When you think of Rwanda, it is hard not to imagine green rolling hills, covered in carpets of sprouting tea leaves or coffee plants. The soil has excellent growing conditions, so it is no wonder that the people of this country have a close relationship with the land - with a whopping 80% of the country’s workforce employed in the agricultural sector. Under these circumstances, the government of Rwanda has recognised the central role this sector plays in lifting GDP and the demand for export.
Today, several barriers permit a healthy Agriculture and Nutrition sector to grow, most notably, the coordination amongst all agriculture stakeholders to realise harmonised policies, investments and service delivery.
In response this challenge, The Voice for Change Partnership in Rwanda is driving several initiatives aimed to improve the skills and capacities of CSO’s, and to support them with using research and evidence to back up their agenda amongst decision makers - so as to bring forth positive change and growth in the agriculture and nutrition sector.
So far, some results of increased CSO engagement with decision makers is becoming evident, particularly in:
- The formulation of inclusive policies and frameworks,
- Improved budget allocation in the agriculture and nutrition sector;
- Increasing the accessibility and use of fortified crops or products in Rwanda;
- Creating public visibility on sector issues.
Below is an overview of some of the advocacy approaches that the CSO’s in the V4CP project are utilizing to improve the agriculture and nutrition sector in Rwanda:
CSO Participation in Inclusive Policies and Frameworks:
One of the CSO that has been at the forefront of influencing policies and frameworks is SUN Alliance. SUN Alliance contributed to the nutrition sub-sector working group (NSSWG) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. Sun Alliance is was nominated by local government to take part in this Technical Committee which will drive the design of the new Food and Nutrition Security Strategy 2019-2023.
Since Rwanda takes a decentralised approach to malnutrition through the emphasis of District Plans to Eliminate Malnutrition (DPEMs); the SUN Alliance also established District SUN Committees as a strategy to scale up nutrition around the country and to catalyse change at a district level. In addition, the SUN Alliance national office ensures the accountability and capability of its members at district level, by acting as an advisory team and by conducting various assessments and period reviews of the DPEMs.
CSO Engage in Improved Budget Allocation
According to Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (RDHS) 2014/15, stunting levels in the country stood at 38%. Despite this alarming data, public expenditures on nutrition related interventions still remain very low.
Increased budget allocated by national and local governments for food and nutrition security is a key outcome of the V4CP program. The Rwanda Development Organisation (RDO)with the support of SNV and IFPRI conducted an analysis of the government of Rwanda’s budget expenditure for five fiscal years (2013 – 2017) on food security and nutrition.
Budget comparisons of government allocation for FNS across the five fiscal years at central and decentralized level produced a first of its kind research. Findings of the budget analysis was used as an advocacy tool to inform decision makers and the public during a workshop held on 28 May. Present during the workshop from government were Umutoni Adeline, Nutrition specialist at National Early childhood Development Program, she presented on the status of malnutrition and stunting. Mr Zachee Iyakaremye, Director of budget and policy reforms at the Ministry of finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) presented on the national budget making process and opportunities availed by the budget for civil society to engage. Also present was Kabano Jean Claude, Agriculture policy specialist represented MINAGRI(Ministry of Agriculture).
The recommendations made during the meeting proposed the following:
- Investment in food security and nutrition is not a charity but a stimulant to long terms returns,
- It is imperative for decision makers to increase budget allocation to food security and nutrition,
- Budget allocation should target early child development that includes pregnant and lactating mothers and children under five years,
- Districts to increase their budget allocations on food security and nutrition specific and sensitive interventions ,
- There should be coordinated food security and nutrition interventions that are multifaceted
- Information and communication materials on food security and nutrition should be developed and disseminated to communities
Increase accessibility and use of fortified crops or products in Rwanda
Rwanda Consumer’s Protection Association (ADECOR) organised a roundtable discussion attended by the Ministry of Trade and Commerce (MINICOM), the private sector, civil society organisations and government agencies. The participants debated the status of fortification in Rwanda, in the region, and internationally, and analysed the potential role governments can play in promoting food fortification. Participants shared best practices and lessons learned in food fortification such as promotion strategies to consumers, bio-fortification, linking of private sector opportunity, as well as the role of civil societies in combating malnutrition. During this round table, a recommendation letter from was presented from MINICOM to the CSO expressing the urgent need to raise awareness consumers (mostly targeting malnourished children, pregnant mothers and poor families) on the importance of nutrition. This led the MINICOM to recognise the leading role of ADECOR in informing consumers on their rights and responsibilities regarding nutrition and fortification.
Creating Public Awareness on Food Production and Nutrition
The Imbaraga Farmer Federation - working towards improving the welfare and perceptions of farmers in rural areas, appeared on a live Radio and TV program to debate Food and Nutrition Security issues in Rwanda. During these live broadcasts, IMBARAGA debated with different public officials and farmers on government policy and strategy on Food Nutrition Security (FNS). These discussions aired on ISANGO Star TV, Community Radios, and Call-in programs from rural communities.
There’s still low investment in the Agriculture sector by the private sector. This is partly due to lack of micro credits for the private sector to borrow and invest. Market access and pricing mechanisms of farm produce is still a low profitable business. Land consolidation as part of crop intensification program (CIP) has forced people to grow one crop which is not in line with nutrition programs. Lastly there’s still little coordination efforts between Agri-nutrition planning and interventions.
There has been a lot of progress towards the advocacy of food security and nutrition both at a local and national level. Still, continued efforts are needed to relieve the ‘coordination blockade’ - so that there is improved service delivery and collective harmonised engagement amongst all actors.
Looking ahead, CSO’s in the V4CP project will :
- Continue to advocate not only to public decision makers but also private sector to develop appropriate and affordable financial products for small holder farmers, and to also encourage investment in producing fortified products like setting up of milling plants;
- Advocate for different stakeholders to have one planning platform or to look to strengthen an existing platforms like Joint Action Development Forum (JADF), to improve the coordination of actors and interventions.
This indeed may aid Rwanda’s desires to transform towards a vibrant economy, as outlined by the Rwanda 2020 Vision.