Recommendations of the Roundtable Discussion on the increased production and consumption of bio-fortified, diverse and nutritious food crops in Rwanda

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We, Imbaraga and Caritas Rwanda, as National Civil Society Organizations implementing Voice for change partnership (V4CP) program ; -under the advocacy area of ‘Increased production and consumption of diverse nutritious foods, are pleased to share with you the recommendations of the Roundtable discussion on increased production and consumption of bio-fortified nutritious food crops in Rwanda, held at Lemigo Hotel, on 24th July 2018.

This round table discussion was officially opened by the Director General in charge of Agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr. Charles Murekezi who was the guest of honor. Among the participants, there were Excellence the Ambassador of the Netherlands, the Representatives from Government Ministries and Institutions, V4CP implementing partners, Civil Society Organizations, International NGOs, International Development organizations, Private Sector, Farmers’ Organizations and Faith-based Organizations working in the field of agriculture

Given, the Partners and Stakeholders significant contribution to mitigate malnutrition and hidden hunger in Rwanda, especially in rural areas where prevalence of stunting among children under 5 years of age is still higher (41%) than urban areas (24%) ; anemia among children less than 5 years of age is 37% (DHS 2015) and 19% for women.

Recognizing the efforts made by the Government of Rwanda through line Ministries and public institutions, the private sector, Civil Society and Research Organizations and or Institutions, among others, in developing, documenting and disseminating agricultural technologies in response to the problem raised above.
Appreciating stakeholders’ views and actions including the farmers and faith-based organizations, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) and Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), SNV- Rwanda via V4CP program, CIP and Harvest Plus, among others, in their processes and dialogues around the increase of production and consumption of bio- fortified nutritious food crops and scale up ;

Noting the existing mechanisms and processes (such as Agriculture Sector Working Groups (ASWG) in MINAGRI, Social Clusters (eg. National Nutrition Sub-Sector Working Group in Ministry of Health ; Joint Action Development Forum (JADF) in MINALOC ;…) that provide open spaces for farmers and their organizations, and all stakeholders to exchange ideas, share information and best practices, in a dynamic and participatory manner.

Having understood the root causes of malnutrition and hidden hunger in Rwanda, and their impacts on the livelihoods and well-being of the vulnerable rural and urban households. And with due respect on the foregoing information, take the following position ;

We, the organizers of the event and all the participants, recognize that in bio-fortification sector, some key challenges need to be addressed :

1. Bio-fortification has a limited coverage of the country and on a few staple food crops to make any significant impact in fighting malnutrition in Rwanda.
2. There is insufficient research on all the bean varieties as well as other staple food crops in Rwanda including Cassava, maize and Irish potatoes which can contribute to proper nutrition in case of bio fortification.
3. There is also less knowledge management practices to treat and disseminate available information on bio-fortification to the community.
4. The Government does not classify Orange fleshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP)among key priority crops discouraging interventions by key players including donors
5. The lack of government incentives such as subsidies and technical assistance does not attract local investors and make the few food crops expensive
6. Insufficient production of bio fortified food crops may cause fluctuations in market prices affecting the consumption patterns.
7. The Population is not well informed of the importance on uptake of bio fortified food and normally prefer cheaper stuff without balancing the nutrition benefits.
8. The lack of sufficient knowledge in bio-fortification methods leads to shortages of the products hence inaccessibility by the poorest people.
9. The lack of sufficient information about bio-fortification opportunities for private sector limits their investment and coverage.

We, the organizers and participants of the Roundtable Discussion on increasing the production and consumption of bio-fortified nutritious food crops have pointed out the following recommendations that will be helpful in fighting malnutrition and hidden hunger in Rwanda :

A. Recommendations to the Development Partners and other Stakeholders :

1. Partners and stakeholders should facilitate increased knowledge on production and distribution and consumption of existing bio-fortified nutritious food crops including Beans and Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes
2. Partners and stakeholders to mainstream bio-fortification of staple food crops in line with tastes and preferences of the Rwandan population
3. Partners and stakeholders to improve consumer behavior and sensitize the Rwandan Population on the consumption of bio-fortified nutritious food crops including Beans and Sweet Potatoes and vegetables.
4. Partners and stakeholders to invest in bio- fortification of other iron- rich bean varieties identified and not limit themselves
5. Partners and stakeholders to document best bio-fortification practices and publish them for reference
6. To provide more technical and financial support to CSOs and other key stakeholders in the production and consumption of bio-fortified staple food crops among Rwandan communities.

• Recommandations to the MINAGRI :

1. MINAGRI should provide an enabling policy environment by considering Beans and Sweet Potato among the key priority crops and incentivize stakeholders to invest and increase production of those crops.
2. MINAGRI should include, as it appears for CIP priority crops, bio-fortified seeds of beans and maize on the list of subsidy crops to make them affordable for increased crop production and consumption.
3. MINAGRI should augment its research on bio-fortification of other existing popular and nutritious food crops consumed by the Rwandan population including Rice and maize.
4. MINAGRI should provide a room for investment by the private sector as bio-fortification is a new area with less competition since few players have explored it in Rwanda.
5. MINAGRI in partnership with MINICOM through Rwanda Standards Board should set up standards of consumable food products on the market to ensure a rich micronutrient intake of potatoes and maize and other staple food crops.

• To the NECDP :

1. As a coordinating body at the national level, besides all nutrition-specific and sensitive interventions and approaches, to consider bio-fortification as a key component in their development programs and projects aiming at reducing hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

• To the Private Sector :

1. Rwanda Private sector should improve on value chain development based on value addition to consumable food products for the market using appropriate technology.
2. The Private sector to increase quality seed production for bio-fortification of the staple food crops including Beans and Sweet Potatoes.
3. Private Sector and farmers’ organizations to improve on post-harvest management of bio-fortified beans, potatoes and other staple food crops.

• To the Civil Society :

1. CSOs should promote behavior change through raising awareness on the importance of production and consumption of bio-fortified beans and Sweet potatoes and other staple food crops.
2. CSOs to advocate for the integration of bio-fortified nutritious food crops in various food security programs and initiatives in Rwanda.
3. CSOs to contribute actively in the Nutritional sub working group set up by MINAGRI and shape the Agenda
4. CSOs to advocate further for increased budget and subsidy bio-fortification programs at decentralized levels in Rwanda.
5. CSOs to continue organizing roundtable meetings annually on bio fortification of popular food crops in Rwanda.

Finally, we, the organizers and participants of the Kigali Roundtable Discussion on increasing the production and consumption of bio-fortified nutritious food crops, commit ourselves to promote food-based interventions and informed coordination of stakeholders at the national and local levels and build alliances with other like-minded organizations and institutions in food and nutrition security (FNS) and advocacy.

Kigali, on 21/08/2018

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