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Paste Chapter One. General Introduction

In line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eradication of extreme hunger and poverty is one of the main pillars in developing countries; and the poverty is still faced by humankind of a large proportion of Sub-Sahara Africa's population Geoff et al (2009:2). In developing countries, agricultural productivity growth has been the major source of sustainability in food security Mozumdar (2012:62). For providing suitable adaptation strategies to hunger and poverty to African countries, agricultural productivity growth needs some transformation, from subsistence farming to a commercial form of production Kostov and Lingard (2002:93).

Therefore, the transformation of agriculture from subsistence to commercial agriculture has been considered as an important part of the agrarian transformation of income and economies. “Once production has been secured, there is a surplus and an increased incentive to sell the excess beyond the household's food requirements” Kostov and Lingard (2002:85); furthermore, subsistence agricultural crop production is considered when farmers grow only enough food to nourish the family and to cover the needs at the household level. At this level, the farmers look at if what they have is enough to feed them through to the next production season, which is not ensured food security strategy. The shifting from subsistence crop production to commercial production can open up ways for farmers to be able to move up the vertical integration of the value chain where they will also have access to better markets and have an opportunity to sell finished products and ensured on food security.

When the World Food Summit (WFS) in 1996 by FAO brought in debates on the meanings of food security, there has been agreed that “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO 2002, McKeon 2015:75). Rwanda faces serious challenges in ensuring food security for its growing population and those challenges are linked to the problems of poverty and rural development as it is a case in other developing countries (CCA 1999-2000:1).

It has an estimated population of 10,515,973 in 2012 NISR (2012:1.) and grows at shortage land. The population is expected to double to 16 million by 2020 reported by Ministry of Financial and Economic of Planning (2000:6). As agriculture is an important pillar of Rwandan economy, whereby, it is expected to provide food security for the growing mass from limited arable land. Meanwhile, it provides livelihood for about 84% of the population in the country and contributes to 34% of national gross domestic production (GDP). The  major  food  crops  grown  include  “maize , rice, cassava, banana, sweet  potato,  Irish  potato,  sorghum and  beans. Among those types of crops, Sweet  potato  is  a  major  crop  in  most  Eastern  and Southern  African  countries, Rwanda included” as revealed by  Shonga  et  al. 2013 cited in Kivuva et al (2014:15).

Despite sweet potato is considered by the population as a crop in ensuring food security and is important for poverty reduction and nutrition objectives (CAADP 2015:3). Rwandan peasants have been producing sweet potato at subsistence levels for many years, and all the production meant for consumption at the household level and the population was considered it as one of their food staple for food security.

However, in September 2007, the government also runs a Crop Intensification Program, with six priority crops that are maize, wheat, rice, Irish potato, beans and cassava. Those are the crops recommended as food security crops for Rwandan people to increase the production surplus that enable the country to export food crops to market in the region (Kathiresan 2012:6).In that case  sweet potato has been excluded among the prioritized crops. Nevertheless, the exclusion of sweet potato among priority crops has taken aback the livelihoods of many peasants, as Rwanda proverb “household which have sweet potato parcel is secured”. This means that sweet potato is important for household regarding food security because it is a traditional crop consumed throughout the whole country, it is simple to grow and it requires short cycle from planting to harvesting.

In 2008, through national research institution, Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) undertook a research on sweet potato crop through Sweet Potato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA) and Scaling Up Sweet Potato Through Agriculture and Nutrition (SUSTAIN) projects. That research was related to the introduction of orange flesh sweet potato as a new variety in order to improve the sweet potato production, nutrition and income generation to the farmers.

The new variety of sweet potato has met a success in Rwanda in terms of high quantity of productivity; however, the market for the production and the extension of that new variety persist as barrier to handle food security and nutrition problems among people which a big part of them live by agriculture. Peasants do their farming incorporating off-farm activities to secure their livelihoods. They also develop a diversification culture to spread the risk of failure from one single crop. Decision to undertake certain actions of either enterprising, migration or off-farm incomes are influenced by both internal and external factors regarding the peasant locality. External factors are those that affect beyond peasant households include the country's economy.

1.1. Background to the study

“In Rwanda, issues of poverty, food security, and rural development are intimately intertwined” CCA (2000:1) but the all of this queries are all under treatments. To ensure sustainability of food security, the agricultural sector as a system has to be functioning well. Food security and nutrition are essential for eradicating hunger and malnutrition, which are affecting the populations.

