16 February 1998



  • Despite an increase of 14 percent in the 1998 A season food crop production over last year’s A season the output in per caput terms reaches only some 88 percent of pre-crisis levels. 

  • A one month delay in the onset of rains limited an otherwise significant expansion of cultivated area, while the ensuing excessive precipitation resulted in flooding in the valley marshlands and reduced yields of some crops. 

  • Reflecting insufficient production, food prices continue to rise, aggravating the already precarious food security situation of the poorer segments of the population. 

  • Malnutrition among children under-five remains at high levels and the situation is deteriorating among recent returnee populations. 

  • Food aid requirements for the first semester of 1998 are estimated at 82 000 tons of cereal equivalent; of this, some 70 000 tons have already been pledged, with the remaining 12 000 tons uncovered as a result of increasing insecurity in north-western prefectures and land transport bottlenecks in the region. 

  • There is an urgent need to overcome input supply bottlenecks, especially for seeds and cuttings; this is a top priority for the coming season but must be addressed within a longer-term rehabilitation framework. FAO has launched a programme to produce quality seed in 1998 and provide agricultural inputs to the most needy population. 



Since the tragic civil strife in the first half of 1994 that severely upset Rwanda’s fragile food security situation, FAO and WFP have assessed the food crop and supply situation on a semestral basis, coinciding with the country’s two major crop seasons. Recently, these assessments have been undertaken in two phases: In the first phase, a Government-led national team supported by donors undertook a pre-evaluation of the situation, followed by a second evaluation phase performed by a joint FAO/WFP Mission. This approach was deemed necessary because since the mid-1990s the country has been without a functioning agricultural statistics service and both Government and donors needed guidance as to the extent of external food assistance required to avert severe food insecurity and malnutrition.

Within this framework, a national team led by the Ministry of Agriculture and assisted by national staff of FAO, WFP, the European Union, USAID and other donors undertook, during December 1997, a pre-evaluation of the prospects for the 1998 season A crops due to be harvested in January/February 1998. It covered 22 communes selected from all 11 prefectures. Where security conditions did not permit pre-evaluation mission visits, the team relied exclusively on the staff in the prefecture offices. For the second crop assessment phase, a joint FAO/WFP Mission visited the country from 10 to 24 January 1998 to complement, amplify and verify, in the light of the most recent agro-climatic developments, the pre-evaluation results. The Mission visited all seven prefectures for which security clearance was granted, selecting one to two communes per prefecture on the basis of agro-ecological sampling procedures, in addition to the provincial capitals of the prefectures. These communes were different from those selected for the pre-evaluation. The Mission thus effectively enlarged the earlier sample by 50 percent, utilizing an abbreviated assessment procedure. As far as the four omitted prefectures - Ruhengeri, Gisenyi, Cyangugu and Kibuye - are concerned, the Mission relied on the questionnaire responses obtained during the pre-evaluation phase.

The Mission involved staff engaged in the pre-evaluation, thus ensuring a degree of continuity in the entire assessment process. It further associated with its two field teams two staff members from the Ministry of Health, including the Head of the Nutrition Service. The Mission consulted the officers of the prefectures’ regional agricultural services and the heads and agricultural staff of the communes, held group and individual meetings with farmers, inspected fields, undertook market surveys, talked to customs officials at border points to gain an understanding of official and unofficial transborder trade with neighbouring countries, and visited Nutrition and Health Centres and Supervisors at prefecture and commune levels, as well as hospitals. The Mission made full use of the pre-evaluation results, but also made its own adjustments, particularly in the light of the possible effects on yields of the unseasonably prolonged rains, which extended into the third dekad of January. While in some prefectures the Mission arrived at different forecasts as compared to the pre-evaluation, its national food crop forecast for the 1998 A season is largely consistent with that of the December evaluation.

The results point to a significant increase in cultivated area compared to the 1997 A season, including the opening up of new land frontiers not cultivated before the crisis years, essentially in the recently created prefecture of Umutara. Total food crop production is forecast to increase by 14 percent over last year’s season A. Compared to the pre-civil war reference year of 1990, current production is estimated to be 6 percent less. A comparison with the average of the years 1989-93 puts the current production forecast at that period’s level. All in all, Rwanda’s food crop production is on the way to recovery. Yet, two caveats are in order. First, there are now more Rwandans who have to feed themselves than before the civil strife; on a per caput basis, current production is only some 88 percent of the 1990 pre-war level, implying that substantial food deficits persist. And second, if the unseasonable rains persist beyond the time of the Mission, production estimates will have to be revised downwards.

On the basis of its supply and utilization estimates, the Mission forecasts a food aid requirement of 82 000 tons of cereal equivalent for the first semester of 1998, of which 70 000 tons appear to be covered by pledges already made or donor indications given for the first half of this year.


