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Umuganura: Reflecting on Rwanda’s Food Systems and Nourishing the Nation’s Future

Umuganura, a cherished Rwandan cultural festival, holds deep significance as a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate the bountiful harvest. With roots dating back over a thousand years, this unique tradition allows Rwandans to embrace their cultural values and commemorate the achievements of their agriculture and various economic sectors.

The festival is not merely a moment of merriment; it serves as a reminder of Rwanda’s remarkable strides in agriculture and nutrition over the past decades. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in Rwanda’s socioeconomic development and resilience, employing approximately 70% of the population and contributing over 31% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For the nation’s youth, women, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the agricultural sector presents a promising avenue for income generation and improved nutrition outcomes.

Amidst the festivities, it is vital to acknowledge the progress made in improving children’s nutritional status since 2000, with declines in stunting, wasting, and underweight cases. However, there is still much work to be done. The Rwanda Demographic Health Survey (RDHS) of 2019-2020 revealed that only 22% of children aged 6-23 months, living with their mothers, were fed a minimum acceptable diet the previous day. Additionally, just 34% of children received an adequately diverse diet, encompassing foods from at least five out of eight food groups. This lack of dietary diversity can lead to malnutrition, especially stunting and micronutrient deficiencies, hindering optimal growth and development in infants and young children.

As the nation celebrates Umuganura, it is crucial for all Rwandans, especially parents, to grasp the importance of diversifying family meals with nutritious foods to adequately nourish their children. Understanding the role of the private sector in contributing to sustainable growth and development is equally essential during this cultural festival.

This celebration serves as a poignant reminder of the need to increase the availability of nutritious food in the country, ensuring that women and children have access to nourishing meals at least three times a day. The agriculture sector plays a critical role in making this vision a reality.

Let us all use Umuganura as a time of introspection and determination to support Rwandan agricultural actors in producing more, earning increased income, and consuming more nutritious food. The festival offers an opportune moment to align our collective efforts toward a brighter, healthier future for Rwanda, where every citizen enjoys the benefits of improved nutrition and food security. By embracing the essence of Umuganura, we can collectively foster a thriving agriculture sector that nourishes the nation and nurtures its people towards prosperity.

Original Article written by Caleb Karangira for The New Times

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