For the first time in Rwanda, a budget tracking exercise on government spending related to food and nutrition was conducted by a CSO - the Rwanda Development Organisation (RDO). Data and evidence collected from this analysis was presented to government officials with the aim of: 1) addressing food security and nutrition challenges in the country, and 2) influencing government to allocate more investment into the sector.
Why Invest in Hunger
Stunting in Rwanda is a serious problem. Over one in five (22%) children die for malnourishment, and 38% of children under the age of 5 are stunted. A study on the Cost of Hunger in Rwanda reveals that almost half (49%) of the working-age population suffered from growth retardation before reaching five years of age and this has resulted in a GDP loss (associated with undernutrition) of 12%.
Experts say that every US$1 invested in nutrition yields US$16 in returns. Increased investment in food security and nutrition will act as a restorative measure with long term returns such as reduced child mortality and disease, increased school attendance, and increased economic productivity. Therefore, it is imperative that decision makers increase budget allocations to food security and nutrition, specifically targeting early childhood development which includes pregnant, lactating mothers, and children less than five years of age.
Civil Society Changing Government Perceptions on Nutrition
The RDO as one of the CSO’s in the Voice for Change Partnership Programme is advocating for budgetary increases and inclusiveness in food insecurity and malnutrition in Rwanda’s National Budget Formulation.
To strengthen their advocacy efforts, in May 2018, the RDO publically presented evidence on tracking government expenditure on food and nutrition over a five year period (2013 - 2018), across five districts.
This “first of its kind” information was shared with decision makers and the public at an event, with the aim of drawing attention to critical challenges that hinder progress in the food and nutrition security, and to push for more government collaboration and investment in the sector.
The analysis on budget spending focussed on food budget in agriculture, production improvement systems as well as government expenditure.
The main results from the analysis show the following:
- Although the total country budget increased, funding allocated to food security and nutrition decreased. To date, the government of Rwanda has invested less than 15% of the country’s annual budget, contrary to their pledged in Abuja Declaration.
- Budget for nutrition is centralized. These funds should be allocated to district level, where issues of malnutrition are observed.
- Direct investments in child nutrition is still limited. The RDO requested that the government should increase investments over the next 6 years.
Government Response to Evidence:
To decrease stunting from 38% to 15% (as set out in the Rwanda 2020 vision), the RDO’s Executive Secretary Eugene Rwibasira recommended that the government of Rwanda should continue to work with CSOs on tracking government spending to increase efficiency, accountability, and commitment in the sector.
In response to the budget tracking results, Mr Zachee Iyakaremye, Director of Budget and Policy Reforms at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) acknowledged that the level of investment in food security and nutrition as outlined in the Abuja declaration has not been reached, despite current mechanisms for government response on food security issues. Mr. Jean Claude Kabano, Agriculture Policy Specialist added that the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) is committed to collaborating with the CSO’s on addressing the challenges in the food and nutrition sector. Furthermore he acknowledged the importance of such initiatives, and noted that under the new strategic plan, there will be the strengthening of engagement amongst stakeholders to invest in food security interventions.
For some news on this event in the media, please read the following:
“We need more investment in food security if we want to reduce malnutrition”
- Phomolo Maphosa, SNV Rwanda Country Director
 Rwanda Cost of Hunger Report
 Rwanda Demographic Health Survey, 2014.
 Rwanda Cost of Hunger Report
 In 2001, the African Union countries pledged to set at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector.