While there is no looming problem of food crisis in Rwanda apparently, the problem of food insecurity still eludes policy makers in the country.
Food is one of top basic needs of man among other basic necessities of life. As we mark World Food Day slated for October 26 in Rwanda, more emphasis should be put on improvement of food production and increased incomes to achieve a high standard of living.
This year’s belated celebrations will take place in Kaniga Sector, Gicumbi District in the Northern Province, where farmers will show case the strides made in as far as promoting food security is concerned like terraces in the area as a means of sending a message to the Rwandan population.
The day will also be marked by awarding the best five women farmers in the district with cows.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) came up with the day’s celebration theme, ‘The Right to Food,’ and the theme demonstrates increasing recognition by the international community of the important role of human rights in eradicating hunger and poverty for sustainable development process.
Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit by serious famine due to droughts and floods; being one of the countries in the region, Rwanda is working hard to solve the problem of food shortage.
This year’s theme ‘The Right to Food,’ emphasises the right of every person to have regular access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and culturally acceptable food for an active, healthy life.
It is the right to feed oneself in dignity, rather than the right to be fed.
With more than 850 million people still deprived of enough food, the Right to Food is not just economically, morally and politically imperative - it is also a legal obligation.
It will be 29 years since the day was first marked in 1978. It is celebrated in 150 countries anniversary of the founding of food and Agriculture organization (FAO).
While hunger is a serious issue in the world and Rwanda in particular; there have been means to fight hunger and reduce poverty through farming.
The current food supply
David Bucakara, head of post Harvest Management Unit in the Rwanda Agriculture Development Authority (RADA), explains that the current food supply in the country is not enough for the ever-growing population; many people are still below the poverty line and it is very hard for them to buy enough food.
Bucakara says that RADA’s role is to make sure that in the next few years, Rwandans are able to access food regardless of their financial status.
“The quantity of food we had in the last few years was insufficient for the population but the situation is improving,” Bucakara explained.
The government has initiated a land policy dabbed land consolidation where masses join their small plots of land to have an extensive land to enable the use of tractors and other mechanization for greater harvests.
Under this process, people sharing borders are required to join their land instead of one particular individual to grow a certain crop on a small scale.
“Land consolidation is a policy we believe is to solve the problem of hunger among the masses as they will have enough to eat and sell to the market” Bucakara explained.
Land fragmentation, Bucakara says, has been a problem to the government programmes of agriculture mechanization.
“What we are doing now is to sensitize the masses about the advantage of the programme; we understand that some people will at first not accept this policy” he added.
“We need to have these plots of land together for common activity, we shall advise farmers on how to use their plots of land based on what type of crop is suitable to grow and when,” he explains.
It will also assist in targeting particular markets for particular crops to enable our people improve their standards of living.
Farmers would make losses at the end of the day where crops were bought at a cheaper price and farmers remained with nothing for consumption but with stores at every district headquarters, the problem is to be checked.
The Rwanda Agriculture Development Authority has given out food storage facilities in many districts of the country including Bugesera, Kayonza, Nyamagabe, Ngoma and Gisagara as a way of solving food shortage problems in those districts.
There two food warehouses (stores) at every district in the country with the capacity of over 50 tonnes. Bucakara said.
These stores are categorised into two; the hermetic storage, scientifically known as ‘Cocoons’ where maize and sorghum grains are stored.
Bucakara says that they (hermetic stores) are air free as the name suggests, they can store food grain for a period between ten to twenty years without damage.
“These cocoons we believe will solve the problem of food shortage in future” he said.
The government has got a number of food warehouses where cereal crops are kept for a certain period of time and then people can access it.
The warehouses use certain chemicals in order to make grains last for a long time but with cocoons; there is no need for the use of chemicals for preservation.
Bucakara said the ministry of Agriculture through RADA, has plans of farmers in every locality to bring at least 20 kgs of grain crops to these stores especially in the districts that are seriously hit by droughts.
“Before the introduction of these stores, people hardly got places to buy food but as I talk now, the problem is being solved slowly,” Bucakara explained.
The government has opened up an irrigation centre in Bugesera District to enable the irrigation of rice plantations in the area and its neighbouring districts.
It’s known that Bugesera is among the districts that have faced serious droughts but the initiative comes to mitigate the crisis.
Reaching vulnerable population
RADA has a programme of making food available to all citizens without discrimination, with the vulnerable groups of people such as those who are physically weak, Bucakara says.
“There is a programme that favours them like teaching them how to grow mushrooms which do not require a lot of energy.”
He further reported that particular region growing particular crops; Eastern Province grows maize, Northern Province grows Irish potatoes, Western province and Southern province grow cassava.
Bucakara says, they want crops that fit the climate of each region so as to get better yields
to increase productivity.
He also explained that there is need to identify areas where a lot of fertilizers are needed to make land more productive and help farmers as well.
“There was a need to target the outside market for our agriculture products soil fertility varies,” he noted.
Harvests in last three years have increased tremendously and this shows a sign of hope to the population.
The steady increase in production has succeeded because of the favourable conditions in climate and good food policies.
Food security threat
According to Bucakara, Rwanda food security threat is being solved though the quantity of food produced can hardly satisfy her population.
The official says national food security studies the changes of rainfall and estimates the outcome in a given season.
There has been positive change of food production as compared to the previous years though there is still a food threat.
Low production per household is mainly caused by small infertile land and an outbreak of diseases such as cassava mosaic.
As a result of the expected moderately below-normal production, food stocks for poor household will be depleted earlier than in the normal season thus causing hunger in time to come
Fertilizers increasing productivity
Due to the application of fertilizers, soil has gained fertility thus the high food production.
For example, Gitarama, Butare Gikongoro in the southern Province.
Districts of Musanze and Burere in Northern Province highly produce Irish potatoes at an average of 15-20 tones per hectare.
It’s also produced in other areas but in small quantities for example in Nyaruhu District Western Province.
Rwanda has got almost all kinds of food though in small quantities.
This is basically for subsistence farming for poor households since they depend on their own production for consumption and income.
According to the official, Rwanda has experienced irregular rainfall worsened by the effect of climate change plus the problem of infertile lands especially in areas of Gitarama, Butare Gikongoro in the Southern Province.
Mechanisms such as irrigation through construction of dams like that of Bugesera are increasingly becoming necessary to help alleviate the looming problem; these together with the use of scientific methods of farming.
The government is sensitizing the masses on how best they can start using rain water for irrigation of their crops.
The negative side of lack of food is very severe, for example mothers who do not have enough to eat give birth to underweight babies, whose health and growth may be compromised for the rest of their lives.
Children who go to bed hungry cannot stand against diseases or infection nor can they concentrate properly at school.
States have the primary duty for the realization of the right to food.
They must take steps, to the maximum of their available resources, to realize progressively the full enjoyment of the right of every person to adequate food, without discrimination of any kind.
The three-fold set of obligations applies: states must respect existing access to food of their population and abstain from taking measures that prevent such access.
They must protect the right to food from infringements by third parties through measures ensuring that enterprises or individuals do not deprive others of the access to adequate food.
States must also fulfil the right to food through facilitating individuals’ ability to access food by their own means and through providing for those who cannot feed themselves.
So, as we celebrate World Food Day, all should come together and fight hunger and poverty through getting involved in agricultural programmes.