Rwanda: Joint effort to fight malnutrition through ‘Spirulina farming’

[Israel, Rwanda] The Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO), City of Kigali and YALA Africa are in a joint effort to combat malnutrition by using Spirulina farming.

Spirulina is a blue-green alga (grown in water) that is 65 per cent protein-rich and contains all essential vitamins and minerals needed for a child’s healthy development as well as adults.

Researchers are carrying out studies on its potential to cure cancer and it is highly recommended for HIV positive patients as it increases CD4 count, according to YaLa Africa’s Spirulina Expert, Kayitare Rwigema.

It is food supplement that can be added in students’ food. Scientific studies have shown that Spirulina significantly boosts mental performance.

The United Nations has coined it a super food due to its high nutritional value.

The programme, overseen by YALA Africa, also includes micro gardening and nutrition education.

The first phase of a series of cooperations is between Israel and Rwandan students with the partnership of FAO.

According to FAO assistant country representative, Otto Vianney Muhinda, the initiative will help fight malnutrition as one child out of four under the age of 5 face malnutrition.

“We have been working with YALA Africa-Rwanda, City of Kigali and homes with kitchen gardens. We started Spirulina farming at Gatenga health centre using seeds we imported from Burundi. Now, we want to expand it to families in the community by using schools. We are fundraising for about $500,000 (about Rwf 365m) reach at least 20 schools,” he said.

He was speaking at St. Andre in Kigali, where teachers and students were being trained by four visiting students from Israel, last Friday.

He said it is easy for the youth to quickly assimilate and spread that type of farming, adding that FAO would strengthen the initiative by taking it to communities.

“Before FAO started its funding, Spirulina failed in the villages as it is expensive to grow. But we are coming up with a simple method to reduce the cost,” he added.

The partners have set up Spirulina farms in three schools so far; Masaka GS, St. Andre and Kimironko GS, where teachers and students are being trained by four students from Israel.

Muhinda said this support is helping YALA Africa to implement “We Are the Future”, a nutrition programme made possible thanks to partnerships with FAO and the City of Kigali.

Maya Savir, the CEO of Just Spirulina, said: “We want to create a chain of solidarity, starting from schools, centres and orphanages. “We are giving out knowledge and expertise by sense of responsibility.”

How is spirulina grown?

Despite being an aquatic plant, it grows well during the dry season and needs photosynthesis.

It is harvested by fetching whole water with it from the pool and sieves it to retain spirulina which can be consumed in 5 minutes but it is also dried and ground into flour that can be sprinkled on food. A person needs 2 grammes of spirulina per day.

An area of 2.5 x 2.5 metres can produce about 4 kilogrammes of dried Spirulina per month and one kilogramme can cost over Rwf100, 000 while one litre of seeds costs Rwf4, 000.

“I have to combine the knowledge I get through my biology lessons with the skills I have acquired from the spirulina farming training. I will be able to sensitise my family and community about the importance of spirulina.

We can organise training and start youth clubs to popularise it,” said Christian Muneza, a Biology student at St Andre.

Andrew Benjamin, a science teacher at St Andre, said he would work closely with their school agronomist during implementation.

Also being trained is a group of teachers and students from the DR Congo, at Gatenga Health Center, YALA Africa’s Spirulina training site.

 

View original article at: Rwanda: Joint Effort to Fight Malnutrition Through ‘Spirulina Farming’

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