Dr Kormawa (R) with colleagues, Mohamed Gahayr FAO-Somalia (m) and Attaher Maiga
Rubavu, Western Province: The Rwandan Government working in partnership with FAO have been able to build capacity in the country through introducing skills training in areas like livestock and crop production, nutrition, to name a few. Patrick Kormawa, the Regional Coordinator in East Africa in an interview with André Gakwaya, Rwanda News Agency (RNA) discusses how the programs have contributed towards sustainable development.
Patrick Kormawa: I’m pleased to be here in Rubavu, Rwanda where the FAO Sub -regional Office for Eastern Africa has organized its annual planning week. This is very important for the sub-region of Eastern Africa, but also for Africa as a whole. Every year, FAO Multi-disciplinary Staff in the sub-region with the representatives sit together to evaluate themselves on how they are contributing towards agricultural development, malnutrition eradication, rural development as well as poverty reduction using agriculture as the entry point. Now, we will be looking at sub regional issues; what are the key sub-regional issues in those areas?
One is food security. When you talk about food security, you discuss whether or not people have access to food in the required quantity and quality for good health. Are we producing enough food in country for our population, or are we importing all the food that we need?
We also have to consider the nutritional aspect of food. How does the food we eat effect our bodies, or our growth, does it support a healthy life? And we know in this sub region that malnutrition is a major problem; particularly the effect of stunting of children below the age of five years old. And when you have a large proportion of the population of children below the age of 5 years being stunted, it is an indication that those children will lack about 9 years in terms of IQ development compared to healthy children. What does that mean for the economy?
It means that by the time those stunted children go to school, the gap in the development of intellectual capacity compared to their healthy peers is about nine years. When these individuals finally get pushed into the economy their productivity will also be very low, which has a huge impact on your economy because the economy depends on the productivity of its workers.
So, malnutrition has a very huge impact on the economy in Africa, and has been recognized as a top priority since 2014 when the African Heads of state agreed that they want to see a continent without hunger by the year 2025. This is one of the topics that will be discussed during the planning. How can FAO support countries, regional entities and of course work though the African Union to support member states in achieving this goal which is to have a continent without hunger by 2025.
The other aspect which we are talking about is our children and schools. You know I talked to you briefly about nutrition; if children are not well nourished and they are in school, they are tired. This undoubtedly has an effect in their ability to learn. So we want to see how FAO working with other partners like WFP and the government can institutionalize a school feeding program so that our children can be in school, remain healthy, and be in an environment that is conducive to their learning.
Another topic to be discussed today is resilience. This sub region is being hit by the adverse effect of El Nino. In some countries like Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia, the negative impacts of El Niño on the people in huge. In Ethiopia, the government estimates that about 10.2 million people will suffer from food insecurity if further efforts and assistance is not provided. Now is the time to plan for the processes we will be putting in place; we are trying to see how in the future FAO working with its other partners can support the Governments to avoid and mitigate the effects of such calamities. For example we will see how we can manage water better to ensure that livestock, fisheries and communities do not experience shortages.
So this meeting for us is very, very important because it’s not only looking at what we have done, but it’s also looking into the future to see how best we can bring the technical capabilities of FAO to help and support our member states.
Lastly, you know the SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) have been adopted by all governments of the world including of course African Governments. FAO’s mandate covers a large number of them. We are looking at how we can work with Governments to ensure that the MDG’s are integrated into national policies and programs to ensure that the targets set by our leaders will be achieved by 2030. One of the major goals is to see a world without hunger, this of course is a major area of FAO’s work.
So we’re here today together to plan with our partners and our technical staff to see how best we can support the governments, how best we can support the people of Africa, and in particular how best we can support the people in sub region Eastern Africa.
RNA: Is it possible to have a world without hunger?
P.K: Rwanda is doing great, from our assessment and some of the reports presented here. I was here in November and today I am listening to beneficiaries. I spoke to farmers and they told me how your government working with FAO have been able to introduce new skills development for instance in livestock production, crop production, and nutrition. Some of those people are here today and have shown us examples on how our programs have contributed to the development of sustainable livelihood in this country.
So back to your question, as far as we know, and according to the data we have as to whether or not Rwanda can achieve the objective of zero hunger, they are already there. The only problem they’ve faced is in the area of malnutrition. And as I understand, the Government has put in place a major program to ensure that each child has a cup of milk a day- that’s a way to go. They also ensure that each poor family has access to a cattle. This is a right way to go because you’re providing milk for children under 5, and you’re providing a livelihood for the poor. In short, your government is not only "giving people the fish, but also teaching them how to fish". Which means they’re not only gaining access to having cows and cattle, but they also have access to the milk being produced by cows, which can be obtained and given to their children.
RNA: Can you make a comment on what you’ve seen here?
P.K: There are women farmers who are in cooperatives, they’ve learnt about good nutrition practices. We’ve seen those who are also in cooperatives that have learnt about good farming practices. We’re seen people in the fishing sector; we have seen people involved in producing honey for the market and we’ve seen women in the vegetable producing sector producing produce like mushrooms. Fundamentally, these are the ingredients of attaining zero hunger, and I believe your country Rwanda is on the right step. What we need to do now and in the future is to support the government to upscale those practices that are working.