1/ The information in this section is based on the following sources:
- Republic of Rwanda - Socio-Demographic Survey 1996, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning/National Office of Population, Kigali 1997
- Background documentation prepared for a food security seminar held in Kigali from 14 to 16 January 1998
- République Rwandaise - Document de position nationale sur la sécurité alimentaire; préparé à l’occcasion du Sommet Mondiale de l’Alimentation, Rome, 13-17 Novembre 1996; Kigali, Septembre 1996
- Formulation de la stratégie de développement agricole, Juin 1997
- Séminaire sur le Plan Global d’Action sur la Sécurité Alimentaire, Kigali 14 au 16 Janvier 1998

2.1 Recent Population Developments

Rwanda is preparing the road towards reconstruction and development after the tragic civil strife of 1994, during which close to one million people lost their lives. The last 18 months have been characterized by the massive return of refugees, who had left the country at the time of the recent crisis. Over half of them had sought refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one-third in Tanzania and the rest in Burundi and Uganda. That influx followed the earlier return of Rwandans who had fled the country in several waves since 1959. These population movements had a profound impact in terms of food insecurity and development problems.

Rwanda’s population is now beginning to stabilize in the sense that these massive movements are coming to an end. However, they have given way to internal displacements resulting from the precarious security situation in the North-western prefectures, where insurgents disrupt the lives and development activities of the inhabitants, as well as to some influx of Congolese refugees. A recent socio-demographic survey puts the mid-1997 population at 7.66 million people. This is about 5 percent below the estimates available last year. The annual growth rate is now estimated at 2.84 percent. Almost 95 percent of the population lives in rural areas. And with little more than 26 000 km2 of national territory, Rwanda is among Africa’s most densely populated countries.

2.2 Macro-economic context and objectives

Rwanda’s gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to some US$ 1.4 billion in 1996. Some 38 percent originated from the agricultural sector; services contributed 44 percent and industry 18 percent. GDP per caput was US$ 165, or 70 percent of the level of the late 1980s. For 1997, an increase of 13 percent of total GDP has been estimated. Rwanda’s external debt at the end of 1996 was US$ 1.4 billion.

As the Government strives to move from emergency and immediate reconstruction measures towards sustained long-term development, it has placed on top of its agenda the dual objective of ensuring food security and increasing rural-sector incomes as the principal means of improving the living conditions of its people. Priority measures to this effect were outlined in the Government’s position paper to the World Food Summit held in Rome in November 1996. As a starting point, the Government is giving high priority to increasing food supplies. A recently prepared agricultural strategy towards 2010 emphasizes major changes in land tenure, land utilization and production systems, as well as the relationship between agriculture and other economic sectors. This overall priority is supported by measures concerning the other two food security dimensions of food supply stability and access to food. The latter are the centrepiece of the "Global Action Plan for Food Security" adopted at a seminar held in Kigali in January 1998.

Key recommendations from this seminar include: (i) tax relief for the agricultural sector; (ii) the need to restore the rural sector’s physical, human and social capital; (iii) the promotion of private sector storage; (iv) creation of agriculture-related and non-agricultural employment; (v) restriction of food aid to needy groups targeted through participatory approaches; (vi) creation of a market information system; and (vii) establishment of a national committee for the co-ordination and follow-up on food security.


Rwanda’s main staple foods are bananas and roots and tubers, followed by pulses and cereals, notably sorghum and maize. Bananas and a good part of the root crops as well as vegetables are harvested throughout the year, assuring a degree of food supply stability. For the remaining crops, there are two major cropping seasons. Planting for the first season (season "A") is mostly in September/October, with harvesting in January/February. Beans and maize are the most important "A" season crops. Season "B" planting takes place in February/March for harvesting in June/July. Sorghum is the main crop, but there is also significant production of pulses. In volume terms, the "B" season is normally somewhat less important than season "A". In the so-called "wetlands" or marshland areas (marais) in the valleys, there is also a small "C" season, following immediately the "B" harvest; this is mainly devoted to sweet potatoes and vegetables. Its production is generally included under the season "A" harvest.

Estimates of food production continue to be severely constrained by the absence of a government agricultural statistics service, which ceased to function in the mid-1990s. Earlier FAO/WFP missions strongly recommended the gradual re-establishment of such services, and tangible steps in this direction are expected to materialize in the course of this year. Until such services are again in place, estimates are essentially based on qualitative field survey approaches, which are interpreted in the context of pre-crisis statistical parameters, rather than on quantitative, statistically representative methods.

3.1 Food Crop Production in 1998 A Season

The Mission confined its work to assessing the 1998 A season food crop production and supply. Any attempt at forecasting prospects for the remainder of the year are of little practical value, given the uncertainties arising from such factors as continuing changes in the country’s security situation and related intra-country population movements, the potential impact of the prolonged rains, which continued through January, on the planting for the 1998 B season and the inadequate statistical information.

3.1.1 Planted area

Planted area is estimated to have significantly increased in 1998 A season as compared to last year’s "A" season - in the order of 15 percent - rising to some 650 000 hectares or 94 percent of the pre-crisis reference year of 1990 A. Comparisons with the 1990 reference year need to take into consideration that new land frontiers have been opened up in the recently created Umutara prefecture, partly using former National Park and Hunting Reserve lands there. Expansion of cultivated land has been considerable in Kibungo, Gitarama and Byumba, reaching or exceeding 1990 A levels. These prefectures experienced a large influx of returnees last year. Generally, an important element in cultivated land expansion was the resumption of work on previously abandoned banana plantations and new banana plantings. By contrast, cultivated land in prefectures with major security problems such as Cyangugu, Gisenyi, Ruhengeri and Kibuye is around or almost 30 percent below pre-crisis levels.

