Rwanda among those facing food insecurity

Friday October 26 2012

Traders selling foodstuffs at Muhanga Market. Photo: Cyril Ndegeya

Traders selling foodstuffs at Muhanga Market. Photo: Cyril Ndegeya 

By ALEX NGARAMBE, Rwanda Today

Rwanda has the second highest levels of hunger in the East African region, after Burundi, according to the 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report.

Rwanda is ranked at 57th position out of 79 countries that were surveyed it has a score of 19.7, while Burundi is at the bottom of the list with a global index score of 37.1 Eritrea and Haiti are ranked second and third last with a score of 34.4 and 30.8 respectively.

The report blamed lack of sustainable food security strategies for poor scores.

The report revealed 20 countries have alarming levels of hunger in the globe.

Ministry of Agriculture attributed the rankings to poor feeding habits, especially of children under the age of five.

“The report is based on the children under the age of five, where it assessed their weight and mortality rate, among others. We know that Rwandan children are not feeding on nutritious food,” said Agriculture Minister Dr Agnes Kalibata.

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The 2012 GHI report focused on how to ensure sustainable food security with proper use of water, land, and energy.

The report also notes that demographic changes, climate change, poverty, inadequate policies and institutions are exerting pressure on natural resources.

“To overcome the challenge of malnutrition, we have to step up measures to improve the quality and not the quantity of food people eat,” added Dr Kalibata.

In the region, Kenya and Tanzania tie in the third position both with a score of 19.3 and are ranked at the 54th position globally, while Uganda is at position 42 globally with a score of 16.1.

Tanzania’s hunger scores have dropped sharply, from 25.9 last year to 19.3 this year.

This, according to the report, is due to renewed emphasis on the potential of agriculture, and intensified efforts to commercialise agricultural sectors.

“Such initiatives can also be observed in Sierra Leone where Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide (a FAO initiative to fight global hunger), co-operate with farmers in the areas of agriculture, rural development, and food security,” said Welthungerhilfe President Bärbel Dieckmann.

He said in Tanzania, the focus now is on supporting smallholders to secure land titles deeds and improve access to water as the government advances a wider programme to transform the agricultural sector.

The report indicated that Burundi, Eritrea, and Haiti currently have the highest proportion of malnourished population that account for more than 50 per cent of their populations. Burundi and Comoros, however, recorded GHI rise by about six and four points respectively.

“Increased hunger since 1990 in Burundi, Comoros, and Côte d’Ivoire can be attributed to prolonged conflict and political instability,” said the report.

“Between 1990 and 2001, Burundi’s GHI score increased steadily, but it has declined slightly since. With the transition to peace and political stability that started in 2003, the country began a slow recovery from decades of economic decline,” added the report
However, the report said the number of malnourished people have been rising, although the rate of increase has now slowed.

The Index was adopted and further developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and was first published in 2006 with the Welthungerhilfe, a Germany non-profit organisation (NGO). Since 2007, the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide joined the group as co-publisher.

In the report, IFPRI said poor utilisation of land, water, and energy in developing countries is still a major problem facing food production.

The report recommended the use of modern farming technologies to boost food production in developing countries.

The unsustainable use of land and water, the report said, has also led to degradation of ecosystem in developing countries.

It warned that developing countries must put together proper strategies to to protect environment.