Agriculture has been “increased productivity which engages the vast majority of the population and ensures sustainable poverty reduction in Rwanda” (IMF 2013: xi) and long-term food security and nutrition in the country, with some crops left out of the mainstream of support as sweet potato, which also have a great potential for improving the wellbeing of peasants. Moreover, 80 percent of populations are involved in agricultural sector, which contributes between 32 – 34 percent of Rwandan's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It contributes to over 70 percent of export value and to 90 percent of national food needs (Mbonigaba 2013).

Not only that, we have to notice that 80.3% of Rwandans use sweet potato in “auto consumption” (NISR 2015:15). This large percentage shows that sweet potato is important crop in Rwanda. It is for this reasons there was a need of improving its level of production. One of the improvements done is the introduction of orange flesh sweet potato .

1.2. Importance of focusing on sweet potato

This study focuses on sweet potato because it contributes to food security, nutrition, and social development of Rwandan. It is vital in human nutrition and it contains Vitamin A, which is important to children and pregnant women.

It is nutritious and has well a higher b-carotene between 100 – 1600 mg /100g and it is a source of energy where it contributes to 465 kJ (111 kcal) / 100g (Woolfe 1992:121). It also requires less labor-intensive compare with the other staple crops, it can be planted even in the poor soil (Low et al. 2007:1321), and it can be grown with inexpensive inputs. As subsistence crop, sweet potato is growing in almost agro-ecological zones of Rwanda. Sweet potato grows well under harsh conditions and highly resistant to droughts and can survive where other crops cannot and has a short growing season (Kapinga et al.1995:1). It is the first most important root and tuber crop in the country.

It is also primarily grown for home consumption, thus in some areas, it is produced for the markets in both rural and urban areas (Kapinga et al 1995:1) and serves as source of various food for human and livestock (Scott 1992:191). In addition, sweet potato is easy to prepare and does not require much effort. Previously, “sweet potato has been considered a poor, subsistence food but has many uses in food processing, health and manufacturing and is a useful crop in developing countries for subsistence and to generate cash incomes” (Jayasinghe et al. 2003: 85). All those characteristics make sweet potato to be relevant to food security and source of nutrition more than other roots crops, even if “sweet potato may have lost their importance as official priority crops, but are supported by non-governmental programs”(USAID 2010:15). These functions alone make us see how important the crop is in the life of the peasants and for Rwanda as a whole.

According to the figure below, the data shows that the area for sweet potato decreased due to the crop intensification program from government which was to replace sweet potato in marchlands by priority crops like rice for food security. However, the production has increased due to the effort from non government and researchers where they encourage farmers to use their shortage land they have.

Figure 1: Sweet potato production in Rwanda

Source: FAOSTAT, 2014 and SP atlas, 2014

1.3. Problem statement and significance of the study

This study tied to state the problem related to the interaction of actors in sweet potato value chain and gave the justification to the whole study.

1.3.1. Problem statement

The farmers had traditional varieties of sweet potato with low yields where their production was estimated about 4 tons per hectare in 2009 (FAOSTAT 2014). For long time, peasants and the Rwandan population as whole took sweet potato as one of the main staple and food security strategic crop. The Non – governmental Organizations came, appreciated its importance, and regarded it as a target crop for research and improvement in term of yields.

Research was undertaken with new and better variety: orange flesh sweet potato, and the government bought into the idea by supporting research and extension services to adopt the high yielding varieties, which could produce 10 tons per hectare (FAOSTAT 2014). The problem that stands mainly is to know why peasants are not producing it to level higher than subsistence and not venturing into sweet potato processing at the hands of all these efforts and investments in research and extension services. Moreover, what is constraining these farmers to regard it as a food and livelihood security option after realization by the government and private sector that it has a great potential.

Although it is like that, in Rwanda there is a single bakery, which is processing the crop, having products like biscuits, cakes, and breads and enjoying monopoly profits whereas peasants are not considering sweet potato production as a potentially lucrative enterprise and are seeking other ways of earning the living. Therefore, this paper aims at assessing and analyzing the interaction between the main actors in sweet potato value chain and its impact on food security in Rwanda.

1.3.2. Significance of the study

The majority of Rwandan population lives in the rural areas and entirely depends on agriculture for a living. Any study that has to improve livelihoods of the rural poor will have a great effect on country's economy for it is where the larger number of the population stays living.

Thus, this study will focus on conducting sweet potato value chain analysis to examine the interaction between the main actors in sweet potato production and to come out with the bottlenecks that is making farmers fail to venture in full swing into sweet potato farming and processing; thus, that is important to address the issue of food security. The value chain approach is also useful in studying power relations in the production process so that I will ascertain on the politics and on which section will be influencing production. Then I will find out who will be benefiting more in the system and identifying gaps which need to be addressed for efficient production.