The increase in cultivated area could have still been larger had it not been constrained by a number of factors. First was the security situation in parts of the country. Second, the one-month delay in the onset of the season’s rains discouraged some farmers from planting scheduled longer-cycle crops Third, problems of seeds and cuttings constrained planting as well as yields, despite an international donor programme to provide seeds. These problems were of a triple nature: inadequate availability of seed, late arrival of seeds, and sometimes unsatisfactory seed quality. And fourthly, a manpower scarcity put a break on the expansion of cultivated land. This factor appears surprising considering the heavy influx of returnees, especially last year. Explanations of this phenomenon include the fact that a large number of households are headed by females who have to divide their working time between agriculture and many household and family care chores; the tens of thousands of prisoners who rely for their subsistence on the delivery of food by family members, notably by female household heads; and the manpower required for the construction of homes and the rehabilitation of other essential infrastructure.

3.1.2 Yields

The rainfall patterns of the 1998 A season have negatively affected certain crops, while benefiting others. As noted above, rains commenced in mid-October instead of September, a one-month delay, and were initially irregularly distributed. The rains then continued regularly and often in excessive amounts, causing flooding in many marshland areas in nearly every prefecture; particularly affected were parts of Kibungo, Rural Kigali, Butare and Gitarama. Although only 10 percent of the total cultivated area is estimated to have been flooded, some farmers report the loss of their entire crop. Unusually heavy rains continued well into the third dekad of January.

Among the negative effects of the abundant rains and related humid conditions were fungal diseases, excessive weed growth and reduced sun exposure. Particularly affected were the yields of beans (root diseases, black fly) and potatoes (mildew). A continuation of the unseasonable rains could reduce yields further. Lack of quality seeds and cuttings also had a yield-depressing effect in many areas. In general, yields of sorghum, wheat, beans, Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes are estimated to have declined in comparison to last year’s season A. On the other hand, yield improvements were observed for bananas, maize, rice, peas, groundnuts, soya, taro, yams and cassava.

3.1.3 1998 A production

Total food crop production in the 1998 A season is estimated at 2 194 227 tons, an increase of 14 percent over 1997 A (Table 1). This includes 77 400 tons of cereals (some 18 percent less than 1997 A), some 110 000 tons of pulses (an increase of seven percent over 1997 A, mainly as a result of significantly increased plantings ), 1.4 million tons of bananas (+25 percent) and some 656 000 tons of roots and tubers, about the same as in last year’s season A.

The current season’s production falls short of pre-crisis levels (1990 A) by some 6 percent. If one chooses a more broadly based pre-crisis period as reference, e.g. the average of 1989-93 A, this season’s production is just at the pre-crisis level. From a purely production viewpoint it would appear that food production is gradually returning to what it was before the civil strife. Yet, there are now more Rwandans who need to feed themselves than five to ten years ago. Thus, on a per caput basis, current production is approximately 12 percent less than in 1990, before the crisis. This raises serious concerns about Rwanda’s food security situation, assuming that the country’s economic conditions do not permit it to fully compensate the per caput production shortfall by commercial imports. In addition, one needs to consider that even before the civil strife Rwanda’s food security situation was not satisfactory; any deterioration is thus all the more serious.

The situation naturally varies from one prefecture to another. Table 2 shows the estimated 1998 A food crop production by prefecture, and the following regional analysis highlights the specific situation in each of them.

Table 1:Rwanda - Food Crop Production: 1998 A season forecast compared with previous years (tons)
Crops  Aver.89-93A  1990 A  1997 A  1998 A  %98A/ 89-93A  % 98A/90A  % 98A/97A
Sorghum  21 700  28 504  15 100  18 323  84  64  121
Maize  79 500  81 196  72 100  47 915  60  59  66
Wheat  4 000  2 884  1 100  1 471  37  51  134
Rice  5 800  5 371  5 500  9 661  167  180  176
Total cereal  111 000  117 955  93 800  77 371  70  66  82
Beans 1/  135 700  135 809  90 200  91 922  68  68  102
Peas  6 213  8 100  10 101  163  125
Groundnuts2/  14 300  3 725  1 900  3 651  26  98  192
Soya  8 119  2 500  4 132  51  165
Total pulses  150 000  153 866  102 700  109 806  73  71  107
Bananas  1 173 300  1 398 633  1 077 600  1 351 174  115  97  125
Total bananas  1 173 300  1 398 633  1 077 600  1 351 174  115  97  125
Potatoes  150 100  147 572  133 500  134 998  90  91  101
Sweet potatoes  418 000  364 524  384 100  368 521  88  101  96
Taro & yams  26 000  19 945  24 800  32 096  123  161  129
Cassava  148 900  136 951  114 700  120 261  81  88  105
Tot.roots & tubers  743 000  668 992  657 100  655 876  88  98  100
TOTAL  2 177 300  2 339 446  1 931 200  2 194 227  101  94  114

1/ Includes peas in the case of the 1989-93 A average.
2/ Includes soya in the case of the 1989-93 A average.


