3rd General Assembly
Learning Route Rwanda 2016
Opening day and Mapping
Learning Route Day 2

The Learning Route in Rwanda will be starting on 31st October and run till the 5th November 2016. As the first Learning exchange for civil society alliances in Africa, this peer-to-peer training aims at encouraging mutual knowledge exchange between alliances, building capacity for sustainable nutrition advocacy and social mobilization in efforts to scale up nutrition actions for better nutrition and food security outcomes, particularly for vulnerable groups.

 Hosted by SUN Alliance Rwanda in collaboration with SUN Civil Society Network and PROCASUR Corporation, the Learning Route aims to foster learning and sharing of best practices between Civil Society Alliances in Africa creating opportunities for increased collective action among members and other actors towards attaining a world free from malnutrition in all its forms by 2030; that is ending hunger, achieving sustainable food security, improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture.[1]

 Eight civil society alliances will be participating; Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Kenya; gaining knowledge from Rwanda through field visits and presentations from various actors including government, civil society, community groups and private sector. These countries will also have the opportunity to share their strategies and innovations that can be adapted as they strive to accelerate nutrition interventions for better outcomes.

 Why Learning Route in Rwanda?

Rwanda is one of the biggest success stories in high growth, rapid poverty reduction and reduced inequality in Africa over the last decade[2]. Acknowledging the importance of good nutrition for development, the government placed nutrition issues high on the national agenda to ensure they are addressed and national targets are met by 2020[3]. In working towards this the government has been able to effectively bring different actors together, create an enabling policy environment, align programs around a common result framework and is now working towards financial tracking and resource mobilization for better results[4].

 In the mean time Rwanda has made significant progress in improving food security and reducing hunger whereby under nutrition rates fell from 56% to 32% between 1990 and 2015[5].  Analysis conducted by the World Food Programme in 2015 highlights progress in improving nutrition. When compared to a similar analysis conducted in 2012 rates of under five wasting, stunting and underweight had improved and 80% of households were found to be food secure. [6] Although stunting rates reduced from 43% - 37% between 2012 and 2015[7] it has been identified as the ‘key nutrition issue’ requiring collaborative effort from all actors working in tandem, if Rwanda is to achieve the desired results mapped out in the national Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy in the coming years.

 SUN Alliance Rwanda

Established in 2014, SUN Alliance Rwanda is a registered body that operates as a hub for collaborative action on nutrition through advocacy and community mobilization. With a membership of 79 civil society organisations including local, international NGOs and Academia, the Alliance is an umbrella for members actively engaged in scaling up nutrition in the country. The aim of the SUN Alliance is to amplify the voices of communities affected by malnutrition and to focus on the need for greater accountability to them[8].  Through enhanced coordination among partners, strengthening capacity of members for nutrition planning, programing and monitoring and empowering members to effectively contribute to investments in nutrition to name a few, the Alliance aims to contribute to national programs by accelerating its advocacy and mobilisation efforts for sustainable results.

 The learning route

The main objective of the learning route is strengthening capacity of civil society alliances to increase contribution towards national programs, while empowering communities to take positive action through the adoption of positive behaviours for better nutrition, food security and development outcomes. With four key learning objectives Learning Route Rwanda aims to:

  1. Identify and examine innovative and successful initiatives by civil society alliances to scale up nutrition at community, provincial and national level, understand the processes and factors for success as well as explore potential for scale up;

  2. Recognise processes through which civil society enhance national and local policies and strategies to address nutrition issues with specific focus on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups;

  3. Recognise efficient mechanisms to make policy makers accountable in addressing nutrition;

  4. Identify effective social mobilisation and communication strategies to raise awareness on nutrition sensitive issues and behavior change.

 For the 8 civil society alliances coming to Rwanda, the learning route has been designed as a step-by-step process through which participants will learn from sustainable experiences (from the field) and given the opportunity to analyse learning among peers. At the end of the learning route it is expected that alliances will develop action plans that will encourage them to adopt some of the practices to complement national interventions and programs.

 Learning route Methodology

Comprised of a mix of field visits, simulation and group exercise, the learning route covers five thematic areas under which activities have been designed; advocacy, social campaign and mobilisation, multi-stakeholder coordination, communication for behavioural change and integrated approaches to fight malnutrition.  Examples of best practices and innovative solutions have been selected to cover each of these thematic areas to facilitate learning from 5 case studies:

  1. Rwanda Stakeholder and Action Mapping for Nutrition: lead by the Office of the Prime Minister in collaboration with ONE UNREACH, this mapping exercise is aimed at improving coordination among actors, determine ‘who is doing what and where’ to identify gaps, thereby improving on planning and scaling up interventions in the country. From this case study the power of mapping for prioritizing activities is illustrated. It is expected that participants will be able to use this tool to plan and implement activities effectively.

