Rwanda commits $2m to food security based on agricultural innovation

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At a time when food security in Rwanda is under increasing threat from several phenomena, including climate change, the government is committed to supporting agricultural innovation through the $2 million Hanga Agritech Innovation Challenge Fund.

In Rwanda, the government is banking on digital innovation to improve farming practices. The “Hanga Agritech Innovation Challenge Fund” initiative was unveiled on 8 December 2023, when the results of the Hanga Pitchfest 2023 were announced. This is a start-up pitch competition organised by the Rwandan Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Innovation, in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Business Development Fund (BDF) based in the capital Kigali.

Valued at $2 million, the Hanga Agritech Innovation Challenge Fund is primarily intended to support Rwandan start-ups that, through their technological innovations, offer farmers the opportunity to increase their productivity while better managing natural resources.

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Among the technological innovations that could revolutionise the agricultural sector in Rwanda are sensors that provide relevant data on soil moisture, for example, and send notifications or alerts (attempted theft) to greenhouse managers via a cloud-based platform. Agricultural robots can also transform the country’s agricultural activity, as they are designed to weed, hoe and assist with harvesting.

Improving food safety

The start-ups’ innovations could also be based on modern irrigation, which helps to reduce farmers’ water consumption and produce more sustainable crops on poor-quality soil. The first beneficiaries of the $2 million fund in Rwanda will be “former participants from the first two cohorts of Hanga Pitchfest and the 2023 edition. These seasoned innovators, already identified for their potential, will undergo a rigorous selection process to ensure that their projects meet the fund’s criteria. It is supported by the World Bank Group’s CDAT (Commercialization and De-Risking for Agricultural Transformation) project”, says the Hanga Pitchfest organising committee.

This includes local start-up Loopa, which uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform food waste into organic fertiliser. The start-up won first prize at Hanga Pitchfest 2023, worth 50 million Rwandan francs (€36,237).

In addition to drought and floods, food security in Rwanda is threatened by pests and diseases. According to a global analysis of food security and vulnerability carried out in this East African country in 2021, 20.6% of the Rwandan population is food insecure, including 18.8% in a moderate situation and 1.8% in a situation of severe food insecurity. Severe food insecurity means a deterioration in the quality of the diet, an increased risk of malnutrition, undernutrition or, conversely, overweight and obesity.

Source: Afrik21