Rwanda turns to poultry to fight malnutrition

Increasing consumption of animal resource proteins is one of the ways that have been identified to fight malnutrition.
Chicken in a poultry farm at Gikomero Model Villlage. Sam Ngendahimana.

Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) is set to start piloting a project that will donate chicken, for rearing, to every poor Rwandan household, which could potentially eliminate stunting and malnutrition.

The programme comes at a time when Rwandans are considered to consume low animal resource proteins, especially from eggs, meat and milk.

Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board, said that the Government will map out areas in which to distribute the chicken for family farming and for commercial farming.

“The objective is for every Rwandan, wherever they are, to access animal resource proteins,” she said.

While eggs are rich in vitamins, proteins and other essential nutrients that the body needs, experts say that the national consumption of eggs is far lower than the quantities recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

For instance, according to official data, one Rwandan consumes about 13 eggs per year or roughly one egg in 30 days, which is well below the recommended 4.5 kilogrammes of eggs per person every year.

In order to bridge the nutrition gap, experts who were meeting at last week’s knowledge sharing workshop on the Rwanda Livestock Master Plan proposed to encourage more consumption of eggs.

Rwanda needs Rwf250 billion to implement the five-year plan, which runs from 2018 to 2023.

Among the proposals being advanced by experts include implementing a programme they’ve termed as “10 chickens per family”.

Under the proposal, they suggest, each Rwandan poor family would be encouraged to rear 10 dual-purpose crossbred chickens, which produce both meat and eggs.

On average, each hen of such kind of breed can lay 150 eggs per year and weights 2.5 kilogrammes.

An estimated 35 per cent of Rwandan children are stunted, according to figures from the Ministry of Health. The Government wants to reduce the rate to 29.9 per cent by 2020 and 19 per cent by 2024.

Increasing consumption of animal resource proteins is one of the ways that have been identified to meet these targets.

“We are going to change the campaign message against malnutrition and stunting such that we go beyond saying that something is good, rather show the consequences of not doing that good thing,” Uwituze said.

She added that they will adopt a similar approach that was used in sensitising Rwandans to vaccinate their children against diseases.

Otto Vianney Muhinda, the FAO Assistant Representative to Rwanda, said emphasis will be put on family farming because the country is still dealing with high levels of stunting.

“For the next five years, we need to promote family farming of chickens so that people have eggs for their own consumption,” he pointed out.

“There is no other solution because if you look at the level of poverty which is related to malnutrition – about 38 per cent of Rwandans are experiencing poverty, the best way is to give people the opportunity to produce those proteins of animal origin for themselves.”

Evariste Manirahaba, the Technical Manager at Uzima Chicken Ltd, a local poultry company, said that the chicken meat that is produced by big farms is quite expensive for the rural communities.

Chicken meat production is projected to increase from 15,715 tonnes in 2016/2017 to 35,170 tonnes in 2021/2022, reflecting an increase of 124 per cent, according to RAB.

The national egg production is projected to reach 513 million, up from 244 million in 2016-2017.

By 2032, the RAB targets that every Rwandan will be consuming 114 eggs or about 5.7 kilogrammes per year, more FAO’s current recommended consumption.