By Elias Hakizimana
Members of parliament from eight Eastern African countries have urged their governments to use technologies, and increase investments in agriculture and livestock sector in a bid to eradicate hunger and malnutrition affecting people in the region.
The lawmakers were speaking during a parliamentarian dialogue on food and nutrition security in Eastern Africa which is held from November 21 to 22, 2017 in Kigali, Rwanda.
The dialogue has been held under the auspices of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
One in three people is hungry in Eastern Africa; with the overall number of the hungry people having increased from 122.2 million in 2015 to 137.2 million in 2016 in the region, making it the region most hit by hunger in the world, according to a new Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition report (2017).
This report, which was launched in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on November 16, 2017, cites climate change such as drought, and conflicts or political instability as the main causes underlying the high hunger prevalence in Eastern Africa.
The Speaker of Rwandan Parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa said that there is a need to boost agriculture technologies to end poverty and hunger as agriculture is the main source of livelihood on which many people in the region rely to survive.
She said that in many developing countries good nutrition requires right mechanisms and technologies as well as investments.
“Smallholder farmers also need to access to financial services, technical trainings so that they be able to make improved crop intensification and irrigation,” Mukabalisa said.
According to the 2013-2017 state of food insecurity in the world, the trends show that there is a quite increase in food insecurity, with an increase in food prices from September 2013 which affected food access.
An estimated 795 million of the world’s 7.3 billion people potentially suffer from chronic malnutrition and face the lifelong physical, cognitive and economic hardships it can cause.
In countries with persistently high levels of malnutrition, the economic costs can rise to 16.5 percent of GDP.
Mukabalisa aid malnutrition is still a problem among Rwandan population which needs more efforts to address beyond the measures already taken by the government.
In Rwanda, some initiatives intended to address malnutrition among people have been pit in place, among them the Girinka — One Cow Per Poor Family — programme. About 300,000 households have received cows through the Girinka programme against the target of 350,000 households by end of 2017, according to information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).
Under Vision 2020, Rwanda targets to reduce poverty to 20 per cent from 39.1 percent in 2014, and extreme poverty to zero per cent from the current 16 per cent.
Sanou Dia, FAO Nutrition Officer in Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa (SFE) said that the situation of nutrition at the level of the Eastern Africa is quite complex as countries are not performing well.
Dia cited some challenges that are still affecting nutrition development such as drought, recent armyworms that attacked crops contributing to degradation of nutrition security in many Eastern African countries.
“There are many things to do at all levels including the governance level, institutions level, development partners to accelerate technical strategies at all member countries,” Dia said, thanking the good example of Rwanda government in implementing some initiatives relating to nutrition security such as the Girinka Programme, one cow per family, one cup of milk per child as well as other multi-sectorial integrated progammes which showed good results.
According to the recent nutrition indicators, Rwanda targets to reduce food insecurity from 36 percent to 18 percent by 2020.
Dia noted that FAO is making efforts for engagement of parliamentarian officials in elaborating good policies which ensure proper use of the funds allocated to agriculture and food security.
He explained that nutrition will only be an issue when all the sectors fail to address its root causes which fall in providing the right resources to the population and using the funds mostly by ensuring social protection which put good nutrition on top.
He said that stunting is at 32% while undernourishment stands at 33% according to the recent data.
“We need to truck where the fund for nutrition is going, when you invest one dollar in nutrition, it replicates impacts in development where people get the right jobs, long term results in national economy is 16 dollars,” Dia said adding that people need to first address the problem of stunting among the children as stunted children result in stunted economy.
According to the latest Demographic Health Survey, about 38 per cent of children under-five years are stunted in Rwanda. The country seeks to control stunting for children under five at less than 18 per cent by 2018.
Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment at Rwandan parliament said that it is under their responsibilities to assess implementation of government’s programs to ensure law enforcement.
She said that it is the people’s right to access to food security as it is enshrined in the 1948 universal declaration of human rights.
“The soil lost its capacity to give enough produce, which calls for knowledge to support people to increas crop productivity for example from the current 30 kilos per acreage unit people can get 60 kilos in return. This practice will help them to access food and other basic needs in line with poverty reduction,” Nyirarukundo said.
The dialogue has brought together eight countries namely Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, Djibouti and South-Soudan.