Burera district has intensified efforts in vegetable cultivation as a new strategy to combat the high rates of stunting, officials have announced. This initiative aims to address malnutrition, particularly the prevalent cases of stunting in Burera district, where the majority of residents primarily grow potatoes and maize. ALSO READ: Rwanda-Uganda border crossing sees surge in trade Despite being considered one of the national food basket districts, Burera still faces a high prevalence of stunting, standing at 41 per cent according to the Rwanda Demographic Health Survey conducted in 2020. Residents like Jannette Dusabyimana and Mugabe Habumugisha from Butaro Sector used to rely heavily on neighboring Musanze district for vegetables, but with the recent push to increase vegetable cultivation, they now enjoy a more balanced diet sourced locally. We used to rely on Musanze district for most vegetables, but with the district's new initiative to boost local production, people are gradually embracing a more diverse diet, Habumugisha, a local farmer, told The New Times. Official statistics from the district indicate that approximately 600 hectares of land are allocated annually for vegetable cultivation, aimed at bolstering production and addressing stunting. Jean de Dieu Nizeyimbabazi, Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Unit of Burera District, emphasized the shift, stating, We are among the leading districts in scaling up vegetable cultivation annually. Previously, our residents were inclined towards growing only Irish potatoes and maize, but now we cultivate approximately 600 hectares, primarily in marshlands. ALSO: Base-Butaro-Kidaho road construction works to resume Soline Mukamana, the mayor of Burera affirmed that this new drive aligns with efforts to adapt to changing livelihoods and is part of broader measures to meet national targets, aiming to reduce stunting to 19. While we acknowledge the journey ahead, with community mobilization and collaborative efforts among stakeholders, we are optimistic about achieving our targets, Mukamana said. According to Mukamana, a local study revealed low consumption of vegetables and livestock-related products. Consequently, ongoing programs within the district, such as the Increased food production and livelihoods improvement in the Kamiranzovu marshland area, in collaboration with ARECO (Association Rwandaise des Ecologistes), aim to address this gap by empowering vulnerable households through initiatives like promoting small livestock and kitchen gardens. Data collected between November and December 2023 during the Integrated Mother and Child Health (MCH) Week indicate a reduction in stunting rates to 30.5 per cent in Burera district, showcasing the early impacts of these initiatives.