Rwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population working in agriculture, mostly for personal welfare, with some mineral and agro-processing. The Musanze district is no different with 91% of its inhabitants engaged in the agricultural industry. Agricultural products for this region include coffee, tea, pyrethrum, wheat, bananas, beans, sorghum, and potatoes. There are two large industries located within the district; the pyrethrum factory sits near the center of town, and the wheat plant is located on the outskirts of the district near the road to Kigali. Some of the smaller industries include cement, small-scale beverages, chemical processing, soap, furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles, and cigarettes.
The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda’s fragile economic base. It severely impoverished the population, particularly women, and temporarily stalled the country’s ability to attract private and external investment. However, Rwanda has made substantial progress in alleviating and rehabilitating its economy to pre-1994 levels. GDP has rebounded and inflation has been curbed.
Although the economy has been somewhat stabilized, 60% of the population still lives below the poverty line of 250 Rwandan francs per day (about US $0.43). Despite Rwanda’s fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with the rapidly growing population, requiring food imports. Rwanda continues to rely on a substantial amount of aid money from international humanitarian relief organizations as well. Africa’s most densely populated country is trying to overcome the limitations of its small, landlocked economy by leveraging regional trade and boosting tourism.
Rwanda joined the East African Community and is aligning its budget, trade, and immigration policies with its regional partners. The government has embraced an expansionary fiscal policy to reduce poverty by improving education, infrastructure, and foreign and domestic investment, and by pursuing market-oriented reforms, although energy shortages, instability in neighboring states, and lack of adequate transportation linkages to other countries continue to handicap growth. The global downturn hurt export demand and tourism, but economic growth is recovering, driven in large part by the services sector, and inflation has been contained. On the back of this growth, the government is gradually ending its fiscal stimulus policy while protecting aid to the poor.
The largest industry in the Musanze District is the Pyrethrum factory located near the center of town. Unfortunately, production is only running at about 10% efficiency, hurting an industry that could supply a majority of the income for the district. The main reason for this loss of production is the fact that farmers are hesitant to grow pyrethrum. It is a difficult mindset to explain to westerners who see the value of a cash crop like pyrethrum and its effectiveness as an organic insecticide.
One reason why there is a large amount of doubt about pyrethrum is the fact that it is a cash crop and not something that can be used directly by the farmers that grow them. Consider potatoes, if a farmer grows potatoes and the market crashes or someone refuses to buy them, he can always turn around and eat them himself in order to sustain his life and the life of his family. However, he cannot do that with pyrethrum. He depends on the market and the success of international exports. That is a very daunting idea for the 91% of the population that is engaged in agriculture and mostly for personal consumption.
Inadequate training on the growth of pyrethrum also leads to poor production and fearfulness in the farmers. Pyrethrum seeds spend the first three months of growth in a nursery before being transplanted into the fields. It then takes another six months before the flowers can be picked for drying. A pyrethrum plant will yield a substantial amount of flowers for about three years before the entire plant needs to be replaced, as long as it is pruned once a year. However, in Rwanda, farmers are still trying to earn a living on plants that are over seven-years-old because they have not had adequate training on production. Therefore, when they see that the plants are no longer producing flowers they become apprehensive of the entire industry.
One of the most alarming facts about pyrethrum in Rwanda is the fact that the insecticide made from the concentrate is not readily available to farmers to use on their own crops. There is no organic consumer product accessible to the locals. Consequently, the farmers have to use poisonous insecticides on their crops, even some that were long ago banned in the United States. Those poisons contaminate the ground, the food, and get into the water, affecting all the inhabitants of Rwanda and causing severe medical conditions and a poor quality of life overall.