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Heinen, Sebastian (2021) Rwanda’s Agricultural Transformation Revisited: Stagnating Food Production, Systematic Overestimation, and a Flawed Performance Contract System. London: SOAS Department of Economics Working Paper No.242.

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Sustained productivity growth in the agricultural sector is a key component of a country’s path out of poverty. The quantitative development of Rwanda’s agriculture in recent years has been widely regarded as a success story and as further evidence for the effectiveness of its government to bring about sustained socio-economic progress. However, simple statistical analysis of publicly available data shows that food crop production volumes and yields have actually stagnated over the last fifteen years. Moreover, agricultural output was significantly overestimated from 2008-2013 and then silently corrected downwards in Rwandan and international datasets. As a result, the country’s economic growth numbers are very likely inflated as well. After presenting substantive evidence for these claims, this paper discusses three issues arising from them. First, it argues that yield-raising effects of massive mineral fertiliser application and other ‘Green Revolution’ technologies were offset by the enormous disruption resulting from the government’s rigorously enforced agricultural reform programme. Second, it finds that massive food crop production overestimation likely proliferated due to a flawed performance-based governance system that incentivised bureaucrats and farmers to tweak the numbers instead of compelling them to achieve actual results. Even more, this inflation prevented early detection of agricultural stagnation and consequently also the required adaptation of agricultural policy. Third, the exceptional ‘brand-building’ capabilities of the Rwandan ruling elite led to the preservation of its false reputation of having achieved skyrocketing yield growth. As a silver lining, a few recently revised reform components point to the possibility of an eventually more successful agricultural transformation, whose chances might hinge on the government’s ability to allow more discretion of bureaucrats and more inclusion of local knowledge.

Item Type: Monographs and Working Papers (Working Paper)
Keywords: Rwanda; agricultural transformation; agricultural statistics; performance contracts; state effectiveness.
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Economics
ISSN: 17535816
Copyright Statement: © Copyright is held by the author(s)
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2021 12:13
Related URLs: https://eprints ...

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