By Elias Hakizimana.
An estimated 38 per cent of Rwandan children below five years are stunted, according to official statistics.
So far, government of Rwanda established various tangible strategies to tackle malnutrition and stunting in partnership with development partners.
Elisa Tumwesigye, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Social Actions for Environment protection and Biodiversity conservation (SAEB) told The Inspirer that he wants to collaborate with the government and other partners in eradication of malnutrition and children stunting through social actions and community engagement.
Under the youth umbrella, SAEB organization deals with fighting malnutrition and children stunting through teaching and mobilizing children and partnering with primary and secondary schools by teaching them how to build kitchen gardens and tree nurseries of fruits and other agro-forestry trees.
“We fully engage children in primary and secondary schools in fighting malnutrition in a sustainable way. Currently, we are building a tree nursery in Rusororo primary school in Gasabo district, emphasizing on kitchen gardens, we first look at those in first and second ubudehe scheme categories because they are the most to face malnutrition,” said Tumwesigye.
He said that the initiative will also benefit the citizens around the schools in which the project is being implemented as most of them had not kitchen gardens and they will tour countrywide.
Malnutrition is not only the case of Rwanda as a country, it is a cross cutting issue in the region and even at the global level.
“It is our responsibility to partner with our government to combat malnutrition,” he noted.
Since its inception, SAEB has made a tremendous journey in building kitchen gardens of vegetables and some tree nurseries hosting a variety of fruits.
Among the vegetables, they focus on Amaranth vegetables that is rich in vitamin A, C and Iron, Cabbages that are rich in Vitamin C and Fibres, Mushrooms that are rich in Iron and Potassium, Cauliflowers that are rich in vitamin C.
In fruits, they plant Papayas rich in Calories, Oranges rich in vitamin C and Calcium, Avocados rich in fats with no cholesterol, Fibres and Vitamin B6, Mangoes rich in vitamin A, C, Fibres and Potassium;Passion fruits rich in vitamin A, C, Iron and Potassium.
They are working with two schools and they have two tree nurseries, 1 kitchen garden but they plan to build over 300 kitchen gardens and 6 tree nurseries in six months.
(SAEB) offers effective trainings and resource programmes to students’ environmental clubs and mothers. Through these trainings, edible agro-forestry trees like Grevillea robusta, Calliandra calothrsus etc and fruit trees are planted and vegetable gardens are constructed.
Some challenges they face are mindsets of the citizens in terms of fighting malnutrition and students have limited knowledge on that.
“When we have a partner who can help us financially, it can increase our efforts in teaching citizens to change mindsets and also build many kitchen gardens and increase fruits,” Tumwesigye said.
Rusororo sector is the pilot area in which the project started. The organization calls for the government support to avail seeds and be closer with them.
“We want to work with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), but currently in our little capacity we are trying to buy them from intensification entities,” he said.
They also engage women and men in their activities so that they jointly stand up against malnutrition.
Tumwesigye has the academic background in environmental protection and botanic with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Botany and Environmental Conservation.
The World Bank estimates that Rwanda requires at least $27.3m (approximately Rwf23billion) annually for the next 10 years to eradicate malnutrition in the country.
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