led National Agricultural Research Board (NARB) as a substructure in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Scientific Research (MINISTR). The board can review performance of the agriculture research and technology transfer system, set the annual research and outreach agenda in priority areas, and guide the allocation of competitive research funding (from the National Research Fund and the Innovation Support Funds) based on demonstrated competence by ISAR and other research units. (4)

* Direct the proposed NARB to identify and compile a list of the research and training needs of farmers and farmer groups, scientists at ISAR and research and training units, and downstream technology dissemination units coordinated by RADA, RARDA, and RHODA.

* Pilot a participatory system for monitoring and evaluating the efficiency and impact of research and training services. The pilot should involve farmers, inputs suppliers, processors, marketing agents, government representatives, and private entrepreneurs.


Transforming Rwandan agriculture to a more modern, market-oriented sector will take decades. Several issues need to be addressed over the next five years. First, collection, analysis, and dissemination of cost and profitability data are needed for use in policy-making debates and decision making. This analysis needs to be combined with presentations made by commodity groups seeking public sector or donor assistance. Second, the Government needs to conduct analysis and take measures to improve the climate for foreign and domestic private sector investment in modernizing value chains. Measures need to be taken to encourage the growth of private firms in most crop, animal, and horticultural value chains. Third, the Rwandan Private Sector Federation (RPSF) and its 12 commodity-oriented chambers need to be more involved in priority setting in the NARB and component units such as ISAR, RADA, RARDA, and RHODA.

To address these issues, the Government could consider the following recommendations:

* Have the proposed NARB base at least part of its deliberations on a periodic (every three to four years) cost of production, comparative advantage, and profitability report, with annual updates on factors (such as prices and market disruptions) that change more frequently.

* The research board, together with the RPSF and the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA), should continually monitor problems in the investment climate for agribusiness. They should also propose solutions for eliminating investment barriers and improving the business climate in agriculture sector. Doing so would help increase investment in improved technologies, improve Rwanda's business climate indicators, induce financial and credit institutions to provide seasonal and longer-term investment credit, and protect intellectual property rights in agricultural technology.

* Create an Innovation Support Fund to provide matching-grant funding for specific proposals by partnerships of private companies and local production groups. The fund would help demonstrate proof of concept on a pilot basis, linked at later stages by commercial loan guarantee funds and business incubator approaches to strengthen new firms producing for national, regional, and international markets. (5)

* Develop approaches and mechanisms for organizing and linking poor producers to markets for high-value products. Through the Innovation Support Fund, the private sector should be supported in its efforts to develop supply-chain management and out-grower production systems for particular groups of commodities and technologies. (6)

* Support the development of private seed multiplication and distribution companies where there is sufficient farmer demand: seed potatoes through tissue culture, for example. As an alternative, the Ministry of Agriculture and other partners might consider creating one or more for-profit private sector share companies, in which shares would be owned by individual farmers, businesspeople, farmers unions, seed multipliers, commodity-specific cooperatives, and private sector companies in the input business. This distribution company would be adequately capitalized, professionally managed, and expected to turn a profit for its shareholders by selling commercial inputs through a network of stores convenient to farmers. There is also a need to develop sustainable input supply systems (especially for seeds and fertilizer) for areas not well covered by private companies. Producer groups should be facilitated to organize themselves and establish links with research institutes, private companies, and financial institutions to make this happen.


ISAR's performance needs a boost to help it fully satisfy its research clientele. To meet clients' needs, ISAR needs to become more of a learning organization, one that critically evaluates its own performance and modifies its operating procedures in the face of assessment results. It must also become a more nimble, flexible, and entrepreneurial organization if it is to remain the privileged partner in agricultural knowledge creation, adaptation, and transfer.

To meet these goals, the Government could consider the following recommendations:

* Provide ISAR with technical assistance to develop policies and staff training modules for client satisfaction in its contractual arrangements with international partners and Rwandan parastatal and private sector companies. Improving client satisfaction will be especially important if ISAR expects to play an important role in emerging high-value export value chains.

