Kilgali, Rwanda is the capital of Rwanda and the weather last week was a hot 75 degrees and a slight haze hung in the air during the daytime hours. I met with the Food Science staff and visit the University laboratories of Kilgali Institute of Science and Technology where a new meat processing plant with state of the art equipment had just been installed.
The center plans to be the training site for food companies involved in food processing and marketing. I met with Dr. Hilda Vasanthakaalam to discuss training needs for KIST staff and students to incorporate soy in meat processing. We brainstormed about sources for soy isolates. We talked with Vestine, the Rector, about an acceptability study for meat containing soy during the pilot testing of the processing plant. Dr. Hilda recently attended the NSRL Short Course, INTSOY in early June, so she enthusiastically visualized how this training center can be the Soybean Processing and Utilization for all of Rwanda.
At SINA Enterprise in Nyirangarma, Rwanda, I provided a soy seminar in the local language to employees of SINA and local area farmers. We discussed using soy in juice and they were quite interested in soymilk and yogurt applications.
Meetings were also held with the National University of Rwanda who is organizing a conference on food security and nutrition. Rwanda has made remarkable economic progress over the past fifteen years with per capita incomes rising; however, food insecurity remains a significant threat. High population density and growth have led to deforestation, soil erosion and decreased agricultural productivity. 2.2 million people are food-insecure and another 24% are highly vulernable to food insecurity. 83% of the country lives on less than $2 per day. Over 50% of children are chronically malnourished.
I met with the Minister of Education and Executive Director of Higher Education to discuss school nutrition policy and school feedin programs. Every school day, 300,000 elementary school students receive a hot lunch in a program managed by the United Nations World Food Program. A transition of responsiblity for school meals is gradually transitioning from WFP to the Rwandan government with full phase out by 2012.
This trip comes on the heels of the announcement by the U.S. government that they have earmarked $50 million to boost food output. Rwanda is also part of the Feed the Future Initiative who will receive grants from the World Bank lead Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.
The Rwandan diet consists primarily of sweet potatoes, cassava and peas with bananas, corn and fruits added in season. Protein deficieny is a serious problem and soy is a complete, high-quality protein that can help solve this issue. I had the chance to eat some of my favorite dishes on this trip - - a white fish similar to tilapia with a delicious sauce, amandazi (fritters) and maniok (beans with cassava) with mangos and papaya for dessert. I did miss my Jimmy John's while I was gone and had that when I returned to Champaign!