Farmer typologies as a tool for development and innovation scaling in Rwanda

IITA-Rwanda’s Rhys Manners was invited as a guest speaker in IFPRI-Rwanda’s inaugural webinar titled – ‘Farmer Typologies and Innovation Scaling in Rwanda’. The webinar, chaired by the Honorable Minister of State for Agriculture and Animal Resources Dr. Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, outlined the potential of farm typologies for improved targeting, tool development, and innovation scaling for supporting smallholder farmers in Rwanda.

The potential of typologies was grounded in Dr. Manners’ presentation, which showcased a real-world application of typologies, generated from a research collaboration between the Consortium for Improving Agricultural Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and One Acre Fund in Rwanda. The collaboration aims to help One Acre Fund better understand the diversity of their clients, Rwandan farmers, and Rwandan farming systems in general. This study applied a data-driven approach to incorporate farmer diversity in scaling strategies to achieve greater development impact.

Drawing on nearly 3,000 interviews from 17 districts of Rwanda, typologies were developed differentiating households along two axes: (i) prosperity (a cornerstone of conventional typologies), and (ii) adoption of inputs (fertilizers and improved crop varieties). Using the RHoMIS household survey tool, a minimum-variable approach, and concepts from the study of the adoption of agricultural innovations, ten farm types were identified. Key differences along the prosperity axis were land area cultivated and livestock owned, and the key differences along the adoption axis were perceptions of input efficacy, access to training, and education level. A subset of the typologies was identified as groups of interest for One Acre Fund. This subset has since been validated using a novel triangulation approach including farmers and local agricultural experts. Beyond highlighting the diversity of their clients and farms in general in Rwanda, the typologies also demonstrated how One Acre Fund could increase efficacy and efficiency on the ground through targeted marketing of products and training of practices. Further, an immediate output of the study has been the development of a decision support tool to categorize farmers into typologies. This has now been tested and used on more than 30,000 farmers.

Dr. Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze of MINAGRI (top-left), Dr. Vandamme Elke of CIP (top-right), and Dr. David Spielman of IFRI (bottom-left), Dr. Rhys Manners of IITA in the middle, and Dr. Charles Bucagu of RAB (extreme bottom-left) during the virtual presentation on farm typologies in Rwanda.

The Deputy Director-General in charge of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer, at Rwanda Agriculture Board, Dr. Charles Bucagu, the Country Representative for CIP-Rwanda Dr. Elke Vandamme, the Program Leader for IFPRI Rwanda Dr. David Spielman, and the Managing Director of BK TecHouse Mr. Jean Claude Munyangabo all provided inputs on how typologies could be beneficial to developing tailored supports infrastructure that is sensitive to the needs of small-scale farmers in Rwanda, and beyond. Dr. Bucagu outlined that “The development of typologies is very valid and useful in highly complex farming systems like we have in Rwanda”. Dr. Vandamme stressed their utility across domains, “Farm typologies are one [of many] tools that can be used to embrace diversity across locations and among farmers to make recommendations and services more impactful and adopted by farmers”.

The work between CIALCA and One Acre Fund continues, with the outputs and co-learning generated hopefully contributing to future research collaborations between the CGIAR, the Government of Rwanda, One Acre Fund, and private companies in Rwanda.