When Isabelle Kamariza, President of Solid Africa started a charitable initiative to provide free meals to patients from vulnerable families over a decade ago, she was only able to feed five once a day. Her intention to feed many patients is somehow being realised. Her organisation now provides three meals a day to over 1,200 patients in the country. According to Solid Africa, patients from low-income families can go days without food or have low-nutrition foods that often do not match their medical needs, and lack of access to nutritious food undermines patients’ potential for recovery. “We started by feeding five people [patients], and we were providing only one meal per day in 2010. Currently, we are feeding 1,230 people per day, and providing them three meals a day, and the food is corresponding to the disease they are suffering from,” Kamariza said. Back in 2010, she said, the organisation was supporting the few patients with food only at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), but now it serves patients at five hospitals including CHUK, Kibagabaga, Muhima, Masaka and Nyarugenge. She said that she started the initiative to feed patients “because food is medicine. If you’re ill, you cannot expect to get cured when you do not take the needed diet.” “Feeding needy patients helps a lot because research indicates that if a patient takes medically tailored meals, it reduces the recovery time by 37 per cent. So that you recover fast, and return to normalcy with energy, she said. “For instance, we have a high-protein diet, especially for children suffering from cancer, who need animal or vegetable protein every day, such as egg, fish, meat, [and] mushrooms,” she indicated. “As Solid Africa, we grow 84 per cent of the food that we provide to patients on 21 hectares of land in Kigali, and 70 per cent of our farmers are women,” Kamariza said, adding that the remaining percentage is covered through support from other foundations. Annet Kasabiti, founder of VeGeTSolutions, said she is tackling malnutrition or nutrient deficiency, through vegetable processing, which also helps to address the issue of high post-harvest or food losses. Her company, she said, processes and sells instant fresh vegetables, indicating that she started it in 2013 as Beetroot Agribusiness Technology Company when she was a victim of anaemia – after giving birth to her second child. According to Mayo Clinic, anaemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues. Having anaemia, also referred to as low haemoglobin, can make you feel tired and weak. To address the problem, Kasabiti said that she wanted to consume beetroot juice, a vegetable taken by people when they want to improve their haemoglobin – a protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to tissues and organs in the body – and make everyone a good experience while taking it. In this regard, she made instant beetroot powder, which is ready to use, as for instance, a consumer puts the powder into cold water in a container, mix or shake, and can consume it immediately. Currently, she said the company has products including BeeTinO, natural organic powdered red beets; TomaTinO Instant fresh tomato powder; carrot powder; and leek powder. Kamariza and Kasabiti are only two women among many who are engaged in the entire agriculture and livestock value chain – from seed production to growing crops, and raising livestock, to agro-processing and food business in Rwanda. They also take an extra mile to fight hunger and malnutrition. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda’s agricultural household survey 2020 report, published in December 2021, 3.8 million adult population was engaged in agricultural activities (growing crops and/or livestock), of whom, 2.1 million were female, representing a share of 56.6 per cent of total farmers. Jeannette Bayisenge, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion said that agriculture is a key sector to families’ well-being, and that women are important actors in this area, provided that they have access to the required support. She was speaking on November 17, in Kigali, during a gender dialogue series organised by UN Women Rwanda on the theme “Placing Women’s Leadership at Center of Sustainable Nutrition in Rwanda” with the focus on the pivotal role of women in addressing hunger and malnutrition. “Globally, according to the UN Women data in 2022, women make up an average of 43 per cent of agricultural labour force in the developing countries. The same evidence suggests that if these women have the same access to the productive resources as men, they could increase yield on their farm by 20 to 30 per cent, raising the total agricultural output in these countries by 2.5 to 4 per cent,” Bayisenge said. “More than 60 per cent of women are employed [in agriculture] in Sub-Saharan Africa, and most of us would agree that it’s not a secret for many families around the world that when women have means, children’s nutrition, health and education are mostly likely to improve,” she said. Jennet Kem, UN Women Country Representative called on all stakeholders in the food value chains to put women at the center of efforts to improve nutrition outcomes in all sectors and at all times, invest in addressing the challenges they face along the various value chains.