9 August 2012

Rwanda: WFP to Buy Food From Local Farmers

The World Food Programme (WFP) is to roll out a home grown feeding programme in Rwanda to help improve the income of small-scale farmers, a senior official announced yesterday.

The initiative will see the UN agency buy school food from Rwandan farmers instead of importing, Abdoulaya Balde, the country representative of the WFP announced as he paid a courtesy call at the Prime Minister's Office yesterday.

He said the WFP wants to stop importing food to feed children in schools.

Farming in Rwanda is dominated by small-scale subsistence farmers. They mostly use traditional technology and depend on household labour for their farm operations. They have little or no access to credit and depend solely on their own meagre capital.

"Home-grown school feeding (HGSF) combines quality local agricultural production and traditional school feeding. It is based on the premise that low farm productivity, poor agricultural market development and poor educational and nutritional outcomes are mutually reinforcing and jointly determine key aspects of rural hunger and poverty," Balde explained.

Currently, the World Food Programme feeds over 35,000 students in 300 schools in Rwanda. Most of the schools under the school programme are in areas that faced long dry spells and food shortage in 2002.

Balde also noted that there is a drop in donations from partners which necessitates the rollout of the programme. He adds that there is need for working in partnership and in a coordinated way across ministries, with strong national leadership.

"It is critical for school meals to reach the best results possible. All line ministries like agriculture, education, health, should be involved with agriculture sector taking the lead. Communities are able to produce nutritious foods for schools, the involvement of the health sector in turn is essential to ensure food safety and quality," he said.

It is also targeting school meal programmes which are widely recognised as a powerful safety net because they have multiple complementary impacts on school children's education, health and nutrition.

According to WFP, small-scale farmers contribute to a large percentage of the nation's food production, which makes their contribution to the largest sector very important.

Home Grown School Feeding is a comparatively new concept that has been implemented only in a few countries and has yet to be fully developed. As part of its global technical assistance, the World Food Program (WFP) has launched HGSF case studies as its initial steps to achieve their objectives:

Using locally produced food for the GSFP is also meant to provide markets for local farmers to enhance their productivity and production and improve their incomes, in line with the government's policy of reducing poverty. Food is to be bought from the local community and cooked at schools.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister Dr Pierre Damien Habumuremyi also received a delegation from Bangladesh led by the Bangladesh Minister for Textile and Jute, Abdul Latif Siddique.

"There are plenty of opportunities in Rwanda that we can explore especially in the textile industry and there are many lessons to be learned," he explained.

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