RWANDA – Rwanda’s Ministry of Trade and Industry in collaboration with the European Union (EU) and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)has launched a new project to improve food security by reducing crop losses brought about by pests.

With funding from the European Union totaling €5 million (U.S$ 5.3 million), the project focusing on agriculture value chains will be implemented over the course of three years.

Dubbed “Strengthening food control and phytosanitary capacities and governance,” the project will team up with relevant COMESA institutions and authorities to develop national capacities, strengthen governance, and enhance strategic planning for food safety and plant health. It will also provide technical support.

Coumba Dieng Sow, the FAO Country Director, said implementation of this tool will raise Rwanda’s agricultural produce.

“We are bringing a very important tool for food safety assessment, that was requested by the members of the Codex Alimentarius, this assessment is important in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

“Rwanda is pioneering this exercise by evaluating the entire food quality of its products here so that they can embrace not only the AfCFTA but also other international markets,” she said.

With a focus on the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the project calls for the implementation of a facilitated assessment of the national food control system in eight countries.

The project is expected to enhance the capacities of the target member states to enhance food security through the reduction of crop losses due to pests.

Also, it will facilitate the application of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) standards, which aid countries to build import and export procedures, facilitating safe trade, development, and economic growth.

Farmers and exporters to reap big

According to Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, the minister of trade and industry, Rwanda will be able to grow exports to other markets because the domestic market demands adherence to several standards.

“Sometimes, farmers may not be aware of how to handle their products to ensure good quality for international markets. This project will help to educate and empower farmers to meet international standards and sell their products with confidence,” he said.

The project will use internationally recognized common approaches to assess national food control systems and phytosanitary systems, respectively, leading toward the prioritization of needs and recommendations for ways forward.

This offers strong support for regional harmonization and improves communication for increased trade at the regional and international levels.

This assessment tool, according to Jean-Bosco Shingiro, a researcher at the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), will aid in locating gaps in food quality and food safety.

“With this tool, we will be able to train farmers to improve the quality of their products, which is essential for linking to the market,” he said.

At the national level, the project has two components: the national food control system and phytosanitary capacity evaluations.

The conception and training workshop for the first evaluation of the national food control system is expected to begin in March, and it is anticipated that it will be finished by the end of October.

After FAO has finished hiring country facilitators, the second part will be implemented.

Participants in the food control system include relevant ministries for agriculture, forestry, health, trade, and the environment as well as national food control and plant health authorities.

Launched in November 2022, the project is set to provide technical support and work with Competent Authorities and other leading institutions in 12 COMESA Member Countries to build capabilities, strengthen governance and improve strategic planning around two main components: food safety and plant health.

It has so far been launched in KenyaComorosSeychelles, the Kingdom of Eswatini, as well as in Mauritius.

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