Kigali, January 14, 2013– Today, the U.S. government-sponsored Cracking the Nut: Improving Rural Livelihoods and Food Security conference began at Serena Hotel in Kigali. The global conference, which runs through tomorrow, brings together experts from the private sector, NGOs, government, and academia to tackle the challenges of food security, nutrition, and sustainable livelihoods for Africa’s rural poor.
The conference has been held in the United States and Europe in recent years, and this marks the first time the conference has been held on the continent. The conference was organized by Global Communities’ USAID Ejo Heza project, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Rwanda Development Board and AZMJ, a global international development consulting firm.
USAID Rwanda Mission Director, Peter Malnak; the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza; and Guest of Honor, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Agnes Kalibata officially opened the conference, stressing the importance of agriculture and food security to Rwanda and Africa at-large. The conference offers a unique opportunity to discuss how governments, donors, investors and development organizations can support progress in rural and agricultural market development.
“USAID sees the Cracking the Nut conference as an invaluable opportunity to spark collaboration and innovation amongst diverse stakeholders to address food security, nutrition, and the financial well-being of those in Africa’s rural areas” said Mr. Malnak. “These issues demand immediate and meaningful attention as they have the power to greatly affect the continent’s development trajectory. We’re incredibly excited that the next stages of thinking and planning are happening this week here in Kigali.”
The formal portion of the conference includes a wide variety of plenary and small group sessions surrounding three main themes: reducing costs and risks of serving rural clients; preparing for sustainability of future livelihoods; and enticing investors to key agricultural value chains. The sessions will be led by local and international experts from organizations including: KCB Bank Rwanda, UK Department for International Development, ACDI/VOCA, Land O’Lakes, and Starbucks.
In addition, many participants began the week by travelling around the country on site visits and activities highlighting the work of some of the sponsoring organizations. These visits included Global Communities’ integrated development approach under its USAID Ejo Heza project; Catholic Relief Service’s group lending programs; sustainable coffee production “from farm to cup” with Bourbon Coffee and coffee trader KZ Noir; and investor match-making sponsored by RDB.
The conference will close Jan. 15 with remarks by Rwanda’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. François Kanimba.