Sustainable Development Goals Helpdesk

FAO launches new project in Rwanda on Harnessing SDG-based Agrifood System Transformation through the Empowerment of the Next-Generation of Agrifood Leadership in Africa (HASTEN)



Kigali, 9th May 2024

The HASTEN Project, a joint initiative between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Governments of Rwanda, Lesotho, and Sierra Leone, empowers young leaders to drive agrifood system transformations. With its extensive technical expertise, FAO is providing crucial assistance to launch the project this year and supporting its alignment with the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

An inception meeting was held on 9 May in Rwanda with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) to establish a common understanding of the project's goals, objectives and scope among all stakeholders.

Going into 2050, Rwanda envisions the agriculture to be “totally transformed with professional farmers and commercialized value chains[1]. Specifically, the Vision‘s third Pillar, “Agriculture for Wealth Creation”. The Chief Technical Advisor from MINAGRI said that with 3.5 million farmers in Rwanda, a smart path to transform agrifood systems is to address the need to adopt innovation in people, processes and markets throughout the country.

Rwandan Government and FAO gave opening remarks at the inception meeting about the country’s priorities, synergies and how the interventions under project HASTEN could contribute to achieving national goals and objectives regarding agrifood systems transformation, acceleration of SDGs and youth leadership. During the meeting, Ms Mehnaz Ajmal Paracha, Senior Programme and Policy Advisor from FAO Rwanda on behalf of FAO Representative Ms Coumba Dieng Sow mentioned how the project aligns with the country’s existing Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) initiatives like the National Strategy for Youth Employment in Agrifood systems and the Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF) - which is a platform that allows access to information to boost business models.

FAO Rwanda considers MSMEs vital players in sustainable agrifood systems and rural transformation, making them key allies in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. FAO, on behalf of the United Nations Country Team (UNCT), with the contributions of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), UN Women, UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and East African Community (EAC), is implementing a program to help youth and women-led MSMEs access finance and improve their financial literacy and business management skills. A dedicated strategy is being developed with an online platform to facilitate information access and application submission. In this regard, about 100 MSMEs are to be capacitated through an incubation programme. HASTEN could leverage the work already being done in Rwanda and serve as a role model by sharing their good practices with Lesotho and Sierra Leone.

During the meeting, key stakeholders discussed Rwanda's challenges in transforming agrifood systems. At the top of their list was the low capacity of business knowledge among youth and women and the lack of academic curricula about the drivers and complexity of agrifood systems. FAO Rwanda, with FAO’s Food Systems and Food Safety division and University College London under its “Rwanda Agriculture and Food Systems - Policy Learning Programme, has developed the capacity in system thinking in the public sector to improve policy and promote the use of systems approaches across the whole policy cycle. HASTEN hopes to enhance these built capacities on system thinking and focus on business training, youth and gender empowerment.

HASTEN aligns with Rwanda's current and future Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation (PSTA 5). This document positions the agrifood sector as the key driver for achieving food sovereignty by building resilient, inclusive and sustainable agrifood systems to address challenges, including climate. The draft PSTA 5 also aims to strengthen the systemic enablers, including research and capacity building for agrifood system transformation, which resonates with the proposed HATEN project.

HASTEN is co-led by the FAO Office of Sustainable Development Goals (OSG), FAO Regional Office for Africa (RAF), Subregional Office for Eastern Africa (SFE) and the Subregional Office for West Africa (SFW) and will be implemented in close collaboration with FAO Country Offices in Lesotho, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.


[1] GoR, 2020, Vision 2050