To address malnutrition problem, researchers suggest that feeding children with fortified whole grain maize flour with essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc is the way to go.
For nearly two years now, The Rockefeller Foundation is supporting a pilot project, implemented by Vanguard Economics in Rwanda to replace refined maize flour in school meals with FWG flour (fortified whole grain flour).
Rockefeller Foundation is an American philanthropic medical research and arts funding organization while Vanguard economics is a local research, advisory and data collection company.
The FWG was developed by researchers at various African universities for school feeding programs.
In the pilot phase, this meal was introduced to 18 schools from Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe which include 13,765 students, following a partnership of the World Food Programme (WFP) and Vanguard Economics.
Since the pilot, WFP has increased the product’s distribution to around 74,000 students in WFP-supported schools across five districts.
According to Diane Dusabeyezu, Program Manager at Vanguard Economics the pilot served as the first step in establishing a wide-scale, cost-neutral switch to fortified whole grain foods in school meals in Africa.
“The pilot phase demonstrated the potential to introduce FWG through institutional channels and laid the foundation for a scale-up reaching 3.6 million pre-primary, primary and secondary school children part of the national school feeding program,” Dusabeyezu said during a briefing session, January 31.
During the scale-up phase, FWG flour will be spread to 5 districts, including Gasabo, Nyarugenge, Kicukiro Gatsibo, and Huye.
Due to the importance of private millers’ engagement in the programme, this implementation phase will also see an boost business for the demand to meet supply.
“This event provides an important opportunity to share knowledge and discuss ways to develop a more efficient and effective agro-processing industry in Rwanda. With the right investments, we can ensure that our citizens have access to the nutritious foods they need to lead healthy and prosperous lives,” Dr. Christian Sekomo, Director General of NIRDA said.
According to Jean Claude Musabyimana, Minister of Local Government, as a developing nation, Rwanda is striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of improved nutrition and food security through innovative and sustainable approaches. It is in this spirit that the government is supporting fortified whole grain in the school feeding program.