* Once ISAR develops an adequate core budget with which to pay its staff appropriately, maintain its physical plant, and ensure basic functioning of priority research functions, require it to engage in full cost-recovery problem-solving research with a variety of partners and more aggressively market its capabilities. Requiring ISAR to engage in full cost-recovery research would (a) force it to clearly categorize and prioritize research as strategic, basic, applied, or adaptive research and to define the aspects of research that are of a "public good" nature and those that the private sector is best suited to fund; (b) promote the use of innovative research approaches by organizing multiinstitutional and multidisciplinary research partnerships in the form of teams to be responsible for specific research themes at the national and local levels; and (c) promote greater cooperation and collaboration with international research institutions and donor-funded projects (such as the Integrated Watershed Management Program, funded by the Rural Sector Support Program) in order to enhance utilization of existing techniques, technologies, skills, and information.

* Encourage ISAR to become a leader in advocating for competitive funding mechanisms to be used for more targeted problem-solving research project funding. To do so, IRAR must become competitive in terms of meeting client needs and delivering results on a timely basis, in a nonacademic format that lends itself to technology transfer to users. Experienced outside consultants could conduct a critical audit of the noncore contractual research conducted by ISAR over the past two years, draw lessons from that experience, and prepare in-house training program to improve performance.

* Undertake a diagnostic study to explore how ISAR can be given flexibility to access funds allocated for salaries and allowances for vacant full-time staff positions. These funds could then be used to contract private sector research partners and temporary/contract staff and interns to fill skill gaps and take advantage of complementarities and synergies arising out of appropriate private-public collaboration.


Improving performance in technology transfer will require three major reforms. First, coordination needs to be approved between the Ministry of Agriculture and its agencies and the civil society institutions involved in transmitting improved technology to farmers. Second, the success or failure of different approaches in transmitting technology to end-users on different types of farms and different value chains needs to be assessed. Third, performance standards need to be developed for delivering improved technologies to small-scale farms with limited resources and larger-scale, more commercial farms and business units in different value chains.

To address these issues, the Government could consider the following recommendations:

* In collaboration with Belgium Technical Cooperation's decentralization project and other research and technology transfer efforts, provide support as needed to strategic one-off efforts to promote better system coordination, evaluation of comparative results, and the drawing of lessons learned.

* Encourage all research and training agencies to contribute to the new Ministry of Agriculture information databases and the creation and maintenance of its dissemination Web site. Cooperation could be facilitated by periodic questionnaires and workshop training.

* Have the Ministry of Agriculture develop and disseminate standards for "public service" technology transfer services and those for which partial and total cost recovery is justified.

* Develop and disseminate models for civil society organizations and private sector agricultural delivery to groups targeted by location, commodity, size of enterprise, ability to pay, category of assistance needed, and other characteristics.


Rwanda's major institutions of agricultural research and higher learning are experiencing desperate personnel shortages. Among Rwanda's greatest (and most expensive) one-time challenges are the need to provide advanced degree training for tomorrow's scientists and agricultural educators, recruit temporary staff, and upgrade the training of existing staff. To retain personnel and reduce turnover, especially in public institutes, staff need to be motivated and adequately remunerated.

To address this issue, the Government could consider the following recommendations:

* Carry out a training needs assessment of the staff of key public and private institutes with important research and training roles in order to formulate comprehensive training plans and programs for the advancement of scientific knowledge, instructional methodologies, socioeconomic research, and participatory methods for problem identification.

* Increase liaison between training institutions and research/ advisory service providers by establishing "demand committees," through which training institutions can get a sense of future human resource requirements based on the demands for research and extension.

* Encourage and support training institutions to provide more cost-effective "sandwich courses," in which students spend some time conducting practical research for a research service provider or commodity-specific organization.

