THE United Nations’S Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is injecting Rwf286 million into Rwanda’s social protection programmes in an effort to end poverty by focusing on agriculture and nutrition.
The social protection programmes, which were launched recently, seek to reach residents of Nyabihu, Gakenke, Rubavu and Rulindo districts located in northern and western Rwanda.
The government aims to reduce extreme poverty, which currently stands at 16 per cent to below nine per cent next year. It aims to bring that figure to zero by 2020 with the help of the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme — the country’s flagship social protection programme.
However, according to FAO Rwanda Representative Attaher Maiga, alleviating poverty requires addressing agriculture and nutrition given that the majority of the population’s livelihoods depend on subsistence farming.
“We find that in most instances, the agricultural aspect of ending poverty is not as evident in these programmes. As FAO, we want to add agricultural knowledge that is available worldwide and bring in other dimensions like nutrition,” Mr Maiga told Rwanda Today.
FAO said Rwanda should have made tangible progress in eradication of poverty, but like many other countries, its tends to look at many factors together without giving particular attention to agriculture and nutrition.
Social protection measures which are not in line with agriculture and nutrition have been cited as a major reason why many people are not getting out the poverty cycle.
Rwanda, for instance, saw an improvement in poverty alleviation over the past five years and more than three million people got out of poverty. However, this did not translate to better nutrition as many still suffer from malnutrition.
Official figures show that Rwanda has more stunted children compared with its regional peers Kenya and Uganda. According to the 2015 household survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics, 38 per cent of children were stunted countrywide. Stunting levels in Uganda and Kenya stand at 33.4 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.
“Social protection programmes by themselves, only reduce but cannot eradicate poverty. By combining them with agriculture we build people’s resilience, which is key to exiting the cycle of poverty,” said Mr Maiga.
A number of agricultural interventions like provision of inputs, livestock asset transfer alongside modern farming skills and nutrition training will be added to the minimum package given to beneficiaries of the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme. This is expected to help them engage in more profitable agricultural activities, which will increase productivity and food security.
In most instances, public works under the Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme have focused on construction of infrastructure development.
The Ministry of Local Government said that over 94,000 households were reached through the Direct Support Programme and more than 111,000 households through Public Works.
Odette Uwamariya, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Local Government agrees that a multi-dimensional approach is needed to address the twin problems of poverty and malnutrition.
It is estimated that Rwanda’s agriculture sector employs more than 70 per cent of the population, who are mainly engaged in subsistence farming.
Analysis shows that the poorest of the population represents 16 per cent of all households, and are found in the rural parts of the Western Province.
According to the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis report, which was released last year, illiteracy and insufficient land for farming are some of the factors leading to food insecurity, and root cause of stunting among households.