4.1 Butare

The heavy loss of lives in 1994 in the prefecture of Butare is still felt today in terms of a relatively scarce labour force, which constrains the recovery of cultivated area to pre-crisis levels. This constraint is particularly serious in the communes of Mayaga (Ntyazo, Muyira and Muyaga), Ruyinya and Nyakizu.

The preparation for the 1998 A season was also been hampered by a scarcity of agricultural inputs, notably bean seeds and cassava and sweet potato cuttings. The emergency input programme of the international community distributed some 230 tons of bean seeds to the most vulnerable agricultural households, which however, at 7 kg per household, fell far short of requirements, covering only about one-third of needs. Some supplies arrived too late for use in the current season.

As elsewhere in the country, the onset of rains was delayed by about one month, until 20 October. Heavy rains in late October and November then caused flooding in the Kanyaru valley, destroying a large part of the bean, sweet potato and rice in the marshlands. They also created conditions conducive to the development of common diseases on beans.

Given the prevailing agro-climatic conditions, yields of beans are expected to decline compared to last year’s A season, but the increase cultivated area is estimated to more than compensate for this decline, leading to an increase in production. Bean prices in the markets surveyed by the Mission were found to be some 60 percent above last year’s corresponding period (240 against 147 Frw/kg), well above the increase in general inflation, which may be estimated at 20 percent. On-farm stocks were negligible, and the small quantities stocked by traders originated from neighbouring countries, particularly Burundi.

Table 2: Rwanda: Food crop production forecast for the 1998 A season by prefecture (tons)
Butare  Gikongoro  Gitarama  Umutara  Kigali  Kibungo  Byumba  Cyangugu  Gysenyi  Kibuye  Ruhengeri  Total
Sorghum  16  3 223  525  876  3 600  70  417  52  9 544  18 323
Maize  307  594  1 144  1 538  1 580  3 360  5 292  2 639  7 077  11 694  12 690  47 915
Wheat  90  261  476  136  53  456  1 471
Rice  6 004  460  972  505  612  1 108  9 661
Total cereals  6 417  855  1 604  5 733  2 610  4 848  9 368  3 817  7 630  11 799  22 690  77 370
Beans  2 244  1 372  3 550  13 661  7 770  22 800  17 220  2 121  5 121  3 472  12 590  91 922
Peas  396  2 900  455  523  740  681  2 214  306  585  348  953  10 101
Groundnuts  107  14  120  460  541  1 848  528  33  3 651
Soya  1 218  1 060  672  35  182  129  55  358  52  332  39  4 132
Total pulses  3 965  5 346  4 797  14 679  9 233  25 458  20 017  2 785  5 791  4 152  13 582  109 806
Bananas  99 000  18 300  241 992  51 294  258 262  277 112  145 145  59 391  85 390  19 542  95 747  1 351 174
Total bananas  99 000  18 300  241 992  51 294  258 262  277 112  145 145  59 391  85 390  19 542  95 747  1 351 174
Potatoes  3 744  8 070  4 416  3 493  9 000  4 596  6 864  1 963  25 356  4 888  62 607  134 998
Sweet potat.  54 183  25 386  63 919  8 925  33 969  28 560  53 141  8 402  30 759  9 841  51 435  368 521
Taro & yams  3 500  2 498  5 460  973  3 938  2 205  1 397  7 759  1 339  1 808  1 220  32 096
Cassava  8 904  2 104  23 144  4 483  36 175  18 810  8 925  6 379  3 023  5 325  2 988  120 261
Total roots&tub  70 331  38 058  96 939  17 874  83 082  54 171  70 327  24 503  60 477  21 862  118 250  655 876
TOTAL  179 713  62 559  345 332  89 580  353 186  361 588  244 857  90 498  159 289  57 355  250 270  2 194 227

Caterpillars inflicted serious damage on sweet potato cuttings in the communes of Kigembe, Muyaga, Nyaruhengeri, Kibayi, Muganza, Ntyazo and Muyira.

The general health and nutrition situation appears to have deteriorated over past months, aggravated by infectious and parasitic diseases. Cases of marasmus and kwashiorkor were observed in the areas of Maraba, Nyakizu, Gishanvu and Ruyinya.

4.2 Gikongoro

This prefecture has been affected by a shortage of labour due to emigration of people towards urban centres in search of more remunerative employment, although this migration has been reduced by the current security situation. Migration has been more significant, particularly in the two communes of Rwamiko and Muguba. In the remaining 11 communes, only 70 percent of the agricultural land is estimated to be occupied. Nevertheless, cultivated area increased over the previous season A, following last year’s arrival of returnees.

Supplies of seeds and cuttings have been particularly scarce this season: only 20 tons of seed potato were made available to farmers.

Rains commenced late by one month, but were then especially abundant, with 350 mm in November/December against an average of 250 mm. The ensuing floods destroyed crops in the marshlands of the Mwogo valley.

Diseases have particularly affected beans and potatoes. Overall food crop production is forecast to be some 20 percent below last year’s A season. Food prices in the markets visited by the Mission were significantly higher than at the same time last year.

The food security and nutrition situation gives rise to great concern, having visibly deteriorated in recent months. This is particularly true for the commune of Rwamiko.

4.3 Gitarama

Both cultivated area and production are estimated to have increased. Out of 130 000 farm households, 40 000 have benefited from the free distribution of inputs by the international community.

