Rwanda Impact Area:
Access to Nutritious Food
We are looking for aspiring food systems leaders with a passion for increasing access to nutritious foods for healthier diets. Do you have an affinity for nutrition or the trade of nutritious products like fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat and fish? If you are knowledgeable and actively engaged in the production, processing, distribution, retail and consumption of these products, or the service delivery to and governance thereof, we strongly encourage you to apply. Recognizing the importance of a diverse and healthy diet, we acknowledge Rwanda’s potential to transform its horticulture and livestock sectors for improved socio-economic outcomes.
01. What is the current state of access to nutritious food?
According to UNICEF and WFP, Rwanda has made significant progress in almost halving its rate of chronic undernutrition. However, current levels are still too high. The latest Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey from 2020 estimates that 33% of children under the age of five are stunted. The prevalence of chronic undernutrition is particularly high in the northwestern parts of the country, where low dietary diversity contributes to high rates of anemia. The soils of the Northern Province are some of the most fertile in Sub-Saharan Africa. In a country with this much potential for agricultural production, the prevalence of childhood stunting is irreconcilably high. The WFP estimates that the costs associated with child undernutrition amounted to as much as 11% of Rwanda’s GDP in 2012 (RW₣ 504 billion).
02. Is there hope?
Yes. Harnessing the natural potential of Rwanda for improved nutrition outcomes, in particular for our future generations, is worth pursuing. Over the past few years considerable investment has been made to increase agricultural production. Unfortunately, greater food availability and caloric intake has not improved nutritional outcomes. The fresh fruit and vegetables and livestock sectors offer promise for improved nutritional outcomes, through increased access to and consumption of nutritious foods. Whilst horticultural exports rose from US$ 5m in 2005 to US$ 25m in 2018 (NAEB), USAID suggest that more than 75% of produce is consumed within the same district it was produced. Local demand is expected to continue to rise in response to increasing demographic pressure. The same can be said for dairy. Although IFAD forecasts that demand will outstrip supply in the near future – which is currently worth US$ 113 billion – current consumption at 68 litres per person per year is far below the FAO’s recommend 170 litres.
03. What is the challenge to food systems leaders?
Achieving improved nutrition will require a systemic and multifaceted approach. Reconciling the apparent contradiction between Rwanda’s agricultural potential and malnutrition is desperately needed. UNN REACH stakeholder and action mapping in 2014/15 revealed that nutrition interventions don’t always overlap districts with the highest need. Reconfiguring Rwanda’s food systems, both spatially and structurally, for ensuring more equitable distribution of and access to nutritious food undoubtedly requires systems leadership.