Globally attempts to reduce world hunger have taken a step backwards. Climate change and conflict have driven people to hunger. Some 821 million people currently face chronic malnourishment.
To mark World Food Day, we look at Rwanda’s progress in reducing hunger and improving access to food.
Rwanda has made huge progress in improving access to food and reducing hunger. From 1990 to 2015, the figures for undernourishment fell from 56 percent to 32 percent. Food production has increased rapidly. Plantain, a major part of the Rwandan diet, increased in yield by 35 percent in that time. Cassava and food production have also gone up.
But one in five Rwandans still live with hunger, according to the World Food Programme. Affording food is a big problem for Rwanda’s poorest farmers. Low income farmers spend approximately seventy five percent of their income on food.
Trócaire in Rwanda has worked hard to help farmers increase their production. It has provided expertise on diversifying crops and advise on how to manage crops after harvesting. It also provides irrigation and access to seeds. But another vital step has been Trócaire’s support for agro processing factories.
Trócaire partner COCOF was established in 1994 as a Co-op of seventy seven women farmers. Their goal was to help other women farmers, many of whom were widows following the genocide. Being a member of a Co-op like COCOF has major advantages. It makes it easier for farmers to produce in bulk, reduce costs and secure a better price for their produce.
As COCOF grew, they were able to secure finance for a processing factory for their crops. The factory opened in 2004. Trócaire and Irish Aid supported the enterprise by providing the machinery. The factory now provides soya based products such as tofu to health centres, schools, hospitals and supermarkets.
COCOF sold the factory in 2014. It’s now known as Muhanga Food Processing Industries. The Co-op still retain a 54 percent share and eighty percent of the company’s shareholders are women.
Muhanga’s sales have grown substantially in the last few years. This is great news for their suppliers. Individual suppliers like Benjamin Dusaburemyi, and Co-Op members like Rose Marie Uwabakunda continue to benefit because SOSOMA is a reliable buyer for their produce.
Trócaire and Irish Aid also helped establish the SOSOMA factory in Kigali with its partner DUHAMIC-ADRI. DUHAMIC-ADRI support over ten farmer Co-ops in Rwanda.
SOSOMA processes soya, sorghum and maize into flour and porridge-based products. The crops are also bought from local farmers’ Co-ops.
The factory works with the farmers by providing them with seeds, fertiliser and hoes. The farmers then sell their crops to the factory. Trócaire funds the store where the maize, sorghum and soya are kept.
The factory sells the products to humanitarian organisations and hospitals. They also sell SOSOMA products to markets and shops.
Emmanuel Karlinda from Trócaire’s Rwanda office says, ‘a factory like SOSOMA is creating a market for cooperatives and individual farmers. It adds value to what they do and it’s also a great way to improve nutrition for Rwandans.’