The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has launched a new project intended to accelerate poverty fight among Rwanda's vulnerable families in four districts of the country.
The project, dubbed; "Strengthening the impact of Rwanda's VUP-Public Works and beneficiaries' graduation out of poverty," was unveiled yesterday in Kigali.
It will focus on effective and coherent linkage of social protection initiatives with agriculture to ensure quick and sustainable graduation out of poverty with emphasis on improving nutrition for healthy benefits.
The 18-month project is worth Rwf286 million.
It will benefit needy families from four districts in two provinces of the country, including Rubavu and Nyabihu in Western Province, and Rulindo and Gakenke in Northern Province.
It will mainly offer technical support to the government's "minimum package for graduation from poverty" project, through a wide-range of activities, such as small livestock support.
The beneficiaries will be given three goats, or three sheep, or chickens or a pig worth Rwf80,000.
According to Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA), the three-year pilot scheme is operational in 30 sectors, one in each of the selected districts.
The plan is for 19,889 vulnerable people are expected to benefit from the interventions, with about Rwf3 billion to be spent on livestock.
Speaking during the launch of the project in Kigali, Odette Uwamariya, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs, said the project will be rolled out throughout the country once the pilot plan succeeds.
She underscored the need for the new project, saying it would help improve coherence between social protection and agriculture.
A bigger percentage of Rwanda's citizens [about 70 per cent] largely depends on agriculture, and they constitute the largest proportion of those being supported under social protection.
Uwamariya noted that linking social protection to agriculture will play a big role in speeding up graduation from poverty.
"Linking the VUP social protection programmes and agriculture will especially help us to address the malnutrition issue. This is a complimentary project that will be a catalyst for us to think about other projects that will help us fast-track lifting people from poverty," she said.
According to the latest Demographic Health Survey, about 38 per cent of children under-five years are stunt. The country seeks to contain stunting for children under five at less than 18 per cent by 2018.
Uwamariya explained that the project beneficiaries will also be helped to access seeds and fertilisers as well as professional farming training.
FAO says that accelerating progress in eradication of poverty and ensuring sustainable food and nutrition security, needs taking on board all the contributing elements, including gender, youth and the vulnerable population.
FAO Country Representative to Rwanda, Attaher Maiga, said the Local Government ministry is in the process of profiling beneficiaries of the minimum package programme in the four selected districts.
"We want to promote nutrition-sensitive agriculture, meaning that training will be provided so that even extension workers who are supporting farmers in social protection and agriculture intervention can be nutrition-sensitive in their interaction with farmers," he said.
The Rubavu District vice mayor for social affairs, Marie Grace Uwampayizina, said, once properly implemented, the project could be one of the effective vehicles to help uplift many from poverty.
"This project is going to be an added value to the beneficiary as it will help them increase their agricultural and livestock yield," she said.
Figures from LODA indicate that between 2009 and 2016, over Rwf43.4 billion was spent in direct support to 338,970 households, while over Rwf38.9 billion was spent in wages to 704,307 workers under the public works.
Over 250,000 households received cows through the Girinka programme against the target of 350,000 households by end of 2017.
Poverty went down from 60 per cent in 2000 to 39 per cent in 2013/2014 as indicated by the Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV), with social protection programmes playing a big role.
Under Vision 2020, Rwanda targets to reduce poverty to 20 per cent and extreme poverty to zero per cent from the current 16 per cent.