Published Friday , on 30 October 2020, 21:30:00 by NONAHA

29 October 2020, Kigali — Rwanda celebrated the World Food Day, on 29 October 2020l, under the national theme “Duhinge, Twihaze, twese hamwe mu Iterambere Rirambye” translated from the World Food Day global theme “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together”.

This is the 19th time Rwanda is observing the day. Normally, Rwanda celebrates the World Food Day by interacting with the farmers through community outreach in which agriculture inputs and animals are given to farmers as a sign of appreciation for their efforts to feed Rwandans. However, this year’s celebration was conducted virtually to respect measures in place to fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

During the celebration, a moment was taken to recognize farmers for their persistent and effective efforts to produce healthy quality food to feed the populations, despite adverse conditions.

In his keynote address, the UN Resident Coordinator for Rwanda, Fodé Ndiaye, said that since the founding of The United Nations and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 75 years ago, the world has made great progress in the fight against poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. He noted that although, agricultural productivity and agri-food systems have come a long way, yet too many people remain vulnerable.

“Although we now produce more than enough food to feed everyone, our agri-food systems are out of balance. Hunger and at the opposite end obesity, environmental degradation, food loss and waste and a lack of security for food chain workers are only some of the issues that underline this imbalance. Even before the pandemic, more than 2 billion people did not have regular access to enough safe, nutritious food and nearly 700 million people go to bed hungry,” Fodé said.

Food loss and waste amplifying hunger

According to the 2019 State of Food and Agriculture, globally around 14 percent of the world’s food is lost after harvesting and before reaching the retail level, including through on-farm activities, storage, and transportation. This number could be higher in developing countries given the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on food systems.

FAO Representative, Gualbert Gbehounou, said that Food loss not only contribute to hunger it wastes production resources such as land, water, fertilizer, pesticides, labor, etc.

“COVID-19 pandemic has affected every country in the world as regards to food availability and accessibility. We have to work together to eradicate hunger affecting 700 million people worldwide, and now we have to add almost 140 million people affected by COVID-19 induced food insecurity,” Gualbert noted.

Malnutrition in all its forms and chronic hunger has affected global economy by USD 3.5 trillion per year – lost in malnutrition related health expenditures and loss of production.

The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gérardine Mukeshimana, challenged actors in the agrifood systems to reduce food loss and waste, while calling upon farmers to embrace agriculture innovations to increase the production and productivity of the food. According to the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) 2018, 81.3 percent of the Rwandan population is food secure.

“Rwanda intends to increase food security and address challenges related to climate change and nutrition. We encourage farmers to use innovations to increase productivity of the crops and livestock, by unit of land, by unit of labor and by unit of animal. No food should be lost before reaching the plates. Even the cooked food shouldn’t be wasted. That is something that shouldn’t happen among Rwandans,” said Minister Mukeshimana.

According to FAO, Food losses and waste occurs "upstream" during production, post-harvest handling and storage, while the remaining occurs “downstream," at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.

Impact of COVID-19 on Rwanda’s agriculture sector

This year is marked as Rwanda just like other countries in the world is grappling with the effects of COVID-19 on the lives of people. It has increased food insecurity across the world.

The Minister said that in Rwanda COVID-19 has affected actors in the agri-food value chain, from farmers to agro-processing, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), agri-transporters, and agripreneurs. The Minister however, recognized farmers and the sector actors for the role they played in the functioning of the agri-food value chains especially during COVID-19 pandemic.

Youth and agriculture development trajectory

Rwanda is a youthful country. People involved in agriculture majority of them are above 50 years of age, doing subsistence farming.
Shaffy Hagenimana, is a farmer processing honey and carrots. He said that as young people in agribusiness they are determined to change the negative mindset among the youth toward agriculture by employing innovations and increasing technological use to make it a more profitable sector.

“We’re doing agriculture differently from the yester generations. The agriculture now is becoming more professional. We assess the market needs and determine which crop to grow because we target markets – within and without Rwanda. We have adopted the zero waste practices. Nothing goes to waste on the farm. We no longer grow for home consumption,” Shaffy said.

This year’s World Food Day has emphasized the role of global solidarity in helping all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers.