Developing Local Extension Capacity


Extract of a study by the The Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity (DLEC) project led by Digital Green, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Care International and GFRAS.

Rwanda became independent in 1962 and was led by Gregoire Kayibanda and Juvenal Habyarimana prior to the genocide in 1994. The genocide was a watershed event in the history and culture of the country. It began with the shooting of an airplane carrying Presidents Habyarimana of Rwanda and Ntaryamira of Burundi near Kigali in April 1994. This event precipitated the Rwandan genocide, and an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the following three months (Prunier, 1995). The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Paul Kagame, defeated the government forces of ex-President Habyarimana later in 1994. The RPF party has ruled the country since 1994, with Paul Kagame as the current president. Agriculture before and after 1994 has traditionally been the key to the Rwandan economy, and has remained a priority of the RPA government since taking power in 1994. To facilitate agricultural trade with its regional and continental neighbors, Rwanda is a member of both the larger Common Market of East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the regional East African Community (EAC) blocs.

Rwanda’s current population is an estimated 12.43 million people, with 71 percent rural and 29 percent urban; additionally, population growth averaged 3.18 percent between 2005-2015 (FAO, 2015). Population density for the country is very high for Africa, estimated at 434 persons/km2 (EU, 2014). Rwanda’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita2 was $800 in 2000 and has grown to $1584 in 2014, a significant annual growth rate of 7 percent per year since 2000. This substantial economic growth may also be slowing over the past two years,3 and also masks the fact that Rwanda still has a food deficit of 232 kcals/capita/day, which was measured as a three-year average from 2013-15 (FAO, 2015). Additionally, Rwanda’s stunting rate has recently improved, but is still at 37 percent (Hjelm, 2015).

Rwanda is divided into five provinces, as seen in Figure 2: Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western and Kigali. The provinces, in turn are divided into 30 districts, 416 sectors, 1,500 cells and 14,837 villages. USAID’s Zone of Influence (ZOI) for Feed the Future programming includes all four provinces surrounding Kigali (Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western), and 27 of the 30 districts nationally, excluding the three districts covering urban and peri-urban Kigali.

Regarding agriculture, Rwanda’s main staples are beans, maize, sweet potatoes, cassava, sorghum, Irish potatoes and bananas, and are all grown throughout the five provinces. Tubers and roots represent the largest category of staple in terms of production tonnage. The commonest crops grown, as measured through planting by individual households, are beans, maize and sweet potatoes, respectively (Hjelm, 2015). Further, beans and sweet potatoes are grown throughout Rwanda’s five provinces, while Irish potatoes usually have a surplus in the Northern and Western Provinces, maize usually predominates in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and cassava is concentrated in the southeast of the country.

In addition to Rwanda’s staple crops, coffee is the most important cash crop in-country. An estimated 400,000 smallholder farmers grow coffee, annual production is 18,000-21,000 MT, and coffee contributes to 36 percent of export revenue.4 Livestock is also found throughout the country, with agro-pastoralism found more commonly in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Additionally, the average consumption of meat and milk is lower than average for the households that possess livestock, showing that these households tend to sell these high-protein foodstuffs to wealthier and urban households (Hjelm, 2015). Finally, Rwanda’s capital Kigali averages 1028 mm of annual rainfall, with slight variations throughout other parts of the country: Huye (Butare) averages 1241 mm, Ngoma (Kibungo) 1015 mm, and Bumazi 1595 mm of annual rainfall.5 Rwanda also has only 10,000 hectares equipped for irrigation (0.4 percent of total land area). Irrigation capacity could be significantly increased with further investment (FAOSTAT, 2012).

Food crop production more than doubled the population growth rate between 2007 and 2014 (USAID, 2016). Poverty has also been reduced from 45 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2014. The agricultural sector and other factors roughly contributed to a poverty decrease of 45 percent since 2005 (World Bank, 2013): “Rwanda’s agro-renaissance was made possible by proactive and pro-poor policies (Ojijo et al, 2016, p. 209).” The agricultural sector meets 90 percent of the country’s domestic food needs and accounts for 80 percent of employment, 63 percent of foreign exchange earnings and 39 percent of GDP (MINAGRI, 2013). However, 60 percent of Rwandan farms are less than 0.5 hectares, and low agricultural productivity occurs due to degraded soils that are prone to erosion, lack of market incentives, low agricultural input access/usage and low mechanization rates (USAID, 2016). Twenty percent of households were reported to be food insecure in the Rwanda 2015 Crop and Food Security Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA), with the highest levels of food insecurity recorded in the districts of Rutsiro, Nyamagabe, Nyabihu and Nyaruguru (Hjelm, 2015). Therefore, many agricultural challenges persist within the country for the government, private sector, farmers and donors to address.

Full study:

World Wide Extension Study


The Worldwide Extension Study WWES provided empirical data on the human and financial resources of agricultural extension and advisory systems worldwide. The programme ran from 2009-2012 and was funded by USAID and managed by IFPRI in partnership with FAO (along with DAAS and CIRAD) and IICA.

