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Rwanda initiates National Food Systems Dialogues toward UN Food Systems Summit 2021

Photo: IUCN Rwanda

  Kigali 30 March, 2021: Rwanda today started National Food Systems Dialogues ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, which will take place in September.

 Today’s main dialogue focused on action track 1 of the dialogues, which is about ensuring access to safe and nutritious food for all in Rwanda. Participants discussed solutions in 3 breakout sessions: Production and availability of nutritious food, access to nutritious food, and food safety.

Rwanda’s convenor of the dialogues is Mr MUSABYIMANA Jean Claude, who is the Permanent Secretary for the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

In his opening remarks for the dialogues which kicked off virtually Tuesday morning, he said that “the overall goal of the dialogues is to make food systems sustainable, inclusive, efficient, nutritious and healthy in line with the 2030 goals”.

Rwanda is committed to participate, like other countries globally, in the preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, which is led by the United Nations Secretary-General. Most importantly, engage different in-country stakeholders in the process and shaping a commitment to action for the Summit objectives. The UN Food Systems pre-summit is confirmed to be hosted by Italy at the end of July 2021. The full summit is confirmed to be in conjunction with the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2021. 

“It is agreed that transforming food systems offers one of the single strongest opportunities to change course and realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda, and to support the UN Secretary General’s call to “build back better” from COVID-19.  The overall goal is to make food systems sustainable, inclusive, efficient and nutritious and healthy in line with the 2030 goals,” MUSABYIMANA reiterated.

The following key questions will be addressed during the dialogues: (1) Which strategic priorities hold the greatest impact from multi-stakeholder and joint action in support of national priorities? (2) How do we jointly take these actions forward at scale? How can we leverage the Food Systems Summit and other leadership milestones to accelerate the agenda?

Rwanda has recognised the inclusivity and diversity of Food Systems and undertook the Multidisciplinary approach to jointly deliver on UN Food systems summit objectives. Ministries directly and indirectly dealing with Food Systems are working hand in hand and the UN Country Team to support the UN Food systems summit in the following capacities: (1) Engaging different in-country stakeholders in the process and summit objectives to the achievements of Rwanda vis-à-vis to the National Plans (National Sector Strategies, NST1 and Vision 2050) and the continental and or global commitments (SDGs 2030 and Africa Agenda 2063) (2) Most importantly, shaping a commitment to action for the pre-Summit and Summit and (3) Engagement of the Government leadership to show regional and global leadership in UN Food Systems Summit 2021 Agenda through engaging in regional Food Systems Summit dialogues to help mobilize and refine an African position on food systems going into the UN General Assembly. 

Rwanda team is working on the Objectives of UN Food Systems Summit 2021, which are: (1) Ensuring Access to Safe and Nutritious Food for All (enabling all people to be well nourished and healthy), (2) Shifting to Sustainable Consumption Patterns (promoting and creating demand for healthy and sustainable diets, reducing waste), (3) Boosting Nature-Positive Production at Sufficient Scales (acting on climate change, reducing emissions and increasing carbon capture, regenerating and protecting critical ecosystems and reducing food loss and energy usage), (4) Advancing Equitable Livelihoods and Value Distribution (raising incomes, distributing risk, expanding inclusion, promoting full and productive employment) and (5) Building Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses (ensuring the continued functionality of healthy and sustainable food systems).  Crosscutting issues such as the role of youth and women in development as well as access to finance will also be part of the dialogues.

During national dialogues, all traits of food systems should be well examined in order to make them more sustainable. This means that (a) Productive and prosperous: to ensure the availability of sufficient food, (b) Equitable and inclusive: to ensure access for all people to food and to livelihoods within that system, (c) Empowering and respectful: to ensure agency for all people and groups including those who are most vulnerable and marginalized to make choices and excise voice in shaping that system, (d) Resilient: to ensure stability in the face of shocks and crises, (e) Regenerative: to ensure stability in all its dimensions, (f) Healthy and nutritious: to ensure update and utilization.  For Rwanda, dialogues will contribute to national efforts for sustainable food systems by 2030. Dialogues will be an opportunity for exploring propositions from the different Summit work-streams, especially the independent Scientific Group and the Action Tracks within the national context. Participants that represent different stakeholder groups will work out how they intend to contribute to the sustainability of national food systems and, ideally, make commitments for which they are accountable. Rwanda is following the all stages of UN Food Systems which includes (1) Stage 1:  in March 2021 to earlier April 2021, which is about Initiating national engagement in the 2021 Food Systems Summit; (2) Stage 2 in April 2021, which is about Extensive explorations everywhere and (3) Stage 3 in May 2021, which is about shaping Pathway, intention and commitments.

Today’s dialogue aimed to respond to the aspirations of Action track 1 which is Ensuring Access to Safe and Nutritious Food for All in Rwanda and discuss about “What game changing actions should be implemented for increased availability and accessibility of nutritious foods? And What are the challenges faced by Rwanda to increase Food Safety and what actions can be taken.  It aimed at identifying challenges and potential game changing actions that will increase the production and availability of nutritious food, reduce inequalities, increase incomes and purchasing power of food system actors, increase accessibility, food utilization and minimize food loss and waste in a sustainable manner and to propose ideas to minimize food borne diseases due to unsafe food.

The dialogue convened a wide range of stakeholders (about 300) from different groups of food producers and processors, distributors and retailers, caterers, marketers, traders and others directly involved in moving food from farm to fork. They include professionals who work for the health and nutrition of women and children, as well as those who help to govern territories, protect livelihoods, foster resilience, regenerate ecosystems, participate in climate action, manage freshwater. They are from small, medium and large enterprises, community organizations, universities and more.

Apart from the first dialogue of today, the subsequent dialogues will follow: (1) Shifting to Sustainable Consumption Patterns (promoting and creating demand for healthy and sustainable diets, reducing waste) and (2) Building Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses (ensuring the continued functionality of healthy and sustainable food systems) on the 1st April 2021;  (3) Boosting Nature-Positive Production at Sufficient Scales (acting on climate change, reducing emissions and increasing carbon capture, regenerating and protecting critical ecosystems and reducing food loss and energy usage, without undermining health or nutritious diets)  and (4) Advancing Equitable Livelihoods and Value Distribution (raising incomes, distributing risk, expanding inclusion, promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all) on 6th April 2021.

The second stage which is about Extensive explorations and shaping priorities as well as the third stage on shaping Rwanda’s commitments toward SDGs 2030 will be hosted before end of May 2021. Apart from the Government of Rwanda’s support, this process is being supported by the UN Resident Coordinator and Representatives of UN agencies, AUDA-NEPAD, Systems and Synergies for Sustainable Development (4SD) and UN Special Envoy for food systems Summit 2021.

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