* Raise the remuneration (salaries, wages, and allowances) of academic, scientific, and technical staff so that it is comparable to that offered by similar public institutions.

* Explore other avenues of motivation and remuneration of staff, such as retention of a defined percentage of revenue from research contracts and consultancies in which a staff member is involved in implementation; performance/achievement awards; and paid sabbaticals.

* Develop and establish scholarship, cost-sharing, and educational loan schemes and programs to enable current and prospective research scientists, including those in the private sector, to improve their knowledge and skills.


At a minimum, capacity building at the two key institutions of higher education in agriculture must address three priority needs. First, it should enhance the competence of ISAE and NUR graduates to better meet the needs of producers, entrepreneurs, and agriculture policy makers. Second, it should allow lower-level (A2) agricultural professionals, farmers, and agribusinesses personnel to participate and benefit selectively (in a continuing education mode) from higher education and applied research. Third, it should establish or strengthen linkages and partnerships within Rwandan institutions and other institutions at the national, regional, and international levels in order to promote cooperation in training, research, and outreach.

To address these issues, the Government could consider the following recommendations:

* Provide financial support for specialist postgraduate training and skills upgrading through sabbaticals, seminars, study visits for ISAE and NUR Faculty of Agriculture staff. At least 80 percent of all academic staff should have Ph.Ds.

* Establish or rehabilitate properly equipped specialist teaching and research laboratories and field facilities at the NUR Faculty of Agriculture and ISAE, in order to introduce or increase more practical training into each institution's curricula. About 1,500 square meters of space is the estimated need at each institution.

* Rework advanced diploma and first-degree courses so that they are more practice based. ISAE has developed a competence-based curriculum for its training. The curriculum and the degree program need to be reviewed against the requirements of the newly established National Qualifications Framework and specialized (in the final year) by attaching students to production units established at their institution or operated by the private sector. The participating private sector units would be financially supported to serve as demonstration centers for the industry. The institutional units would be developed as self-financing centers in the long run.

* Encourage ISAE and NUR to continue to expand continuing education services to the private sector agribusiness community, through short competency-based courses, distance education, and field extension activities.

Introduce short modular courses and in-service training for professionals and practitioners. Introduction of the courses would require the design of an integrated curriculum and the resources and training necessary to implement it.


(1.) The master's degree program is being conducted in collaboration with Wageningen Agricultural University and supported by the Government of the Netherlands.

(2.) The Rwanda Agriculture Development Authority (RADA), the Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA), and the Rwanda Horticulture Development Authority (RHODA) are Ministry of Agriculture agencies created to provide agricultural and animal production advisory, outreach, and extension services to new regions, districts, sectors, farmers and farmer organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and private entrepreneurs. These agencies operate through satellite centers in various agroecological zones.

(3.) The need for improved coordination and timely joint actions by partners is particularly critical in higher-value production and marketing chains. For example, the coffee industry, Rwanda's number one export industry, has been plagued with an inability to provide key inputs on time and to mobilize adequate seasonal credit for coffee purchasing. Ripe coffee "cherries" must be picked, purchased, and processed (depulped, fermented and washed, repeatedly sorted for quality, dried, and removed of parchment) within a fairly narrow window in order to produce good-quality "green coffee" that will command high prices on world markets.

(4.) An alternative name might be the National Agricultural Technology Advisory board (NATAB). The Government should choose a name that correctly reflects the board's objectives.

(5.) A consortium of donors used a similar approach in developing Kenya's horticultural export industries. See P. Labaste, "The European Horticulture Market: Opportunities for Sub-Saharan African Exporters" (Working Paper 63, World Bank, Washington, DC, 2005).

(6.) The Rwanda Flora pilot proposal, currently being circulated, is a good example of such thinking.
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Title Annotation:Building Science, Technology, and Innovation Capacity in Rwanda: DEVELOPING PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS TO PRACTICAL PROBLEMS
Publication:Building Science, Technology and Innovation Capacity in Rwanda
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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