Activists in Rwanda have raised concerns over the national budget allocated to food security and nutrition that has been declining over the five past years, saying that there is need for more public and private investment in food security for long terms turns.
The observation was made after food security and nutrition budget analysis was carried on allocations for the last five years, from 2013/2014 to 2017/2018.
This, they say, could have resulted in challenges in curbing stunting and malnutrition, with a 2014/15 study showing that stunting levels stood at 38 per cent, while underweight was at 9 per cent.
Eugene Rwibasira, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Development Organization, however, said that the current budgetary allocations is too little to meet the Vision 2020 target of 15 per cent.
"Despite these alarming levels of public expenditures on nutrition, related interventions have remained very low comparing to the needed target achievement under Vision 2020," he said
"Although the whole national budget increased from Rwf1, 677,693,583,398 in 2013/14 fiscal year to Rwf2, 094,910,480,545 in 2017/18, the percentage share for food security has been decreasing," he said.
He said that the budget allocated to food security and nutrition was 7.58 per cent of the total budget of Rwf1, 677,693,583,398 in 2014/15 and it declined to 7.3 per cent in 2015/16.
The per cent again dropped to 7.2 per cent in 2016/17 and to 6.92 per cent in 2017/2018 according to analysis.
"We recommend more investment in food security and nutrition as a stimulant for long term returns. It is imperative for decision makers to increase budget allocation to food security and nutrition. Budget allocation should first target early child development that includes pregnant, lactating mothers, and children less than five years," he said.
Investing in early childhood development, he noted, promotes productivity in the economy and society
He added that districts should increase their budget allocations for food security and nutrition with a focus on specific and sensitive interventions.
There should be coordinated food security and nutrition interventions that are varied to improve on food and nutrition security status in Rwanda, he added.
Adeline Ufitinema, the nutrition specialist at National Early child hood Development Program (NECDP), said: "we cannot achieve the goals of reducing stunting without advocating for budget allocation that is needed. We have to increase the investment."
Jean Claude Kabano, the Agricultural Policy Specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said that under the new strategic plan, there will be engagement of many stakeholders to invest in food security interventions.
"We need to increase partnership and share knowledge about the needed interventions and investment to increase wealth of the people. We have started mapping all stakeholders so that we also avoid duplication of efforts among them. We really need the involvement of NGOs and private sector as well," he noted.
The study on the cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) 2013, which was an African Union Commission (AUC) led initiative, showed the social and economic impacts on African countries and in East African region countries' GDP that result from children under-nutrition.
It showed that in Rwanda, 21.9 per cent of child mortality, and 13.5 per cent of school repetition are associated with stunting, while 49 per cent of working age population suffered from stunting as children which, together with other issues caused by hunger, triggered a 13.5 per cent loss of GDP.
Overall in Africa, the annual cost associated with malnourished children are estimated at between 1.9 per cent and 16.5 per cent of GDP.
Experts say that when $1 is invested in in nutrition, it yields $16 in returns.