RWANDA – To address malnutrition, the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resource Development Board (RAB) has launched an initiative introducing bio-fortified beans, sweet potatoes, and cassava in Rutsiro and Rubavu districts of the Western Province.

The initiative targets combating the alarming prevalence of child stunting, which currently stands at 40 percent in the region, the highest in the country.

Bio-fortification, endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), involves enhancing the nutrient density of food crops without compromising consumer preferences or essential characteristics. This process, achieved through conventional breeding or modern biotechnology, aims to fortify staple crops with vital nutrients crucial for combating malnutrition.

Iron-bio-fortified beans have already demonstrated improved iron stores in women in Rwanda, while bio-fortified orange sweet potatoes have successfully addressed vitamin A deficiency in children across various countries.

The introduction of orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) and carotene-rich cassava in Rutsiro and Rubavu districts represents a strategic effort to bolster nutritional intake within communities.

Athanase Nduwumuremyi, coordinator of the Roots and Tubers Program at RAB, emphasized the importance of growing bio-fortified crops to combat vitamin A deficiency and stunting effectively.

His encouragement to farmers highlights the pivotal role of staple crops in addressing nutritional challenges on a daily basis.

Empowering farmers, promoting sustainability

The initiative not only focuses on improving nutrition but also empowers farmers economically. Through projects like the ‘Hinga Ukire Project,’ smallholder farmers are provided with bio-fortified seeds, fostering increased productivity and income generation.

The expected outcomes include a significant boost in crop yields, with cultivation plans spanning thousands of hectares for beans, cassava, and sweet potatoes.

Farmers like Esperance Uwamungu are actively participating in multiplying bio-fortified crop seedlings, highlighting the dual benefits of nutritional enhancement and economic opportunities.

With a clear goal to reduce stunting rates to five percent among children under five within four years, this initiative aligns with national objectives to combat malnutrition comprehensively.

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