Outcome 1 – Food systems governance through multisectoral platforms

In Rwanda, in order to ensure that nutrient-density, food safety and food quality in general are preserved or enhanced, District Plans to Eliminate Malnutrition (DPEM) and Sector Programs for eliminating Malnutrition (SPM) have been developed at district level in 2018 and directed districts to ensure multisectoral coordination and converged agendas regarding malnutrition.

Considering the important role development stakeholders play in the decentralized implementation not only of DPEM and SPM, but also of general District Development Plans, Joint Action Development Fora (JADF) at district level have been established in 2015 to coordinate collaboration and information sharing among development stakeholders. After discussion with JADF directorates and secretaries on how to support food systems and nutrition in the existing JADF structures, the formation of food systems sub-committees under the umbrella of JADF has been decided in Rubavu in February 2022.

A food systems sub-committee meeting quarterly and aiming to strengthen coordination and planning among the nutrition and health service providers and their respective suppliers as well as any other stakeholders in the food system for ensuring affordable, safe, local, diverse, nutritious, and agroecologically produced diets for the whole city population, has therefore been launched in in Rubavu on 21Apr2022. Respective Terms of Reference have been developed and the platform successfully convened three times already to work on a joint activity plan.

Also, based on suggestions by the food systems sub-committee and in line with DPEM, the NICE project supported 10 ECDs in Rusizi, supporting 650 children, with equipment (mats, cups, cooking equipment), water tanks, food for 3 months (fortified flour, milk, sugar) and caregiver incentives for 3 months in September 2022. Focusing on the youngest by supporting ECDs is a key priority of the local authorities in Rusizi, as the region, despite belonging to Rwanda’s food basket, has the highest proportions of childhood malnutrition.

Outcome 2 – Increased agroecological production

On 24 November 2021, a group of experts was convened in Rusizi to select the key value chains for the NICE project in a participatory, multi-stakeholder approach with focus group discussions and validation of the decided results in a plenary session. Agreement was achieved on further supporting the following 4 value chains through the NICE project:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Passion fruits
  • Tomatoes

A Business Development Service (BDS) provider is currently under on-boarding in Rusizi to implement Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture’s farmers’ hub concept in Rusizi to support production of nutritious and locally, agroecologically produced food.

A farmers’ survey to understand the current status and potential for agroecological practices in Rusizi using an adapted version of FAO’s Self-evaluation and Holistic Assessment of climate Resilience of farmers and Pastoralists tool (SHARP) with 150 farmers and a farmers mapping exercise were conduced in Rusizi in 2022 in order to assess the potential for agroecological interventions in the area. Possibilities for agroecological interventions have then been discussed with various food systems stakeholders in Rusizi in a two-stage participatory workshop in September and November 2022 for current fine-tuning prior to implementation.

Outcome 3 – Demand generation

Formative research on consumers and producers nutrition practices incl. purchasing and food preparation has been conducted in NICE project year 1 in Rusizi and findings from Rubavu and Rusizi have been discussed with stakeholders from both cities in a joint city validation workshop in July 2022. A demand generation strategy is currently under finalization by an external creative agency to increase demand for nutritious and locally and agroecologically produced foods through social behavior change communication with the general public as well as specifically in the health and education sector.

Outcome 4 – Learning and scale up

Data on urban population-specific food systems indicators are essential to guide city authorities’ decision-making and to monitor transformations achieved through the NICE project and many other projects and initiatives.

Robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the whole NICE project is ensured and lessons learned are recorded and shared within and across countries. Collected data are also made publicly available in due time through local outreach documents such as case studies, good practices or technical briefs and (peer-reviewed) publications.

Baseline Situation

At baseline, a team of experienced enumerators visited 150 households in Rusizi to collect information on the nutritional status, socio-economic information and consumption behavior of the city population. This survey revealed food insecurity in nearly all (99.3%) of the visited households in Rusizi, which increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 28.3% of the children under 5 years were too short for their age and therefore stunted, and 2.1% were underweight. Furthermore, 40.8% of women and 23.7% of men were overweight. Most of the women did not report an adequately diverse diet (60.7% consumed less than 5 food groups in the previous 24 hours). All this indicates the kind of obstacles faced by the urban population of Rusizi to access a diverse and nutritious diet, with likely negative effects on their longer-term health. On the other hand, many of the urban and peri-urban households owned farmland, overall 59%. This provides an opportunity for NICE activities to assist in an increase and diversification of locally and agroecologically produced nutritious foods and in making them more accessible for the city population, including vulnerable city population groups. Baseline data were collected in May 2021.

The District of Rusizi partners with the NICE consortium for this project.