Rwanda has borrowed 10 billion yen (Rwf86 billion) from Japan in order to tackle malnutrition through agriculture transformation.
The loan agreement was signed yesterday between Uzziel Ndagijimana, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and Shin Maruo, Chief Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at the ministry headquarters in Kigali.
Also present at the signing was the Japanese envoy to Rwanda, Amb. Takayuki Miyashita.
Farmers harvest rice. The loan from Japan, according to officials, will go a long way in modernising agriculture. File.
Ndagijimana told reporters that it is a highly concessional loan – extended on terms substantially more generous than market loans – with an interest rate of 0.01 per cent, to be repaid in 40 years, and a 10-year grace period.
Ndagijimana said: “This programme will boost government efforts to modernise our agriculture, an area where Japan has been actively contributing. Cooperation with the government of Japan has been growing strong over the years through project support.”
Ndagijimana said it was the first time the government of Japan was giving Rwanda a loan through budget support.
This, he said, was evidence of the Japanese government’s trust in Rwanda’s budget support modality.
Amb. Miyashita called the deal “revolutional”, considering that it is the largest amount of money they’ve lent to Rwanda.
“We rely on your reliable governance, policy making and [financial] discipline. This is why the government of Japan is supporting Rwanda this much,” he said.
The programme will start in October and run for three years.
Ndagijimana said it will be executed by the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Early Childhood Development Programme, the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board and the Rwanda Biomedical Centre under the supervision of his ministry.
The programme will focus mainly on two components, food security and multi-sectoral coordination.
Nutrition sensitive agriculture guidelines
In regards to agriculture transformation and related activities, Jean Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture explained, the programme will help his ministry set up nutrition sensitive agriculture guidelines, strengthen the availability of protein rich food through the small livestock distribution programme under RAB.
Furthermore, it will leverage on achievements of the Smallholder Market oriented Agriculture Project (SMAP), a JICA technical cooperation project to build the capacity of targeted beneficiaries in terms of nutrition aspects.
At a more decentralised level, the program will fill a food nutrient gap in each district and suitable nutritious crop will be identified and promoted for production.
Its other components include making a crop calendar for irrigation schemes, and nutrition public awareness campaigns.
It was further noted that since malnutrition is a multi-sectoral issue involving different stakeholders, the program will support the coordination at national level with the NECDP to the grass root level with the community health workers and farmer promoters’ coordination.
The programme is scheduled to run from 2019 to 2021.
The expectation is to have big impact in eradicating the under nutrition and fight against stunting.
Declining stunting among children
Since 2012, official statistics show, Rwanda has recorded a decline in stunting among children aged between six months and five years, from 42 per cent to 35 per cent in 2018.
This is only a 7 per cent point reduction in six years, far short of Rwanda’s target to reduce stunting below 19 per cent by the fiscal year 2023/2024.
“Despite substantial growth in agricultural production over the past 10 years, food security and nutrition remain concerns, especially when looking at the vulnerability to shocks at the household level,” reads part of a statement by the Ministry of Finance.
The food consumption score is 76 per cent by 2018, it is noted, but a large share of the population remains dependent on rain-fed agriculture and home-consumption.
Primarily, agriculture plays the role of availing food through ensuring that production meets the diverse dietary needs of the population.
Despite the growth in production over the past 10 years, staple food production remains below the targeted demand for domestic consumption and is substituted by importation.