Rwanda has made tremendous progress towards overcoming food insecurity in the last decade, with recent figures showing that the rate of food security grew from 48 per cent in 2006 to 81 in 2018.
And last year, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gérardine Mukeshimana, pledged to eradicate food insecurity completely by 2025.
However, the issue of food loss and wastage threatens the commitment.
As suggested by a recent diagnostic led by World Bank experts, Rwanda could save up to 12 per cent of its annual GDP and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent if the country could cut down food loss and wastage along the value chain.
Examining tomatoes, maize and rice as some of the country’s major crops, the analysis, showed that 40 per cent of total food production or 3 million tonnes of food – is either lost or wasted every year.
It, however, finds that “in general, Rwanda will not face a negative trade-off between reducing losses and waste of the selected commodities and achieving, at the same time, the government’s policy priorities.”
The experts argue that food loss and waste encountered particularly post-harvest aggravates food insecurity, reduces income to farmers and communities, and wastes various resources including land, water, and energy.
While expressing parameters to question the comprehensiveness of the report’s findings, the agriculture ministry admits that food losses as part of the post-harvest process remain an issue.
In order to provide enough food for the 12 million population - a figure projected to nearly double in the next 30 years, the government has made heavy investments and signed international treaties to reduce the loss.
“Of course post-harvest losses and food wastes are a serious issue worldwide but in Rwanda we have moved to address it, working closely with farmers and agro-processors to reduce losses and wastes at different levels whether it’s in production of food, its handling, storage, processing, and distribution at the market level,” said Eugène Kwibuka, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Agriculture.
As part of the strategy to reduce post-harvest losses, investments have been made in establishing post-harvest infrastructures for farmers’ use.
In the past fiscal year, Kwibuka said, 369 maize drying shelters, 49 rice drying grounds and 33 storage facilities were constructed countrywide.
Two vegetable cold rooms were added to over 60 others that were already in use by horticulture farmers while 160 farmers are regularly trained and coached on post-harvest best practices.
According to the report, a different type of food is lost at different locations of the value chain.
For tomatoes, the biggest loss occurs at production and selling stages while rice and maize are mainly wasted during transport, handling and storage. Consumers are responsible for the least portion of wasted food.
Among key loss drivers for the three commodities are climate variability, poor harvest and post-harvest techniques, crop failures and price volatility.Follow Mugisha_Cosma