US help food security in Rwanda

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Washington — More than 200 cassava farmers in southern Rwanda have better access to markets and higher incomes as the result of support from the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF).

USADF, established by the U.S. Congress in 1980, provides grants to support African-designed and African-driven solutions to grass-roots economic problems in sub-Saharan Africa.

Its $3.5 million portfolio of 16 grants in Rwanda is increasing food security and providing economic independence among marginalized Rwandans.

Since 2010, Cooperative Ituze has used its $164,000 expansion grant to set up a crop purchase fund, so that it can grow and buy more cassava (or manioc) to process into high-quality flour in its milling factory, USADF reported May 2.

In order to become self-sufficient and profitable, Ituze bought disease-resistant plants, expanded its drying facilities and set up rainwater harvesting systems to have a reliable water supply for year-round cassava processing. Agricultural training in cassava multiplication, soil fertility maintenance and modern agronomic practices has led to tangible gains.

Land under cultivation has increased more than twofold, to 175 hectares. Farmers are able to grow more cassava for home consumption and processing into flour, which is packaged and sold to supermarkets in the capital, Kigali. The increased economic activity benefits Ituze’s members and their families.

In less than three years, Ituze’s sales revenues increased from a baseline of $8,300 to 2012’s total of $115,000, an increase of 2,700 percent. This means that more children can go to school and more families can afford to eat nutritious meals.

Impressed by Ituze’s performance, the government of Rwanda has built additional drying facilities for the cooperative to increase its processing capacity. With this expansion, Ituze can keep up with its competitors to provide a market for the more than 200 farmers who rely on the factory for income.

Ituze is part of USADF’s Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative that is combating the root causes of hunger and poverty.

In addition to its grants in agroprocessing, USADF has made grants in Rwanda in agriculture, home décor, jewelry and other businesses.

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