Rains followed much the same patterns observed in other prefectures. Severe flooding destroyed sweet potatoes in the communes of Murama and Kanyegenyege; beans, soya and sweet potatoes in Nyabarongo; and beans and sweet potatoes in Akanyaru.

Food prices have soared, increasing by 60 percent in the case of beans and tripling for a number of other food products in the main markets of Gitarama, Musambira and Ruhango.

The health and nutrition situation remains precarious.

4.4 Rural Kigali

The security situation in some parts of the prefecture hinders the movement of seasonal labour and thus contributes to labour shortages. This in turn slowed the expansion of areas under cultivation.

Generally, Rural Kigali experienced the same delay in the start of rains as the rest of the country, as well as the problem of flooding later in the season.

Bean seeds and cassava and potato cuttings were generally scarce. However, vulnerable farm households benefited from various emergency input programmes.

The performance of beans is mixed. It is considered satisfactory in the eastern and southern communes while considerable declines are expected in the upland communities. Major production increases vis-à-vis 1997 A are forecast for sweet potatoes, taro, yams and cassava, as well as bananas and groundnuts.

The health and nutrition situation continues to be precarious, with a tendency towards deterioration.

4.5 Byumba

Overall, food crop production in the prefecture of Byumba is showing sustained improvement although, compared to 1997 A, pulses and cassava were reduced due to excessive rains and associated diseases, as well as an inadequate supply of seeds and cuttings. Cereal production, notably that of sorghum, maize and wheat, is expected to register significant increases. Banana production is also forecast to increase, but fusarium infection is constraining such increases.

Food prices have soared, due in part to the arrival of Congolese refugees.

The nutritional situation among the recent returnees is a matter of serious concern.

4.6 Umutara

Cultivated areas have significantly increased in this recently created prefecture. Humanitarian aid has provided substantial amounts of inputs (seeds, fertilizer, hoes), although with significant shortfalls in sweet potato and cassava planting material.

Production prospects for all crops, except beans, are good. Some crop damage from wild animals has been reported in newly cultivated areas.

As in other prefectures, food prices are generally well above previous year’s levels. After a prolonged dry period followed by hail storms at the onset of rains, banana prices have increased to a point where some now consider this commodity as a "luxury item" for the better-off.

Some 20 percent of Umutara’s population are considered vulnerable. The nutrition and health situation among recent returnees, especially young children, is reported to give rise to particular concern.

4.7 Kibungo

Some 10 000 people returned in November and December 1997 from Tanzania to this prefecture of about 710 000 inhabitants, settling for the time being in the communes of Rusumo and Birenga.

Despite late and then excessive rains and other climatic difficulties, food crop production is expected to improve over last year’s season A. Overall, food production prospects in Kibungo are well above the national average. Successful efforts to settle land disputes have contributed to an increase in planted area.

Although strong winds and some incidence of disease caused some damage, banana production is up in comparison to last year. Good harvests are forecast for beans and groundnuts, despite the damage by heavy rains and associated leaf and root diseases. Areas planted to sweet potatoes were greatly expanded, and production prospects are very good.

Prices of bananas and cassava in particular have risen well above the levels of last year’s A season, while those of beans are stabilizing.

Despite the prefecture’s good agricultural performance, malnutrition is widespread and particularly affects the recently repatriated people.

4.8 Cyangugu

Late and then excessive rains caused crop damage in marshland areas. Generally, beans have suffered from humid conditions and associated fungal diseases. Hail and strong winds severely damaged crops in the communes of Cyimbogo, Gisuma and Nyakabuye.

Cultivated area is only slightly above that of last year’s A season. Area expansion has been constrained by limited availability of inputs, especially seeds. Production prospects are close to last year’s A harvest.

Transborder trade with the neighbouring DRC has resumed. Local prices remain at very high levels.

4.9 Gisenyi

The security problems in this prefecture over the past year have significantly reduced agricultural activity. Moreover, yields, especially of beans and potatoes, have been negatively affected not only by excessive rains, but also by the lack of field maintenance. Gisenyi being traditionally one of the country’s principal potato producers, prospects for this season suggest a reduced harvest. In addition, the security situation severely restricts movement of whatever is harvested. This could severely affect potato supplies throughout the country.

The health and nutrition situation is reported to have deteriorated.

4.10 Kibuye

Insecurity persists in the communes bordering the prefecture of Gisenyi.

Rains have caused landslides in the commune of Mabanza and flooding in Gitesi and Mabanza.

Insecurity, coupled with scarcity and very high prices of seeds, have led to reduced planting this season, especially for beans and maize. The production outlook for most crops is unfavourable compared to last year’s A season. Markets are poorly supplied and prices are beyond the reach of most of the population. Many households depend on food aid.

4.11 Ruhengeri

Insecurity has been a constant feature in this prefecture for over a year. Apart from several thousand internally deplaced people (IDPs), a large part of the population is forced to leave their homes and fields temporarily in response to sporadic attacks by insurgents, mainly coming from the Parc des Volcans in the north of the prefecture. On their return, people often find their houses ransacked, food and seed stocks taken and fields destroyed. In these circumstances, a regular pursuit of agricultural activity becomes impossible.

