FEATURED: World Food Day 2018: A Zero hunger world by 2030 is still possible

World Food Day 2018: A Zero hunger world by 2030 is still possible

As the world celebrates the World Food Day this year, more people than ever before are going hungry, due to conflicts, climate variability and extreme poverty.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, the number of undernourished people in the world increased in 2017, for the third consecutive year, from around 804 million in 2016 to nearly 821 million in 2017. Africa remains the continent with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, affecting almost 21 percent of the population (more than 256 million people).

70 percent of the world's poor live in rural areas where people’s lives depend on agriculture, fisheries or forestry. That’s why Zero hunger calls for a transformation of rural economy.

This year’s theme of World Food Day 2018 “Our actions are our future. A Zero hunger world by 2030 is still possible”, calls for collaboration among governments tocreate opportunities for greater private sector investments in agriculture, while boosting social protection programmes for the vulnerable and linking food producers with urban areas.

For thirty-three years now, FAO has been providing technical support to the government of Rwanda for the implementation of various projects to ensure food security and improving the nutrition of the smallholder families.

Ending poverty to end hunger through the social protection project

Christine Mushimirimana is a 50 year old widow, she lives with her seven children in a mud and wattle house in Nyamyumba sector, Rubavu District of Rwanda.

The people in her area are predominately smallholder farmers. Despite the soils being fertile, Rubavu District has amongst the highest malnutrition rates in the country, partly due to poor farming practices, lack of access to seeds and fertilizer. According to the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (2015) the stunting number of children under 5 years is 46%, whereas the rate of food insecure households stands at 26%.

Christine’s husband died in 2008 leaving her in a house he had built in late 1970s. Four of the Children are still in school, and one has recently completed secondary school, but is still unemployed. Two of Christine’s children were forced to drop out of secondary school, as Christine could not afford scholastic materials even though they attended public schools. Christine herself finished the first six years of primary school only.

The family house collapsed in 2015 due to old age and she had to sell her extra land to build a four-bedroom mud house. Initially, Christine grew a few crops, such as beans and maize, for family consumption, but it was not enough. Christine has supported her family through occasional labor, earning a wage of RWF 1,000 per day working from 7am – 3pm. Her family belongs to the first category (poorest of the poor) of Rwanda’s socio-economic classification system.

In 2017, Christine was selected as a participant in FAO’s social protection project linking the initiatives of VUP with agriculture, which a large number of Rwanda’s population depend on. She received training on good agricultural practices for vegetable production and small animal husbandry through a Farmer Field and Life School, but also training on essential life skills such as basics of agribusiness, nutrition and gender equality sensitization, and financial literacy. She also received avocado seedlings, vegetable seeds, two goats, and fertilizer.

Sprouting business wings

All the six hundred participants of the project were grouped in five Farmer Field and Life School groups. Each group was encouraged to start a savings and loans group, through which households collectively save money each week. Members of Christine’s group of 30 people each contributes a weekly amount of 400 Rwandan francs (approx. US $ 0.46). FAO contributed RWF 300,000 to the group to reinforce its financial capacity.

Christine standing beside her cabbage stall established along Kigali-Rubavu Highway. ©FAO/Teopista Mutesi

“I had always had a heart for business but I didn’t have capital and even skills, but more so, I wasn’t confident enough to try it out. Through the training, we were encouraged to be entrepreneurs that we can do business like other people,” says Christine.

She borrowed RWF 15,000 from the group and started out a small business of selling fruits and vegetables in a roadside market along the main Highway.

“Gradually my business has been good. The profits more than double the wage I used to get for a whole day’s wage. I have stopped farming for other people, I can now get the money I used to earn from cultivating people’s farms with little labor,” says Christine with a smile.

With the skills acquired from the training she is able to record her business transactions.

From the garden to market

Christine grew the seedlings and in the first harvest she harvested much more than her family can consume. Her attitude about growing vegetables had changed.

“Before, I couldn’t afford fertilizer, the goats I received gave me organic manure, which I used in my garden, and I realized increased production. I sold some and in the next three months I was harvesting again…It was amazing! I realized vegetables were profitable and could be harvested in a short time with a large output,” Christine says with excitement.

With now her business running the produce she sells is harvested from her gardens. Her business has grown from twenty Cabbages to more than five hundred Cabbages, and beans all from her gardens.

“I have since expanded my garden. I have added carrots, beetroots and eggplants to my agriculture.  With the modern farming techniques I will be able to do commercial farming. I am eager next season to grow vegetables on a bigger piece of land,” Christine said.

Nurturing young entrepreneurs through poultry keeping

Victor Gashema, 28, lives with his mother and eight other family members in Gisagara District, Gikonko sector. He completed high school in veterinary studies in 2014, but he couldn’t find employment immediately. 

“When I completed high school in veterinary studies, I was unemployed because there was no institution I would apply a job to since I was a secondary school graduate. We were taught how to rear and treat livestock,” he says. 

Although he had the experience of keeping poultry, from his childhood and from school, he didn’t have capital to put it into practice. He decided to join his family to cultivate the family garden.   

Victor, like other youth selected to benefit from the FAO poultry project, received 330 chickens, feeders, drinkers, and a poultry house was built for him. They received a number of trainings and conducted study tours to other poultry farmers in the country.

Victor Gashema feeding his poultry. ©FAO/Teopista Mutesi

Every day he wakes up between 5am and 6am to feed his chickens feeds, after which, he washes the feeders. At 9am he picks eggs from the poultry house using a bucket.

Improving life at home

“The first eggs I sold the eggs and got money which I used to buy a piece of land worth 600,000 Rwandan francs, and got capital to establish a veterinary pharmacy. I also sold chicken manure. I saved some money and supported the family. I helped two of my siblings to stay in school,” he says.   

After one year, he sold the chickens he had received as they were old, and replaced them with 450 one-day chicks – which, after four months – started laying eggs. Today he has a total of 1,450 chickens.

On weekly basis he gathers over 700 eggs and his weekly supply to the market is about 4,900 eggs.  When he deducts all the expenses, in a month he earns a profit of about 150,000 Rwandans francs.

High demand, low supply

 “The price of an egg we sell to our neighbors is lower compared to one that we impose for clients in the market. We sell to neighbors 70 Rwandan francs because they contribute to the security of the poultry farm. They pick the eggs at home,” he says.

To avoid high risk of losing his eggs while transporting them, he packs the eggs in a metal box stuffed with wood shavings and load the box on the motorcycle and drives to Butare.

“The market is big and I cannot satisfy it. I now target is to rear 5,000 layers which will give me a weekly production of at least 25,000 eggs,” he says.

An egg can end malnutrition

According to the Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4), Gisagara, his home area is one of districts in the country struggling with high rates of malnourished and malnutrition jeopardizing children’ growth. 48.5 per cent of the children under 5 years are stunted.

Every week, Victor gives out five eggs to families with stunted children – some are so vulnerable to even afford to buy one egg, and every month he supplies about 20 eggs to a health centre in his area.

“We have been receiving a good report right from the sector and from the District level, that more children were coming out of the red line. The meals they received from the center had an egg. The sector and District authorities thanked me for the contribution toward reducing malnutrition in our area,” he says.

The World Food Day observed every October, coincides with the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Organization in 1945. FAO has a mandate of ensuring that the World is free of hunger by working with Governments to build their capacities to eradicate hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition.

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