Apart from filling the existing research gap, the findings of this study will not only help the local value chain players and supporters to improve performance of sweet potato farmers in the study area, but also it will lead partners and planners in development to better target investments in sweet potato sub-sector. Then, this study will contribute in getting information needed in developing related programs and in fixing strategies useful in the improvement of efficiency in sweet potato marketing system. The findings of this study will be benefit for sweet potato farmers, processors, and policy makers, governmental and non-governmental organizations that have a key role in sweet potato marketing system. Finally, researchers who are planning to undertake further study on sweet potatoes may equally benefit from the results.

1.4. The Objectives of the Study

The overall purpose of this study is to assess and analyze the interaction of sweet potato value chain actors in sustaining food and livelihood security.

1.5. Research Questions

This research seeks to find out the food security constraints related to the interaction between actors in sweet potato value chain in Rwanda. In order to assess it, that research question has been subdivided into four specific questions:

1) What are the roles of the main actors in sweet potato value chain?

2) What are technical issues of sweet potato value chain holding back production efficiency?

3) In terms of power relations, what are the negative influences in value chain food security strategies (e.g. between the government and farmers; between farmers and processors) appear to be resolvable?

4) What are the adaptation strategies to cope with the challenges related to the interaction between actors in sweet potato value chain in Rwanda?

1.6. Organization of the Study

This working study is divided into five parts. The first chapter provides a general introduction and background of sweet potato to the study, problem statement and significance of the study, objectives of the study, and research questions. The second chapter talks about the literature review, which is used to explain the different concepts in the study, whereas the third chapter describes the area selection and methodology used in the study. The fourth chapter presents the findings, interpretation and discussion of the data analysis where the last chapter is summary, conclusions and recommendations from the study findings.

Chapter Two: Literature review

This chapter aims at clarifying key concepts related to the study and revisiting existing literature on food security and interaction between actors in sweet potato value chain. The concept of food security implies different partnership of crop and the way the harvest have been treated towards sweet potato final usage.

2.1. Definition of key terms

This study took into consideration a number of terms which are mainly developed in different chapters. These terms have been defined in order to increase an understanding of them.

2.1.1. Food security

By definition using today with World Food Security define that “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”(McKeon 2015:75). According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and WHO in 1992 the right to food security invokes four food security pillars: 1) “sufficient availability of food, 2) sufficient access to food for households and individuals, 3) stability, 4) utilization incorporating the idea of food quality” (2015:75). Except the four main mentioned pillars, food security has different related effects.

2.1.1.1. Hunger and food security

In the literature, there are several approaches used to explain hunger. Many definitions of hunger were proposed by different scholars and are from different points of view. For example: (De Haen et al. 2011:760) consider the hunger as “a sensation of not having enough to eat”. (Simth et al. 2006 cited in Masset 2011:104) Define “hunger as the lack of access, sufficiency and quality of food to the population which is food energy deficient” that is a problem to the population which does not have the ability to get sufficiency of food energy and their diet is poor.

These indicate the cause of disease because of lack of access to food quality or people die to malnourishment. (Masset 2011: 103) add that “hunger was defined as lack of energy to conduct an active and healthy life and also measured by the proportion of individuals with insufficient calorie energy consumption”. (Glantz 1997:4) illuminate that hunger is “similar to undernourishment and also related to poverty”.

These definitions almost focus on the insufficiency to get quality food which leads to malnutrition. Nevertheless, these problems can be resolved by “food production” with quality and quantity in mind (Sen 1997: 8). In the world, sweet potato production is not a new area of study.  Therefore; this study borrows the definitions given by (Sen 1989:776) called “incentives for understanding agricultural output”, and this “involving freedom” (Sen 1989:777) to avoid excluding of some crops considered as food security in the communities. These perspectives allow linking hunger and food security, as a solution to the people. Maxwell 1988 cited in Maxwell 1996:159) defines food security as when a “country and people are food secure and this is achieved when people and vulnerable groups have secure access to the food they want”.

2.1.1.2. Food Security and Income

In many ways, food security is the root of income. In this sense, food security represents the presences of conditions necessary for people. To understand this perspective I will follow the ideas used by McMichael and Schneider in their article “Food security politics and the MDGs”. The purpose of one of their goals is the eradication of extreme poverty through agricultural development (McMichael and Schneider 2011:1). McMichael and Schneider asserted that the World Bank pointed out that enhancing new agriculture for development seeks to “improve the small farmer productivity with new inputs” and embedded them into global market through value chain (2011:1).