Cultivated area is therefore significantly down from last year’s season A levels, with the exception of bananas and taro/yams. Poor seed quality, bad field maintenance and diseases are negatively affecting yields. Total food crop production is forecast to be well below 1997 A levels.

Food prices are much above the levels of the comparable period last year. Beans prices are further increased by transborder outflows into Uganda.

The nutrition and health situation is deteriorating, particularly after the departure of the NGO community which used to distribute food and medicines. The deterioration is particularly severe in the commune of Ruhondo.


5.1 Food prices and access to food

As noted throughout the regional analysis, food prices have soared in all prefectures over the past 12 months. Chart 1 illustrates this by comparing average national prices in Rwandan Francs/kg in the first half of January 1997 with the same period in 1998. The smallest increases - around 50 percent - were recorded for sorghum, which had a good harvest in the 1997 B season, and beans, whose prices had tripled during the 1997 B season due to sharply reduced production. But prices of other staples doubled or almost tripled during the January 1997-January 1998 period, starting with bananas and, in an ascending order, potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize and cassava. These food increases are well above the national inflation estimated during 1997 at about 20 percent in urban areas.

One way of interpreting these current prices is by setting them against daily rural labour wage rates. In the first half of January 1998, the average daily rate was Frw 336 (or just above one US dollar) with a range between prefectures of Frw 200 to 500.

Undisplayed Graphic

Prices fluctuate sharply between prefectures - an indication of the deficiencies of the current marketing infrastructure, above all the lack of integration of markets (Table 4). For example, sweet potato prices ranged from last year’s levels in Cyangugu to a five-fold increase in Kibuye. Cassava prices increased fourfold in Kibungo and Byumba, tripled in Butare and Urban Kigali, and doubled in Cyangugu. Maize prices doubled in Cyangugu, Gikongoro and Urban Kigali, but quadrupled in Kibungo. To an extent, these differences are explained by recent population movements, but also by lack of markets integration among prefectures.

These price developments have major implications for household food security. Studies undertaken in 1997 by the Save the Children Fund (UK) in Western Byumba, Gikongoro, Kibungo and Butare indicate that poor households have to purchase up to 75-80 percent of their food needs in the market. After accounting for market purchases and self-produced food, some households will still be left with an unmet food deficit of varying size, which needs to be met by food aid. The limited scope of these studies notwithstanding, they clearly show the heavy dependence of poor households on market purchases to meet their food needs and, thus, the dramatic impact of recent price developments on household food security.

Table 4:Staple Food Price Indices by Prefecture, January 1998 over January 1997 (January 1997=100) 1/
Prefecture  Maize  Sorghum  Beans  Potatoes  Sweet Potatoes  Cassava  Bananas (for cooking)
Butare  254  145  182  240  225  288  280
Byumba  340  138  173  223  267  407  163
Cyangugu  208  140  112  191  106  181  213
Gikongoro  213  157  142  294  185  233  202
Gisenyi  372  164  157  305  390  254  209
Gitarama  250  125  146  221  229  269  236
Kibungo  394  130  190  195  483  412  217
Kibuye  262  167  152  203  523  268  212
Rural Kigali  290  141  149  293  161  227  134
Urban Kigali  222  129  165  272  216  297  238
Ruhengeri  260  146  152  313  464  257  140
Average  264  144  154  243  260  270  209

1/ First half of January 1997 and of January 1998
Source: MINAGRI/ European Union - Market Price List No. 66, First half of January 1998

5.2 Food supply/demand balance

Against the background of the above population and crop production assessments, the Mission estimated food import requirements on commercial and concessional terms and a food supply/demand balance for the first semester of 1998, taking into account pre-crisis consumption levels as well as estimates of the country’s internal stock position and its external trade in staple foods.

Food consumption requirements are calculated on the basis of the historical consumption of 33 kg of cereals per caput per year, 32 kg of pulses, and 188 kg of roots and tubers and 408 kg of bananas. Feed use of grains has been negligible since the sharp reduction of the national livestock herd during 1994. Other uses of grains include seed retention and losses (mainly to pests in storage and in trading). Altogether non-food uses and losses are assumed to account for 11 percent of cereals, 20 percent of pulses, and 9 percent of roots and tubers. Losses for bananas and plantains are estimated at 3 percent.

Opening stocks for cereals on farm and with traders were estimated as equivalent to two weeks’ consumption, following a relatively good 1997 B harvest, plus 4 000 tons of food aid stocks in the country. For pulses, the respective amounts were one week’s consumption plus 1 000 tons of food aid stocks. Just prior to the 1998 A season, the Mission estimates, on the basis of its field visits, that farm households only hold negligible stocks of beans and cereals, while traders normally do not hold large stocks of these commodities. The Government used to maintain working and small reserve stocks through the parastatal National Food and Livestock Board (OPROVIA), but this institution is at present not functioning. Closing stocks are assumed to be drawn down to one week’s consumption for cereals plus 5 000 tons of food aid and to be unchanged in the case of pulses.