Prior to 1994, the extension system in Rwanda was  dominated by the government through the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) using a top-down approach that included the Training and Visit (T&V) extension model introduced by the World Bank. After the 1994 genocide, both national and international NGOs began organizing farmers in groups and associations and providing them with extension advices and services. 



Most of these NGOs worked in isolation with little or no coordination or sharing of information among them. In order to revamp extension and provide adequate linkages between research, extensions and the various actors in the sector, MINAGRI undertook a restructuring that lead to the creation of Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB).  The recent decision by the Government of Rwanda to decentralize agricultural extension activities to the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) aims at addressing efficiently specific needs of farm households within each district. This move along with a redeployment of staff especially Subject Matter Specialists (SMSs) should strengthen extension and enhance its role by positioning staff closer to the population they are intended to serve. The current public Agricultural Extension including MINAGRI at National/Zonal level and MINALOC at the District, Sector and cell level operate through offices in 30 Districts, 416 Sectors, 1,500 Cells and 14,876 Village. The widely accepted notion that extension should be provided through a pluralistic system that include the public sector, international and local NGOs, as well as the private sector fit well with the Government new extension strategy. The public and private sector as well as local and international NGOs in Rwanda are actively involved in providing extension advisory services to Rwanda farmers across 14,876 villages.

At the national level, Rwanda public extension comprises 1244 staff members and is managed by a team of 92 senior staff according to the MEAS report (2011). Only one staff member has a Master of Science degree and the rest of the team studied at the bachelor level.  Women account for 36% of senior management staff.  There are 175 subject matter specialists to provide backsopping support to the field staff, none of them has a graduate degree and 23% of which are female.  Field level extension workers constitute the bulk of staff (78%), with 87 % of them holding a 2 to 3 year agricultural diploma or less, and less than 30% are female. There are two other groups of workers: Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) Support Staff and In-Service Training Staff. Although the public sector does not employ in-service training staff, 3 workers are involved in ICT support services (Table 1).

Table 1: Human Resources in the Public Extension Service in Rwanda (Government and Ministry of Local Government -based Extension Organizations)

Major Categories of Extension Staff

Secondary School diploma

2-3 yr. Ag diploma

B.Sc. degree

M.Sc./Ing. Agr. degree

Ph.D. degree












Senior Management Staff




Subject Matter Specialists (SMS)





Field Level Extension Staff








Information, Communications & Technology (ICT) Support Staff


In-Service Training Staff

Total Extension Staff:   1244                  











Source: IFPRI/FAO/IICA Worldwide Extension Study, 2011

Extension Providers

Major Institutions Providing Extension/Advisory Services

Public Sector

The public sector is represented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, the Ministry of Local Government, the National University of Rwanda, other universities and research institutions, and Agricultural and Veterinary Schools around the country. These institutions provide extension services through various departments and institutes some of which are listed below:

Public Extension Institutions

  • Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC)
    • Department of Regional Development, Research and Extension (DRDRE)
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI)
    • Rwanda Agricultural Development Authority (RADA)
    • Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA)
    • Rwanda Horticulture Development Authority (RHODA)
    • Rwanda Agricultural Research Institute (ISAR)

Public Research and Education Institutions

  • National University of Rwanda (NUR)
    • Faculty of Agriculture

Non-Public Sector

Private Sector 

Rwanda’s Private Sector is particularly vulnerable because of the country’s history and its mostly rural nature. The private sector generally focuses on cash crops and income, and addresses farmer households with strong market links. Below is a short list of some private sector firms that conduct business with farmers:

  • Enterprise Urwibutso
  • Sosoma Industries
  • MTN Rwanda

Non-Governmental Organizations and other Donors

There are two basic types of INGOs active in agriculture in Rwanda.  These are the multi-sector, mega-INGOs such as CARE, AFRICARE, World Vision International (WVI) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the more Agriculture-Focused INGOs such as Land O’Lakes, TechnoServe and Heifer Project International.  Amongst the Mega INGOs, agriculture tends to not be a priority sector and is often included in an integrated livelihood or food security program that also includes health, water & sanitation, microfinance and education.

International Donors

  • Belgian Development Agency (BTC Rwanda)
  • Dairy Development Project (DDP), Land O’Lakes
  • United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

International Organizations (CGIAR)

  • CIALCA Biodiversity, IITA, CIAT-TSBF
  • ECABREN (Bean Research Network), CIAT
  • PRAPACE (Potato Research Network), CIP

Non-Governmental Organizations

  • Africare
  • CARE
  • HarvestPlus
  • CRS
  • RWARRI (Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative)
  • UGAM/Centre de Service aux Cooperatives
  • World Vision

Farmer Based Organizations and Cooperatives

Farmers have the tradition of organizing themselves at local level into membership-based entities (associations, cooperatives). They mainly organize themselves around common interest like agricultural production to pool their resources together and facilitate access to credit and farm inputs. Whether formal or informal, these farmers’ organizations have always played a role in the relationships between the state and rural society, though over time their roles have changed considerably. Many of the farmers’ association in Rwanda today were created mainly to benefit from assistance of NGOs. Nevertheless, private or state-own enterprises trading commodities such as tea and pyrethrum have gained extensive experience with organizing producers into associations to manage supply operations within the commodity chain. Below is a list of some commodity-based or community-based Organizations in Rwanda

  • KAIGA cooperative (Irish Potatoes growers)
  • COAMVU cooperative (Maize growers)
  • MURUGO Cooperative (Livestock)
  • Nyiramageni cooperative (Rice production)
  • Impuhwe Z’Imana Women cooperative
  • Koakaka Cooperative (Café, Karaba)
  • Abatangan Farmers Group – Gitarama
  • Young Women Christian Association

List of Extension Providers

icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Rwanda. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.

