When it comes to food I am a bit conservative eater, I rarely surprise my taste buds. What my mum taught me as nice food is what I still consider to be nice food. Even the greens that I disliked back then now make it to the table thanks to worries to about my health. Like me, many of us think much about what we eat. For us food food cures hunger and that is good enough. But is it?
When you think about food beyond being a cure for hunger, you start to think of what is inside the food we consume and what that means. In other words the conversation moves from quantity to quality. From a full plate to a plate full of nutrients. This is a very crucial discussion to engage in especially when it hits you that around here those who are vulnerable when it comes to food security are often dealt a band hand as far as nutrition is concerned.
This therefore leaves us with a double dilemma of a hungry and also malnourished population. Realising the gravity of this concern, the Government of Rwanda joined hands with Africa Improved Foods Ltd (AIF) with the objective of improving the nutritional status of its population and the East African region in general. AIF is a consortium of four international partners; Royal DSM, Dutch development bank-FMO, CDC Group plc (the UK government’s Development Finance Institution) and IFC.
AIF set up a factory in Rwanda in 2016 to produce nutritious foods for vulnerable groups while at the same time boosting local farmers whose produce is used at the factory. The factory located in the Kigali Special Economic Zone uses local raw materials like maize and soya from local and regional suppliers with a current output of about 35,000 tonnes. the plan is to eventually produce 45,000 tonnes annually.
“The concept is that the staple food (maize and soya) should come from Rwanda and that we manufacture it here and sell it via the Government, World Food Programme and other partners.” – Fike Sijbesma, chief executive of Royal DSM.
During the launch of the factory the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, pointed out the importance of sensitising the farmers on the significance of this factory and how they stand to benefit from its presence. This will certainly go a long way in getting more people to know the value of nutrition as far as food is concerned, the value of manufacturing and how it boosts the economy of Rwanda in terms of jobs, skills development and revenue
Malnutrition is indeed a huge concern in Rwanda particularly among children under five. Some studies have put chronic malnutrition at 38% and resulting in stunting among children. AIF Rwanda’s response to this is to produce highly nutritious porridge flour with added milk, vitamins and minerals targeting pregnant and breast-feeding mothers, older infants and young children.
AIF produces a commercial product “Nootri” as well as Shisha Kibondo and Super cereal Plus. The products are for both the mother and the child in order to ensure a holistic solution to the nutrition challenges faced by infants. Since exclusive breastfeeding is recommended, the breastfeeding mothers must be in good health as well.
AIF also works with the World Food Programme to produce quality relief food products that are distributed in places like Somalia and South Sudan. The commercial products are exported to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo among other regional markets.
When all is said and done, this is an initiative that already works with close to 10,000 local farmers, employs 230 people directly while at the same time elevating the food talk to a nutritious level for children and mothers in Rwanda and East Africa in general. If that does not taste nice then I don’t know what does.
“Our progress has been made possible by the favourable business environment in Rwanda and strong support from the government,” – AIF Rwanda CEO Amar Ali.