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Local manufacturing of specialized nutritious foods from locally sourced grains to address malnutrition in Rwanda

Our vision is to establish domestic production of safe, high-quality nutritious foods made from locally sourced grains

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Africa Improved Foods Rwanda Ltd

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large company (over 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

AIF is public private partnership that involves IFC (World Bank Group), CDC (UK Development Bank), FMO (Dutch Development Bank), DSM (a Dutch science and nutrition-focused company) and the Government of Rwanda. This unique structure combines private sector manufacturing expertise with development banks’ drive for social change, ultimately creating a large highly effective for-profit social enterprise

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?


What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Stunting rates in Rwanda are at 35%. To counter this, the country imports thousands of tons of food aid every year. This aid compromises economic independence and prevents the local food system from developing a sustainable solution to malnutrition. The region has enough agricultural resources to nourish its population and address malnutrition locally. To bridge this gap, high-quality local food production facilities that can boost and leverage Rwanda’s agricultural resources are needed. 

In 2015, Africa Improved Foods (AIF) invested in a production facility for nutritious foods in Kigali. Rwanda was chosen for its proximity to food insecure and malnourished populations living within Rwanda and surrounding regions, as well as its political stability and ease of doing business. Our vision is to produce high-quality fortified foods to ensure Rwanda’s population has affordable and sustainable access to good nutrition. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Rwanda is a small land-locked country in eastern central Africa situated just below the equator and bordering Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country is mountainous and is often referred to as “The Country of 1000 Hills” as the altitude varies from 950m to 4,500m above sea level at its highest peak. There are two rainy seasons – from March to May and from October to November.

 Since the genocide devastated the country in 1994, Rwanda has rebounded to become one of the fastest developing countries in Africa. Currently it is considered one of the cleanest, and safest countries on the continent, and hosts refugees from Burundi and DRC. Despite its small size, Rwanda has a population of roughly 12 million people. The main language spoken is Kinyarwanda but in urban areas the people are generally well versed in English and French.

The country remains highly dependent on agriculture with 72% of the working population being employed in the sector, which is responsible for 33% of GDP. The country is famous for the export of its tea and coffee but crops that are grown for local consumption include maize, beans, potatoes, plantain and cassava. Signature local dishes are ugali (a stiff maize flour porridge), matoke (cooked banana) and isombe (a stew made from cassava leaves). Avocado, tree tomato, passion fruit, pineapple and bananas are common fruits. Outside the capital city of Kigali, half of all households rear livestock, mostly for subsistence purposes.

Overall, 81% of Rwandans (about 2,000,000 households) are food secure, meaning they have an acceptable diet and use a low share of their income to cover food needs. Nevertheless, nearly half of those households are at risk of becoming food insecure if they were to face a shock. The remaining 19% of the population (460,000 households) are food insecure.

Despite the relatively high level of food security, many Rwandans still have an unbalanced diet that consists largely of starchy foods. As such, levels of micronutrient deficiencies such as iron anemia are high. Especially children’s diets remain inadequate with only 17% of children consuming a diverse diet. Stunting levels are high in Rwanda with 35% of all children aged 6-59 months growing up chronically malnourished and thus not being able to achieve their full physical and cognitive potential. In Rwanda’s Western Province, the stunting rate is at 44% - i.e. above WHO’s critical level of 40%. 

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Despite its recent development progress, the agricultural practices in Rwanda are still inefficient. Agriculture remains highly dependent on rainfall with only few farmers employing irrigation techniques to improve productivity.  Furthermore, over 90% of arable land is on steep slopes. The uptake of fertilizer and the quality of seeds has remained poor resulting in low yields. For example, maize – the main staple – has an average national yield of 1.5 metric tons per hectare compared to 8MT/ha in the EU.

Another significant challenge to Rwanda’s farmers is access to markets. Only 34% of the food produced reaches the market due to lack of post-harvest infrastructure – i.e. roads, storage facilities, grain dryers and cold chain services.  Some estimates indicate that post-harvest losses in Rwanda amount to 30%.  In addition to these losses, poor post-harvest practices also lead to a deterioration in food quality to the extent that it comprises food safety. For example, an independent study carried out by Sight and Life on maize-based infant foods in Rwanda discovered an average aflatoxin level of 113 parts per billion (ppb) whereas 5ppb is the maximum concentration young children should be exposed to. Aflatoxin is the most naturally occurring carcinogenic substance in the world and is produced by fungi that will grow on crops such as maize and peanuts if they are exposed to humid conditions and not dried quickly after harvest. In Rwanda, aflatoxin concentrations are high in local maize as the long rain season overlaps with the main maize harvest, making it extremely difficult for farmers to dry their grain in the sun.

