Rwanda marks World Food Day, with a renewed commitment to end malnutrition and to reach the UN target of “Zero Hunger.”
World Food Day (WFD) was established in 1979 by member countries of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), at the organisation’s 20th General Conference, to mark the creation of FAO in 1945. Each year, the day is marked with a particular theme to meet the most pressing challenges in ensuring food security for all.
As well as individual countries, the day is celebrated by organisations concerned with food security for all, like the World Food Programme, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. In past years, the themes have ranged from “Feeding the World, caring for the Earth” in 2014, “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the cycle of rural poverty” in 2015. In 2016, the theme was a call to action to combat climate change, with “Climate is Changing. Food and Agriculture must too.”
This year’s theme, “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for A #ZeroHunger world” is a nod to the UN Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2, which calls for Zero Hunger. The day is usually celebrated on 16th October, but, each country is free to opt for a different day, between the 16th and 31st October.
This year, Rwanda chose the very last day of October, to hold a number of events and celebrations around the country, including a media awareness workshop, on how the media can play its part in ending hunger.
With much talk of “domestication” of the SDGs, the country has taken full ownership of this year’s WFD theme, translating it in Kinyarwanda, “Ibikorwa Byacu Nibyo Shingiro ry’Ejo Hazaza. Indyo Yuzuye mu Isi Izira Inzara.” Kinyarwanda does not easily lend itself to hashtag brevity, but, the realisation of the objective of to give ordinary people ownership of efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition is assured more by Kinyarwanda than hashtags.
The latest statistics show that Rwanda is over 80% food secure, but much work remains to be done. “The Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis” (CFSVA) is household by household survey conducted by the Rwanda National Institute of Statistics (NISR), in partnership with the World Food Programme, and the relevant Rwandan ministries of Agriculture, Health, Local Government, Gender and Family Promotion, as well as agencies like the National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP).
The research concludes that since the survey was first conducted in 2006, Rwanda has taken significant strides in combating poverty and malnutrition. The survey however warns that “food access, food consumption, and chronic malnutrition remain issues that still need to be tackled hand in hand with poverty.” Of the over 80% who considered food secure for instance, just over 38% are considered “marginally food secure”, at risk of dropping into food insecurity. Just over 1% were found to be severely food insecure.
The problem of food security and malnutrition is most prevalent in the Western Province, and it is there that events to mark WFD were concentrated, in Rutsiro District, the village of Rwantozi.
The improving food security in Rwanda is centred mainly around policies to target the problem, from the Ministry of Agriculture. These include measures like land use consolidation, protection of land against soil erosion, irrigation, reduced post harvest losses, the “Girinka Programme”, which supplies a cow to the most impoverished households.
For Minister of Agriculture, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana WFD is a reminder of what remains to be done. “The government of Rwanda, in collaboration with its partners, remains highly committed to ensure food security and nutrition in the country through continuous cooperation and support in the on-going process to achieve full food security and healthy diets, as the theme of today’s World Food Day reminds us” she said.