In converting root and tuber and banana deficits/import requirements into cereal equivalents, the Mission considered it unrealistic that consumers would fully substitute cereals for such shortfall, but would meet the deficit partly by substituting a variety of other foods. It therefore converted only 50 percent of the shortfall into cereal equivalent, to be taken into account in food aid requirement estimates. In the case of bananas, over two-thirds of the production is consumed in the form of banana beer (mainly by men) and, therefore, not easily substitutable for cereals in the household food basket. Nevertheless, the small portion of the banana production consumed cooked and as a fruit, with a higher calorie content, has been converted into cereal equivalent.

Table 5: Food Balance January-June 1998 ('000tons)
Population 31/03/98: 7 830 000
Cereals  Pulses  Total cereals & pulses  Roots & tubers  Bananas
Domestic availability  91  116  207  656  1 351
Opening stocks  14  20  0
1998 A production  77  110  187  656  1 351
Total utilization  148  153  301  795  1 638
Consumption  129  125  254  736  1 597
Other uses/losses  22  30  59  41
Closing stocks  10  16  0
Import requirements  57  37  94  139  287
(Cereal equivalent)  57  37  94  21  10
est.commercial imports  18  18  36  31/  41/
food aid requirement  39  19  58  18  6
food aid grand total  82 
of which pledged  70 
uncovered deficit  12 

1/ Cereal equivalent.

Commercial imports of cereals and pulses were estimated on the basis of official statistics for the last three years, provided by the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), which bases its statistics on information from the National Customs Office. In addition, the Mission assumed that 10-15 percent of imports consist of informal, not recorded trade with neighbouring countries. The Mission also considered that trade flows between Rwanda and Tanzania may be constrained during the early part of this year due to the damage to road infrastructure inflicted by recent floods in Tanzania. After reviewing these various factors, the Mission estimates commercial imports in the order of 18 000 tons for both cereals and pulses during the first semester of 1998.

Within the framework of these various assumptions, the Mission’s estimated food balance for the firstsemester of 1998 suggests an import requirement of 57 000 tons of cereals, 37 000 tons of pulses, 21 000 tons of cereal equivalent of roots and tubers, and 10 000 tons in cereal equivalent of bananas (Table 5). After allowance for commercial imports, this would leave a food aid requirement of 82 000 tons of cereal equivalent, of which 70 000 tons have already formally or informally been pledged for the first semester of 1998, with the remaining 12 000 tons uncovered as a result of increasing insecurity in north-western prefectures and, in general, land transport difficulties in the region which are hampering food aid distribution.

5.3 Emergency food aid

During the second semester 1997, some 59 000 tons of food aid were distributed, including 36 000 tons of cereals and 16 000 tons of pulses. WFP’s share of total food aid was about 75 percent. For purposes of comparison, food aid during the first half of 1997 amounted to 110 000 tons.

This sharp decrease of almost 50 percent was due to the changed objectives of the food aid assistance at the end of the emergency, following the return of some 1 300 000 people in late 1996 and early 1997. General, free food distribution virtually ceased as of June 1997. Since then the number of new returnees has been insignificant. The total free food distribution during the period July-December 1997 amounted to some eight percent of all food aid.

The changes in the situation in the country are well illustrated by the number of small-scale food-for-work projects initiated by WFP, aiming at reintegrating the population into their normal activities. Some 47 percent of food aid was devoted to the rehabilitation of the agricultural sector and social infrastructure, as well as to house construction programmes.

However, there remains a large number of "vulnerable households" in the wake of the civil strife in the first half of this decade. In fact, over 26 percent of the July-December 1997 food aid was distributed to vulnerable households. The main receiving prefectures were Kibungo, Gikongoro, rural Kigali, Butare, Umutara and Gitarama. Other emergency food aid programmes included selective child nutrition and nutritional rehabilitation programmes.

During the period under consideration, WFP provided some 7 000 tons of food per month to 140 out of the country’s 152 communes. By the end of December, WFP, in collaboration with the Government, had distributed six monthly rations to 520 000 people.

At the beginning of the first semester of 1998, a significant part of the current beneficiary population should have reached a reasonable degree of food self-sufficiency through their own production and/or through other sources of income. This trend is expected to continue in 1998. Efforts in that direction will continue to be assisted by WFP at the same level as the second half of 1997.

It is also important to maintain and reinforce close nutritional and food security surveillance of the vulnerable population.

Particular attention will continue to be given to vulnerable groups and households in the prefectures and communes expected to experience the most severe food deficits and nutritional problems. To avoid creating dependency among the beneficiary population, emphasis will be given to the implementation of new food-for work projects.

Also, attention will continue to be given to the promotion of sustainable household food security, the rehabilitation of basic infrastructure and the construction of houses. An important aspect is the distribution of "protective rations" aimed at assuring that poor farm households do not use seed material for human consumption during the lean season.

Table 6 summarizes WFP’s projected food aid activities for the first semester of 1998. They are subject to review and revision in the light of the findings of the Mission.

Table 6: Rwanda: Projected WFP food distribution programmes for the first semester of 1998
Programme Type  Size of Target Group  Monthly Food Needs (Tons)  Total Quantity (Tons)
Supplementary feeding  75 000  966  5 797
Institutional feeding  10 000  171  1 029
Food for work  273 500  4 208  25 245
Vulnerable groups feeding (VGF)  208 250  1 781  10 688
Other FFW/VGF  42 165  649  3 892
Total  608 915  7 775  46 651
Refugees  29 000  408  2 448
Grand Total  637 915  8 183  49 099

Food aid stocks within the country at the end of December 1997 were about 5 000 tons. In addition, WFP can draw on sub-regional stocks of some 50 000 tons.

