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Localized harvest of Irish potatoes and food stocks stabilize rural food security

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Rwanda
  • October 2021
Localized harvest of Irish potatoes and food stocks stabilize rural food security

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  • Key Messages
  • Summary
  • Key Messages
    • Food access in rural areas has stabilized with the start of Irish potato harvests in the Northern province, availability of 2021 Season B/C food stocks, and availability of inter-season crops like cassava and bananas. The easing of border restrictions, particularly with DRC, has enhanced cross-border trade, improving food supply and income among small-scale traders. On-going weeding and fertilizer applications have sustained a stable demand for agricultural labor, increasing poor rural household incomes and mitigating lean season impacts, driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in rural areas.

    • COVID-19 control measures have been steadily lifting amidst sustained declines in daily COVID-19 cases and the on-going vaccination campaign. Businesses have gradually re-opened, income earning opportunities have improved, and trade has increased resulting in increased food supplies, stabilizing food security for urban households. Though livelihood activities are yet to fully recover, increasing household purchasing power and stable food prices are maintaining area-level Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in urban areas.

    • According to WFP estimates, 82 percent of about 127,163 refugees and asylum seekers are highly vulnerable and incapable of meeting basic food needs while nine percent each are moderately and least vulnerable. However, due to funding shortages, food assistance since August 2021 has been reduced and prioritized by vulnerability level; the highly vulnerable receive a 92 percent ration instead of a 100 percent while the moderately vulnerable receive a 46 percent ration instead of the recommended 50 percent. Given that the funding gap is yet to be filled, ration reductions will persist and this together with declining income earning opportunities due to COVID-19 impacts are expected to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity among refugees in Rwanda.

    Kigali City and Refugee populationReduction of refugee food rations and COVID-19 control measures impact economic activity and limit income-earning opportunities and food access among the urban poor and refugees. Funding shortfalls and COVID-19 control measures are expected to limit access to food and income, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes among urban poor and refugee households, respectively.
    RuralDepletion of own produced food stocks and market purchase reliance affects food availability and access among poor rural households.Continued depletion of own produced food stocks, increased food prices, and heavy market purchase reliance during the lean season will affect food availability and access among poor rural households, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes.



    With the start of the main lean season, many rural households have depleted own produced food stocks and are increasingly relying on food purchases. In addition, food prices are seasonally rising, affecting access for poor rural households. Bean prices across provinces have increased from 350-450 RWF/Kg in the harvest period to 600 RWF/Kg while maize prices increased from 150-300 RWF/Kg to 350RWF/Kg currently. However, a substantial number of households still have food stocks from 2021 Seasons B and C, which together with availability of bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, and Irish potatoes from Northern province, are mitigating deterioration of food security in rural areas.  Increased local and cross border trade has also stabilized food supply across the country following eased COVID-19 restrictions. Ongoing average rainfall across the country is raising prospects for favorable bean and maize harvests. The exception is in Eastern province where the current rain deficits are likely to result in a below-average harvest, affecting local food availability. Weeding and fertilizer application is providing agricultural labor opportunities, an important source of income in the rural areas. Overall, availability of food stocks, current season harvests of vegetables and Irish potatoes, and access to agricultural labor income is driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in rural areas.

    Daily COVID-19 cases have significantly decreased from a high of over 2,000 cases per day in July 2021 to less than 100 daily cases in October.  At the same time, the vaccination program that started in March has fully covered 13.6 percent of the population. Considering the favorable trends, the government gradually lifted stringent control measures. As a result, businesses have reopened, creating employment opportunities and increasing income earning opportunities for urban households. In the Western Province, the eased movement restrictions including free movement of people with negative COVID-19 test results, together with a bilateral agreement for reduced taxes on certain agricultural commodities have increased cross-border trade with DRC. Increased cross-border trade is gradually improving income and purchasing power in the province, especially among small-scale traders. However, the economic and food security situation is far from the pre-COVID-19 levels due to cumulative effects of restrictions as well as the control measures that remain in place. There is still a national curfew from 12:00am to 4:00am, public offices, transport, and outdoor activities operate at 75 percent capacity and restaurants operate at 50 percent capacity. Overall, enhanced food supplies, eased control measures, and increased economic activity have improved income-earning opportunities and household purchasing power, particularly for urban poor households, maintaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) area-level outcomes in urban areas.

    According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), the September 2021 national consumer price index (CPI) increased slightly by 0.2 percent compared to August 2021 but decreased by 3.2 percent compared to September 2020. The price of 'food and non-alcoholic beverages' in September increased by 1.7 percent compared to August 2021 in urban areas but decreased slightly by 0.1 in rural areas. Month on month price increases in urban areas were driven primarily by a 1.5, 1.7, and 4.3 percent increase in 'vegetable', ‘meat’, and ‘milk, cheese and eggs’ prices, respectively. Notably, at the national level, prices of all food categories in September increased by 0.4-3.1 percent compared to August 2021. The exception was ‘vegetables’, which decreased by 0.8 percent. The price increase in September is due to increased demand as households deplete own produced food stocks as the lean season approaches.

    According to UNHCR, Rwanda hosts an estimated 127,163 refugees and asylum seekers and the majority are from DRC (61 percent) and Burundi (38.8 percent). The number reduced from the beginning of the year after 28,936 Burundian refugees returned home under the voluntary repatriation program. Based on WFP assessments, 82 percent of the refugees are categorized as highly vulnerable while nine percent each are moderately and least vulnerable. However, due to funding shortages, WFP was forced to reduce food assistance by 60 percent in March 2021 and initiated prioritization of food assistance. In August 2021, the highly vulnerable refugees began receiving a 92 percent ration instead of the recommended 100 percent while the moderately vulnerable began receiving a 46 percent ration instead of the recommended 50 percent. The least vulnerable received a one-off assistance in August to help them mitigate the impacts of the July 2021 COVID-19 lockdown on their livelihoods.  Given the constrained income-earning opportunities worsened by COVID-19, reduced food assistance from humanitarian agencies, and weakened social support, refugee households remain with elevated risks to food insecurity and will likely continue experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes.

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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