Enabling Environment

Enabling (or Disabling) Environment

The restructuring of MINAGRI leading to the creation of Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB), and the decentralization of agricultural extension activities to the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) pose serious challenges to the effective implementation and coordination of agricultural extension programs in Rwanda. The missing links and weak connections between research, extension and farmers could further add to the many obstacles MINALOC need to overcome. Fortunately, the country has nearly all the needed elements to increase agricultural productivity and reduce rural poverty if the various elements are brought into proper alignment with each other. A dynamic private sector as well as NGOs is already actively involved alongside the public sector in technology transfer, supply of input and funding of many projects.  The changing extension landscape is characterized by the introduction and testing of a variety of different extension models.  The ICT department presents itself as a well prepared partner to boast the work of MINALOC by providing the necessary tools to facilitate the flow of information and services from research institutions to extension workers, and to farmers. Strengthening Research – Extension Linkages, as well as linking RAB with MINALOC extension workers, especially at the sector level is what the Government of Rwanda needs to do to effectively serve its farmers.


Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agriculture and Extension

In Rwanda, different socio-economic groups within the society will have access to different types of ICT devices and services. For this reason, a multi-layered-approach to the pluralistic extension system is to be taken such that no farmer/producer is left behind. In response to this, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has put in place a foundation framework for a robust ICT infrastructure to build upon to strengthen the delivery of Extension services.  Several ICT tools commonly used in other African countries and different parts of the world are found in Rwanda today. For instance, sms-capable cell phones have become the “everyman computer” for the average citizen in Rwanda. With mobile phone branching out beyond its origins as primarily voice-only device to be use for other services such as banking (paying bills, sending money, paying school fees), the technology could play a key role in extension services and information delivery.  Other recent innovations include a MINAGRI sponsored service e-Soko that provide current market price information to farmers and others in the food chain in all common crops in over 50 markets in the country.  The Agricultural Information and Communication Centre (CICA),  responsible for collecting, producing, processing, adapting, storing, sharing and disseminating agricultural information relies on ICT tools such as AMIS (The Information Gateway of the Agricultural and Livestock Sector of Rwanda), the MINAGRI Website, esoko and the Library web.  Adoption of these technologies and many others like ForgetMeNotAfrica underscores the potential for ICT development to open up frame-changing advances in agricultural extension education.


Training for Extension Professionals

There is apparently no proper training for extension staff at the many institutions in charge of agricultural development in Rwanda. Current personnel taking on extension services are trained to work as general agricultural practitioners also known as agronomists. Since universities only offer training in specialized agricultural fields like: crop production; horticulture; agro-forestry; animal production; veterinary medicine; soil science; soil and water management; irrigation and drainage management; agricultural mechanization; agricultural economics; agribusiness, there is a need for a new class of agricultural workers with proper training in agricultural extension methods and skills.

With regard to In-service training, MINALOC lacks the resources to provide such training. The new chain of command resulting from the redeployment of agricultural staff under MINALOC from MINAGRI makes it difficult for the latter institution to provide expertise and resources to accomplish this need. The MEAS report noted that there is no systematic training for district and sector agronomists to enable them provide advisory services across the board.  These gaps need to be address under the pluralistic extension system approach been implemented. 


Statistical Indicators

Rwanda           Year                                                                                                                    

Agricultural land (sq km)



Agricultural land (% of land area)



Arable land (hectares)



Arable land (% of land area)



Arable land (hectares per person)



Fertilizer consumption (per ha of arable land)



Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)



Food production index (1999-2001 = 100)



Food exports (% of merchandise exports)



Food imports (% of merchandise imports)



GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)



Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)*



Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)



Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)



Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)



Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)







Internet users (per 100 people)







Population, total



Population density (people per sq. km of land area)



Rural population



Rural population (% of total population)



Agricultural population* 



Agricultural population (% of total population)*



Total economically active population in Agriculture*



Total economically active population in Agriculture (in % of total economically active population)*



Female economically active population in Agriculture (% of total active in agriculture)*




Sources: The Worldbank, *Food and Agriculture Organization FAO



Swanson, B., J. Mutimba, P. Adedze, and O. Hixson. 2011. Comprehensive Assessment of Extension Services in Rwanda. Report on the MEA Rapid Scoping Mission. Final Draft Submitted to USAID/Liberia, September 11, 2011. www.meas-extension.or