The Good Food for Cities (GF4Cs) Project, which seeks among other things, to contribute 20 percent increase in income and job creation for 2,000 smallholder producers of health, sustainable, and nutritious (HSN) foods in Rubavu District, has been launched.
The project focuses on professionalisation of smallholder farmers in Rubavu to increase vegetable production, ensuring proper postharvest handling (for this perishable produce), marketing, and market access with emphasis on regenerative agriculture practices – the farming practices which restore soils by increasing their organic content to improve their fertility.
GF4Cs is a 5-year initiative running from July 2022 to June 2026 and implemented in Rubavu District in the Western Province of Rwanda.
The project is funded by the Belgium Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) through Rikolto SON and implemented by Kilimo Trust Rwanda and Rwanda Consumers’ Rights Protection Organisation (ADECOR).
Members of Good Food for Cities (GF4Cs) project implementing partners and JADF during a meeting in Rubavu in July 2022
It was presented to the Mayor of Rubavu District on July 21 2022, marking its launch.
Andrew Gashayija, Officer in Charge, Kilimo Trust Rwanda told The New Times that largely, the vegetables produced from Rubavu are also supplied to cities including the City of Kigali for urban dwellers’ consumption.
He indicated that about Rwf300 million will be invested in the project.
“The project seeks to ensure that the vegetables are healthy such as being free from chemicals like pesticides that can be harmful to consumers, are rich in nutrients, and they are produced through sustainable agriculture practices,” he observed.
He said that they want to help farmers increase farm productivity through nurturing the soil.
“The land has been used for farming for a long time, and the farms are small. So, we want to put efforts in agriculture practices that can make farmers grow crops in a sustainable way,” he pointed out, indicating that farmers will be able to increase food production, get market access and more income.
At large, the project has an ambition to catalyse collective action among local food system actors to make urban food environments and food supply chains more conducive to healthy, sustainable, and nutritious diets for all citizens.
The Good Food for Cities project implementing team during a field visit to KOTIBANYA vegetable farmers’ cooperative at Bazirete Vegetable aggregation and washing station in Rubavu District, in July 2022.
In Rwanda, the project interventions will focus on fostering the adoption of regenerative and resilient production practices, professionalising farmer business organisations, engaging financial institutions and impact investors to boost investments in production of HSN foods by smallholders and SMEs.
Addressing malnutrition and ensuring food safety
Talking about why the project targeted Rubavu District, Gashayija said that it sought to help tackle the high levels of malnutrition [mainly stunting among children] in the district, and capitalise on its vegetable production potential, which can help address that problem, both in the district and other parts of the country.
According to the Rwanda Demographic Health Survey of 2019-2020, 40 percent of children were stunted in the Western Province’s districts including Rubavu.
“Number one is the high levels of malnutrition in Rubavu, number two is its agro ecological suitability because it is appropriate for vegetable production; number three is its geographical location because it is able to supply Rwanda and the regional market in DR Congo,” he said.
After understanding the project objectives and planned interventions, Joint Action Development Forum (JADF) Rubavu District expressed its total support to the project. JADF requested the implementing team to address the key issues that are heavily affecting the livelihood of the citizens in Rubavu including the high levels of malnutrition in children, yet the district is a hub for healthy foods.
It thus recommended to involve the Health Unit and the Business Development Unit among the district officials to be engaged [in the project implementation].
Damien Ndizeye, the Executive Secretary of ADECOR cautioned about food safety especially the trucks which carry vegetable produce where they are found to also be involved in the transportation of other goods which are not foodstuffs, a situation he said may cause food contamination.
Bonnke Safari, Rikolto Country Coordinator GF4Cs, DR Congo and Rwanda, stressed the need to provide healthy, nutritious, and affordable meals to growing cities while conserving the environment.
He also mentioned the importance of increasing food businesses led by youth and women and linking them to potential markets.