Yves Ntimugura is an Access to Nutritious Food Fellow and a public health nutrition specialist with experience in humanitarian and development programmes. Read more on his mission to empower young mothers to improve family nutrition.
Who is Yves, the food systems leader?
I work in a developing country (Rwanda) where my passion is in engaging youth to promote healthy food choices within the local community to address the burden of malnutrition. I believe this is important because when youth are informed they become agents of behavioral change within their communities, leading to improved nutrition and health outcomes.
Tell us more about your job as a public health nutrition specialist. What does a typical day look like?
I work at Caritas Rwanda as a program coordinator of a United States Agency for international Development (USAID) funded inclusive nutrition and early childhood development program. Caritas Rwanda is a local implementing partner of Catholic Relief Services in three districts located in the North West part of the country.
The program aims to improve health and nutrition outcomes among women of reproductive age and adolescents, and improve infant and young child feeding practices. My daily responsibilities include overall management of activities, participation in technical meetings, and field monitoring sessions to build the capacity of local government and health facilities in holistic service delivery. I also review and approve concept notes and activities reports from my colleagues, as well as budget forecasting and online learning.
What would you say have been your biggest achievements as a food systems leader so far?
I am happy that I supported a youth-led local non-government organization called Health Relief and Development Organization to design a community project which helped vulnerable teen and single mothers to overcome socio- economic constraints imposed by COVID 19.
The project supported them with access to finances through saving groups and lending groups, linkages to micro finance institutions, and cash support for small business. We also provided them with trainings on business planning and management and social behavior change on recommended maternal, infant and young children nutrition. The project won a grant of 5,000 USD from Rwanda Ministry of Youth and Culture.
The African Union designated 2022 as the Year of Nutrition. What does this mean for the continent as a whole, and for Rwanda in particular?
This year’s theme is “Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent: Strengthening Agro-Food Systems, Health and Social Protection Systems for the Acceleration of Human, Social and Economic Capital Development”. This means that all countries are called to renew their commitments to building resilient food systems that are beneficial for all in order to feed their citizens and improve human capital for sustainable development.
For Rwanda, which is a country with high political will to address childhood stunting (chronic malnutrition), this is a double opportunity to showcase progress and share lessons learnt and renewing efforts. We have a multisector approach to address malnutrition in all its forms through building resilient food systems and facilitating home grown health, nutrition and social protection initiatives.
You have been a Fellow of the African Food Fellowship for six months now. In what ways has the Fellowship supported your growth as a food systems leader?
I have always dreamed of studying at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), which is a well-reputed university in agriculture and nutrition on the globe. My acceptance to the African Food Fellowship is a step closer to that dream, because it gives me access to WUR instructors. Through the fellowship, I have advanced and deepened my capacity as a leader. I have acquired skills on leading change within organizations, and have been able to understand my role in influencing complex, diverse food systems.