Given its impressive track record over the last 20 years, Rwanda has rightly been considered a model for reducing poverty and hunger in Africa. Between 1990 and 2015, hunger was reduced by almost half. Yet leaders and researchers are still confronted with a puzzling fact: despite higher crop yields and increasing incomes, nutrition is not improving.
For decades, the agricultural sector focused on producing more food. The rationale being more calorie intake equals better nutritional outcomes. Children may have their bellies full but they are far from healthy. To better address malnutrition in Rwanda, and by extension in Africa, agriculture must nourish communities in three ways.
First, the agricultural and health sectors must work together and agree on what constitutes a healthy diet in our context.
We can then improve the whole food system to produce more diverse foods that meet the nutrition needs of our population. Agriculture can influence nutrition by empowering women to better manage their time and energy expenditure. Across Africa, communities thrive when mothers can put better meals on the table and adequately care for themselves and their children. To improve nutrition, agriculture must focus on getting better low-cost, time-saving technologies to communities.
In 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals included a commitment to end malnutrition by 2030 and many are heeding the call.