This will be a solution to the farmers and a way to get income from their produces even if improved agriculture alone cannot lead to a reduction of hunger and food insecurity but it still plays a major role. As mentioned by McMichael and Schneider, FAO observes food security as strong positive interactions between cash crop and food-crop activities and innovative methods that are the solution of the constraints facing the farmers (2011:125). This means that commercial farming is the proper strategy to increase productivity and thus reduce poverty (McMichael and Schneider 2011:125). Rwanda has experience of improving agricultural productivity through crop intensification of different crops to sustenance food security and the generation of income allows people to buy the food. Using new technology (improved seeds and fertilizer), will result in an increase in productivity, ensure food security of the people, and generate income through the markets.

2.1.1.3. Food security in Rwanda

The living condition of Rwandan population takes the core pillar on agricultural harvest, where the agricultural productions fluctuate over time due to different reasons including climate change impacts, being dependent on rain fed, non-absence of new resistant varieties in terms of fighting against climatic change related hazardous. According to Comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis and nutrition Report in Rwanda (2012:11); report that “the  food  security  of  any  household  or  individual  is  typically  determined  by  the  interaction  of  a broad range of agro-environmental, socio-economic and biological factors”. The survey recognized also geographical patterns in food production with more households employed in cultivation in the country (2012:13). In line with the intention of this study, it is obviously seen that sweet potato played an important role in securing food security in Rwanda. It is in this regard, if sweet potato value chain is done effectively and efficiently, the Rwandan community will not only be answered on the point of food security but also in the perspective of the income generation.

   2.1.2. Value Chain

The concept of value chain started with the idea of Michael Porter, who developed that concept in his book “Competitive Advantage1985” as a web of activities that an institution carries out to add value for its clients. Michael suggested that value chain for companies could utilize to inspect all of their activities, and see how they are linked, and the way in which value chain activities are performed determines costs and affects income (Porter 1985). For Kaplinsky and Morris, the value chain is described as “the full range of activities, which are necessary to bring a product and “Combination of physical change and the input of several producer services”), and delivery to final consumers, until the end of process” (Kaplinsky and Morris 2001:4). Furthermore, this value chain is strong and effectively when all actors operate in a good way and take advantage of value generation along the chain.

This concept is defined by different researchers, for instance, Webber and Labaste (2010:1) defined that value chains as “a key framework for understanding how inputs and services are brought together and then used to grow, transform, or manufacture a product”. In addition, “how the product then moves physically from the producer to the customer; and how value increases along the way” (2010:1).World Bank also defined value chain as, “the set of interconnected, value-creating activities undertaken by an enterprise or group of enterprises to increase, generate, distribute and service a product or service” (World Bank 2006:21).

 Also, KIT et al (2006) cited in Harcourt (2012:64) defined value chain as a “specific supply chain where actors actively seek to support each other therefore that they can increase their efficiency and competitiveness”. Those actors invest time, effort, money and build relationships with other actors to reach a common goal of satisfying consumers' needs (Kashindye 2011:12) in order to compete at market. This is leading by good coordination and functions amongst actors and partners.

Value chain exists where operators share a common vision and goals for managing the chain processes, thus allowing for mutual decision-making on how to link production with markets while sharing risks and benefits (Will 2008:17). The better all value chain partners cooperate, the greater will be the value generated for the individual operator at every stage of the chain. According to (USAID 2009) taking a value chain approach requires understanding a market system in its totality. This includes all chain stakeholders, supporters and the business environment in which the industry operates in the process. The study also found out that within many staple food value chains in Africa, relationships between actors at various levels of the value chain are weak, disconnected or even adversarial (USAID 2009:5). Consequently, transaction costs, risks, and costs are high, and lack of transparency means that value chain actors enter into negotiations with mistrust (2009:5).

2.1.2.1. Value Chain Analysis

Robert (2015:1) at Oklahoma University works on value addition of food shows that value addition is the practice of transforming an unfinished product into a high-quality-ended-product. It is also defined as the addition of time, place, and or utility to a commodity to meet the tastes or preferences of consumers. In other words, value-addition is figuring out what customer want, when they want it, where they want it then make it and provide it to them. Moreover, value addition offers considerable benefits as well as to boost capacity to detain a percentage of the farm-to-retail price spread. Value addition is also one of the ways in which sweet potato farmers can make use of in order to increase their earning capacity from production. By so doing the peasants will also be moving up the ladder of the chain in terms of power.

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