  2.  Strengthening Pro-poor Public and Private Partnerships to fight malnutrition- the DUHAMIC-ADRI and SOSOMA experience:  This case study looks at to an integrated approach to enhanced rural livelihoods through public private partnerships. The process of how a national NGO came to partner with a food processing company and how they have complemented government nutrition policies leading to improved livelihoods and nutrition will be explored.  It is expected that participants will gain insight into successful practices by civil society in establishing public private sector partnerships in benefitting pro-poor initiatives for better nutrition.

  3. Communication strategies for behavioral change in nutrition-the Land O’ Lakes and Urunana Experience: To address challenges emerging from government policy on child malnutrition particularly in relation to the Girinka Munyarwanda (One Cow per Poor Family) and One Cup of Milk per Child Program, Land O’ Lakes (an organization working on behavior change for nutrition) collaborated with Urunana Development Communication (a popular media for development house) to channel nutrition messages related to milk consumption into the story line of  a highly popular soap opera, leading to increased dairy production and consumption with success stories. From this example participants will have a better understanding of how to link up with other civil societies to strengthen communication strategies for behavioral change.

  4. Milk Way-enhancing nutrition from producer to consumer: The Nyanza District experience: As the entry point for nutrition at policy level, the production and processing of milk has led to transformation in the dairy sector. Faced by a number of challenges on quality, quantity, poor management and diseases, much needed to be done to increase milk consumption to contribute to reduction in child mortality from malnutrition. Nyanza District is a good example of how civil society has coordinated nutrition activities with government and other actors to create the conditions for the development of a favorable environment for the distribution and availability of safe milk and dairy products. This experience will offer participants a chance to understand how integrated approaches can lead to behavioral and social change, improving rural livelihoods and nutrition.

  5. Decentralisation and operationalization of nutrition at district level: The Gisagara experience: Located in the Southern region of Rwanda, Gisagara district has one of the highest rates of stunting in the country. This experience offers participants an insight into multi sectoral coordination of the SUN Alliance and decentralization of nutrition policies at local level. It will allow participants to understand the modalities through which civil society can enhance policies and strategies to effectively address nutrition issues focusing on the most vulnerable groups.

Learning Route participants: Experience and expectations

The learning route not only offers participants the chance to learn about what has worked in Rwanda and why; it is an opportunity for these alliances to also share experiences on approaches and innovations they have used in their countries for nutrition interventions and explain why these have been successful. In preparing for the learning route representatives from the alliances were interviewed to find out about best practices they hope to share as well as determine what they expect to get out of this event. Areas of expertise ranged from engaging government and decision makers, and policy tracking at the policy level, to community empowerment through the establishment of People’s Parliament’s where community representatives are able to engage decision makers on issues affecting their communities. The range of experiences offer all participants including civil society members in Rwanda the chance to take away tangible examples that can enhance interventions at all levels depending on where they see gaps in their program strategy.

 In terms of expectations participants want to learn more about multi sectoral engagement, understand decentralised SUN structures and how this can be taken down to the community level; they want to understand how to effectively engage policy makers to influence policy and establish relationships for coordination between the alliances moving on from the learning route. The learning route may not offer all the answers to all the questions participants may pose, however it offers alliances the chance to build stronger links across borders allowing for continued exchange long after the learning route.

Moving forward

With the wheels set in motion by this capacity building tool for SUN civil society alliances what is expected to come out of Learning Route Rwanda?

SUN CSN, SUN Alliance Rwanda and PROCASUR feel this tool offers participants the opportunity to take away new approaches and innovations that could enhance their interventions thereby effectively contributing to national nutrition programs. For the Alliance in Rwanda it offers them a point of reflection. Not only does this process give them a chance to showcase what has worked, this provides a feedback mechanism from neutral parties looking in from different perspectives. The learning route also gives them an opportunity to gain new ideas to strengthen strategies for sustainable results. One key ideology that sums up the underlying secret of success for SUN Alliance Rwanda is a phrase from the Coordinator Butera John Mugabe that “ Success is not exceptional, it is an attitude.” This is a seed that all participants should take home to plant in their various SUN contexts if civil society is to ensure its relevance and valuable contribution in ending malnutrition across Africa.

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