 Rwanda’s low agricultural productivity and poor post-harvest practices make it difficult for food processors to source their ingredients locally. However, without food processors and exporters to buy their produce and set quality standards, farmers have no incentive to increase productivity and improve their quality management systems. This has created a situation wherein it is de facto unattractive for food processors to invest in in the country due to the unavailability of high-quality inputs and unattractive for farmers to invest in their productivity and post-harvest handling as there no buyers that are able to pay them a fair price for more higher quality produce.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision is to curb malnutrition in Rwanda by making available high quality, affordable, locally sourced nutritious foods.

Due to its public-private partnership structure, social impact is at the core of AIF’s business model. The company has made a commitment to source at least 50% of its maize from smallholder farmers in the region. This does not come without challenges as locally grown maize is often of poor quality and relatively expensive compared to international markets. Nevertheless, instead of relying on imports, AIF intervened in the value chain and started to work directly with farmers to actively improve productivity and quality management. Overall this value chain intervention resulted in significant improvement. In 2017, AIF rejected up to 90% of the maize its field agents tested because of high aflatoxin levels (>5 parts per billion). In 2019, a year after AIF implemented its value chain intervention, rejection levels dropped to 20%. Not only did this intervention more than halve rejections, it also decreased the costs farmers incurred during post-harvest, potentially increasing their maize income by 30%. Altogether, AIF’s commitment to local sourcing has not only created a reliable market for farmers, it has also revolutionised post-harvest practices thus improving quality and reducing farmer costs, ultimately generating social impact.

The scale at which the company operates, multiplies its social impact and puts it in a position to drive social change. For example, with an annual maize demand of at least 20,000 MT, AIF is by far Rwanda’s largest maize buyer, putting it in a position to develop the value chain. It is estimated that AIF can create a market for over 50,000 smallholder maize farmers.

As one of Rwanda’s largest food processors, AIF is also in a position to push for stricter food safety and nutrition regulation. Currently, AIF is providing private sector advice to farmers, NGOs and government institutions about aflatoxin control and food safety standards. In these discussions, AIF’s agricultural extension programmes, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and laboratories serve as a demonstration of how to produce safe high-quality fortified foods in East Africa. Without AIF’s scale and modern production capability, it would be significantly more difficult to drive these social initiatives.

To address Rwanda’s high stunting level, over 90,000 mothers and infants aged 6-59 months received free daily access to AIF’s supplementary foods through 500 district health centres in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, the number of beneficiaries of the national malnutrition programme increased to 136,000. The goal of this national nutrition programme is to contribute to a reduction in stunting from 38% to 32%. In addition to the ant-stunting programme, another 10 million protein-rich fortified meals are distributed to 47 district hospitals in Rwanda every year to provide daily supplementary nutrition to almost 30,000 HIV patients. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our high-level vision is for Africa to feed Africa. By producing nutritious meals from locally sourced grains, AIF seeks to provide a sustainable local solution to malnutrition whilst contributing to the local economy via agricultural and private sector development initiatives. By addressing these challenges, we envision Rwandans will have affordable access to nutritious locally produced foods that are safe (i.e. free of aflatoxin and other contaminants). In addition, we envision Rwanda’s maize farmers will benefit from AIF’s commitment to purchase ingredients locally and be encouraged to invest in their productivity and post-harvest practices.   

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Billions are spent on humanitarian aid, yet nearly 60 million children across Africa remain hungry. A dependency on food aid is currently undermining the continent's ability to feed itself. As a result, 250 million people in Africa are undernourished, often with developmental stunting, which ultimately prohibits them from reaching their full potential. 

AIF is investing in agriculture and local food manufacturing as a replacement to international food aid, allowing countries like Rwanda to become self-sufficient. Using a public-private partnership model, AIF is built specifically to address malnutrition in Rwanda and the region. An independent study commissioned by the IFC (International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group) and conducted by the University of Chicago estimates that from 2016 to 2031, AIF will generate $756m for the people of Rwanda. 

Our vision is to replicate the AIF model across Africa, achieving lasting food security in on the continent. As a result, we envision regional economic security, in which greater food security allows a reduction in poverty, conflict, and the migration that is often a result of the former. 

Food security in Africa is an achievable goal. Together with local farmers and governments, AIF is stepping forward to invest in that brighter future. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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