RESEARCH SHOWS that about 30 per cent of Rwanda’s food production is wasted, especially across its storage. It is not so much the nutrient value of our food, but how it is grown, stored, processed, distributed and marketed where we have the greatest bottlenecks and wastage.
In the meantime, while local crop improvement efforts are welcome and should be encouraged, Rwandans who care for the future of our food security and sustaining our indigenous crops need to remain vigilant against the concerted efforts of the extremely wealthy multinational biochemical industry to push their seeds on us surreptitiously via the funding of research programmes, conferences, university endowments and other below-the-radar methods of buying influence in poor developing countries given their failure to push their crops in the developing world outside the US.
Any introduction of these crops in our countries might bring modest short-term benefits, but this will be an irreversible process with extremely dire medium and long-term costs we cannot afford.
These include handing our food supply into the control of multinational biochemical companies (Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Du Pont, Syngenta, etc.) who own the patents on the single-use seeds used in genetically-modified (or genetically-reengineered) crops.
They also include becoming locked out of the world’s largest food market, Europe, where, despite concerted efforts by the powerful biochemical industry and Washington, consumers are adamantly opposed to any foods containing given the smallest amount of GMOs.
Were Rwanda to be associated even slightly with such crops, we would be forever shut out of that market.
Let us therefore resist the siren songs and sweet inducements of the biochemical industry and their local allies. Theirs is a Faustian bargain whose eventual price is more than we could bear.
Let us make haste on these highly tempting “technology” very slowly. It is no hyperbole to say that it is our future and the environment we bequeath to the next generation of Rwandans, no less that are at stake.
Mwene Kalinda, Rwanda
POVERTY PLAYS a major part in the nutritional behaviour of most Rwandans. Much as our farmers may grow nutritious crops, it turns out that they reserve these foods for the Kigali market. Few or no farmers can afford to eat peanuts, cabbage and carrots on a daily basis.
The food pyramid, as recommended by USFDA, advises 2 to 3 servings of proteins, 3 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and 6 to 11 servings of carbohydrate and fibre. But most Rwandans consume a lot of carbohydrates and little or no proteins, vitamins and minerals.
I think that nutrition should be mainstreamed and integrated within our local administration, so that our peasants can grasp the importance of good feeding to brain development, skin texture, sight and general health.
One major challenge we face as a country is poverty. Farmers have got their priorities which may not necessarily be what we want them to have. They want to sell their high value nutritious crops to those who can afford so that they can get school fees, medical insurance for their loved ones, just to mention but a few.
Nonetheless, credit goes to the Ministry of Agriculture who have introduced various high value nutritious cereals which will uplift the income and nutrition status of farmers.
James Munanura, Rwanda
Reactions to the story, “Experts advise farmers to invest in value-added crops” (The New Times, April 1)