FEATURED: Rwanda’s commitment to food security

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As Rwanda joined the rest of the world this week in Rome to discuss the future of food systems, it seems there are such success stories that the country can share with the rest of the globe.

The UN Food Systems pre-summit was hosted by Italy in Rome from 26-28 July 2021, preceding the full summit confirmed to be in conjunction with the UN General Assembly, to be convened by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in New York in September 2021.

The UN Food Systems Summit will be held as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The Summit will launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems. The Summit catalyses momentum to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. 

On Tuesday (July 13, 2021), Rwanda held a virtual High Level National Dialogue on Food Systems, with nearly 120 participants joining in the conversation where Cabinet ministers dealing with Food Systems, UN Agencies, key national leaders and panellists highlighted the need to transform Rwanda’s Food Systems to contribute towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda.https://bb5f86a59aebb072e026e3d889d3784f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The dialogue, which took place under the theme of “Shaping Country Food Systems Pathways for the pre-UN Food Systems Summit 2021”, was jointly convened by the Government of Rwanda under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, and the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s office in Rwanda.

Rwanda widely initiated National Food Systems Dialogues in March 2021, following approval by the Cabinet in February 2021 for Rwanda to embark on the dialogues ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 to be convened by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

UN Resident Coordinator, Fodé Ndiaye, said that the UN in Rwanda reaffirms its commitment for the journey of building stronger coalition for long lasting food systems structural transformation and to contribute to African Common Position Paper for the Food Summit.

“Rwanda is globally seen as a good example of the FSS process. Of course, it has been grounded on excellent leadership, ongoing policies and strategies, institutions building, home-grown solutions and efficient partnership,” said UN Resident Coordinator, Fodé Ndiaye. 

Ndiaye has said that transforming Food Systems will require accurate disaggregated data, change in measurement including more natural and social capital, for scientific and evidence-based policies and strategies, technologies, innovations, new integrated research-extensions-markets value chains supported by well-functioning, inclusive and diversified financial sectors.

“There is no doubt that we have enough means to end hunger and poverty, to make diet accessible, available, affordable and sustainable for all,” he said, indicating that food security is a human right.

In the lead up to the UN Food Systems pre-summit hosted by Italy in Rome, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, said in an interview with The New Times that “Rwanda is committed to achieving a modern agriculture that is resilient to climate change, provides enough income for farmers’ prosperity, and ensures food security for all”.

At the UN Food Systems pre-summit on Tuesday, Minister Mukeshimana said that the dialogues on food systems helped shape up Rwanda’s renewed commitments to deliver on national, continental and the 2030 SDGs Agenda while building back better from COVID-19 pandemic.

“They served as wakeup call for even more need of stronger partnerships and synergies between all the stakeholders in food systems,” she said.

Rwanda’s food systems transformation going forward, the minister said, will focus on actions that will mainly include the promotion of sustainable production and productivity of crops and livestock to ensure availability, accessibility, and affordability of safe and nutritious food by leveraging science and modern technologies that enhance food nutrient content and reduce greenhouse gas emission and land degradation.

Increase of awareness about healthy and nutritious food as well as education programmes and upgrade of laboratory capacities for food safety and surveillance will also be the focus of efforts to transform food systems, along with the promotion and de-risking of agri-food investments in post-harvest management and agro-processing facilities to reduce food losses and create jobs.

The minister also said that the Government of Rwanda, working with stakeholders, will promote social and environmental resilience through increasing the coverage of agricultural insurance and social protection programmes to enhance graduation from poverty and extreme poverty.

Enhancement of contributions from women and youth towards the transformation of food systems will also be part of Rwanda’s focus, she added, while current and past success stories that supported the country’s progress such as Crop and livestock intensification, One cow per poor family, small livestock promotion, Kitchen gardens, Early Childhood Development Centres at village level, and National Strategic Food Reserves will also be scaled up.

Indeed, Rwanda’s success stories on which it wants to build on for future interventions to transform food systems are some of the good practices that the country has afforded its citizens as its commitment to food security.

Here are details about some of them as the country pledges to scale them up to further transform its food systems towards zero hunger:

Strategic Grain Reserve

As disasters and epidemics occur unexpectedly, Rwanda set up the Rwandan strategic grain reserve to respond to food shortages during emergencies.

Such a reserve has proved crucial for the food needs of residents affected by drought, and most recently, providing much needed food assistance to residents who lost livelihoods during the lockdowns meant to curb the spread of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Strategic Reserve had 10,000 metric tonnes of maize and 5,000 tonnes of beans in 2017. That is projected to increase to 49,500 metric tonnes of maize and 18,600 tonnes of beans by 2024, according to the country’s fourth Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation (PSTA4).

Subsidies and tax exemptions for farm inputs

The government has made concerted efforts to ensure timely access and appropriate use of quality inputs such as increasing farmers’ use of quality seeds and fertilisers through the provision of subsidies.

Tax exemptions are also given to several agricultural inputs in order to ensure their availability and accessibility for farmers.

This is aimed at making agricultural inputs affordable to farmers, increasing farm productivity, and reducing the cost of food production.

Domestic seed production

As of 2018, Rwanda was spending about Rwf5 billion on seed imports for subsidy to farmers, consisting of about 3,000 tonnes of maize and a combined 1000 tonnes of wheat and soybean annually, according to data from Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB).

However, information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources indicate that the government is on track to phase out imports of such seeds because it will not import maize, soybean, and wheat seeds for distribution to farmers on a subsidised price starting in the current fiscal year 2021-2022 that kicked off in July 2021.

The government’s seed self-sufficiency plan had already been achieved at 80-90 per cent by April 2020 as on-going efforts to produce the seeds locally paid off.

Production of seeds domestically allows a convenient trial of seeds on local farms and developing varieties that better respond to farmers’ needs, addresses logistic challenges as well as contributes to the country’s trade balance.

Crop and livestock insurance

On April 23rd 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources launched the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS), which is intended to cushion farmers against losses they incur due to unpredictable natural disasters, pests and diseases that affect their livestock and crops.

Under the scheme, farmers pay 60 per cent of the insurance premium, while the Government of Rwanda covers the remaining 40 percent in subsidy.

It also enables the farmers to easily access financial services and ensure the flow of credit to the agriculture sector as it serves as a de-risking factor for the sector.

Data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources show that as of June 2021 since the scheme started, up to 185,509 farmers growing crops including rice, maize, pepper, French beans, and Irish Potatoes on 33,790 hectares of crops have benefited from subsidised insurance. The scheme had also covered 41,517 cows, 109,630 poultry, and 2,378 pigs.

The Government has so far provided Rwf 457,303,746 towards subsidising insurance for both crop and livestock farmers since the scheme started and insurance companies have compensated crop farmers who incurred losses with Rwf 520,023,702 and livestock keepers with Rwf 461,917,666.

Resilient agriculture

In line with resilient agriculture, PSTA4 indicates that significant investment will go into irrigation.  The plans are to increase the irrigated farm area to 102,284 ha. Currently, over 60,000 ha are irrigated.

A continued focus will also be on fighting soil erosion with radical terracing increasing from 110,906 ha as of 2018 to 142,500 ha and progressive terraces from 923,604 ha as of 2018  to 1,007,624 ha by 2024.

To promote the development of affordable and sustainable irrigation technologies, the Government of Rwanda introduced the Small‐Scale Irrigation Technology (SSIT) project for improved productivity and commercial farming.

The Government has been subsidising irrigation equipment by up to 50 per cent of the cost under SSIT.

And, small-scale irrigation systems present a great potential and demand for investment to complement the large‐scale irrigation investments that have been undertaken.

Most importantly, solar-powered irrigation system has been introduced, which saves both monetary costs and the environment.

Towards Zero hunger

Rwanda has seen a significant improvement in its food security status, with statistics from the 2018 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) showing that 81.3 per cent of its population is food secure.

The findings showed that 18.7 per cent of the country’s households, approximately 467,000 households, were found to be food insecure.

But as Rwanda remains committed and indeed works towards ending hunger , one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, all the efforts being invested in agriculture seem to converge towards this zero hunger goal.

Culled from https://www.newtimes.co.rw/featured/rwandas-commitment-food-security#.YQgnYy4Oe-w.twitter

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