5.3.1 Logistics and Security Issues

The torrential rains that have hit east Africa in the past three months have caused severe logistical problems, which are exacerbated by ongoing ethnic conflict. The main transport routes and railroads from Dar-Es-Salaam (Tanzania) and from Mombasa (Kenya) via Kampala (Uganda) have been cut off in several points, thus reducing the supply capacities. Under these circumstances, WFP would be not able to assist the totality of the 500 000 to 600 000 people. WFP could be forced to reduce aid to Rwanda because of the supply difficulties and will give priority to the most vulnerable people.

Insecurity in most of the country, especially the Northwest Prefectures, represents a major constraints hampering the good development of land under cultivation. Also it creates severe disturbances to food aid deliveries.

5.4 Nutrition situation

Malnutrition, especially chronic protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) among children under five, is a matter of great concern. Nation-wide surveys conducted in 1995 and 1996, by the Government in collaboration with the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre and UNICEF before the massive return of refugees, suggest a rate of underweight children under five of about 30 percent. Stunting is estimated to affect over 40 percent of this age group. The Mission estimates that malnutrition has been deteriorating in five out of 11 prefectures over the past months. These developments are particularly affecting recent returnees, where cases of marasmus and kwashiorkor are not uncommon. The most important causes of malnutrition are household food insecurity aggravated by soaring food prices, diseases such as malaria, infectious respiratory diseases and diarrhoea. But it must also be pointed out that malnutrition is even widespread in areas of good agricultural performance and relatively favourable household food security. This points to a lack of nutritional information and knowledge. Exclusive breastfeeding up to six months is quite common, but weaning practices constitute a general problem. Weaning is often abrupt, weaning foods are poor in protein and micronutrients, and short birth spacing is an exacerbating factor in that it shortens breastfeeding. Low birth weights are also reported to be widespread.

Rwanda has 285 nutrition centres, many of which are badly staffed and malfunctioning. Supplementary rations distributed to mothers with malnourished children are frequently shared by the whole family, thus not serving the intended purpose. The Ministry of Health undertakes both preventive and curative measures, but the record of malnutrition suggests that these are insufficient.

It is the Mission’s recommendation that a major effort is required to ensure participatory nutrition surveillance and a major effective IEC campaign focusing on weaning practices. The nutrition centres need to be utilized much more effectively.


6.1 Rebuilding early warning and agricultural statistics capacity

The Mission strongly re-emphasizes the recommendations made by earlier missions concerning the urgent need for re-establishing MINAGRI’s agricultural statistics services. Such efforts can be considered as having three components: (i) the immediate establishment of a simple early warning system based on rapid rural assessment techniques; (ii) a second supporting element concerns the rainfall statistics; only the Kigali station of the three still operating stations provides regular statistics; the installation of meteorological stations in the major agro-ecological zones appears to be of great importance. (iii) the establishment of a longer-term fully-fledged agricultural statistics capacity as discussed for some time now, with support from USAID and Michigan State University. As a minor additional element in the short-term context, donors may wish to support the Ministry of the Interior in data processing and statistical analysis of the agricultural part of its 1997 survey of communes (undertaken by the Service for Promotion of Commune Development), which contains information on cultivated area and yields that could be of use to the Ministry of Agriculture in the short run.

6.2 Developing an effective household food security and nutrition strategy

It is urgent to carry out an assessment of the household food security and nutrition situation in each prefecture (characterization of food insecure households, location, number, and corresponding causes of malnutrition), to identify the concrete measures likely to address these causes and institutions concerned, to incorporate these measures in their activity plans and to monitor and evaluate the situation.

6.3 Establishment of a sustainable input distribution system, including seed and cuttings multiplication capacity

This season’s experience has once again dramatically underlined the need for establishing an efficient input distribution system, with special emphasis on seed and cutting multiplication. Current efforts have proved to be unsatisfactory. The multiplication and distribution of roots and tuber cuttings, in particular, has traditionally been based on farmers’ solidarity mechanisms. The social fabric underlying such mechanisms has largely been destroyed by the events of the mid-1990s. In 1998, should adequate funding be granted, FAO’s specific response to these priority needs will focus upon providing basic agricultural inputs to the most needy agricultural households for the 1998 B planting season, launching a quality seed production programme and assisting in the reforestation efforts of the Government.

6.4 Implementing the agricultural strategy and the global plan of action for food security

With the agricultural strategy towards 2010 and the global plan of action for food security, the Government has adopted two important instruments to put the country on the road to reconstruction and development. It merits the full co-operation of the international community to move ahead with their implementation.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required. 
Abdur Rashid 
Ismat Fahmi
Section Chief, OSA/2, WFP
Telex 610181 FAO I 
Telex: 626675 WFP 1
Fax: 0039-6-5705-4495 
Fax: 0039-6-6513-2839
E-Mail: Ismat.Fahmi@WFP.ORG

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