Good Rwandan harvest confirmed

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afrol News, 22 February - The Rwandan 2002 harvests are bound to become successful, according to a new report. The abundant rainfall that was experienced throughout the season, after two other seasons of equally abundant rainfall, had a net positive impact on agricultural production, especially in the central and eastern regions. 

According to the US agency Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS), the overall Rwandan crop production has been estimated at 3.7 million tons, which is significantly larger than the 2.9 million tons harvested in last year's "season 2001 A" (September 200-January 2001). 

- This is an increase of 30 percent, FEWS states. "Still, the calorie and protein equivalents of the crops produced increased by only 24 percent due to a lower increase in nutritionally higher value crops (cereals and legumes) as compared to banana, sweet potatoes and cassava. The current level of production resulted more from very favourable climate conditions than intensification of agricultural production." 

For the January-June 2002 period, FEWS' assessment mission estimated that nationally the daily per capita caloric availability will be around 2050 kilocalories, which means that on aggregate households in Rwanda are virtually meeting the international standard of 2100 kcal per capita per day. 

- This does not mean that all provinces are meeting this standard, FEWS however warned. "In fact, due to an uneven distribution of production and incomes, some pockets of food insecurity will remain." 

This was especially the case in three provinces (Gikongoro, Butare and Gisenyi), which account for 26% of the Rwandan population, FEWS reported. The crop production in those provinces should be able to meet, on aggregate, only 80 to 85% of their caloric needs. 

According to the crop assessment mission calculations of the national picture, there will be no need for food aid in the first 6 months of the year. However, the assessment team acknowledged that "in practice, this will not be the case due to the uneven distribution of production and incomes, limiting food access for food insecure households." 

The mission recommended that any required food assistance be distributed in a finely targeted manner, and that any food should be purchased, if possible, in the country or in the region. 

The major constraint to buying in Rwanda is that the surplus production comes mainly from banana, sweet potatoes and cassava, according to the assessment. These commodities are very bulky and do not conserve well, and therefore are not adapted to the current food aid distribution schemes.

A price survey on Kigali markets and contacts with partners of the food security network throughout the country allowed FEWS to conclude that markets were well supplied with various foodstuffs. Low incomes among rural households, worsened by the drop in prices for agricultural products - their main source of income - are currently the major concern. 

According to FEWS' assessment report, cases of malnutrition among children are currently only found in isolated areas and are taken care of in health centres. So far, there is no health information system that gives a clear understanding of the state and evolution of malnutrition in the different parts of the country.

Sources: Based on FEWS and afrol archives

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