KIGALI : About 9,000 farmers stand to benefit from a new joint venture deal signed between the Government of Rwanda and Africa Improved Foods (AIF) on Tuesday to produce fortified foods in the country.

Africa Improved Foods is a consortium created by Royal DSM (the global Life Sciences and Materials Sciences Company), the Dutch Development Bank, the DFID, the UK government’s Development Finance Institution under the Impact Acceleration Facility (managed by CDC Group Plc), and the International Finance Corporation, the investment arm of the World Bank.

The project is also expected to create 230 jobs, and offer a stable and sustainable source of income to soya farmers, among others, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, said.

“The initiative will help fight malnutrition by providing enhanced nutritional foods for vulnerable groups, including the rural poor,” Mukeshimana said in a statement yesterday.

Ute Schick, the Africa Improved Foods chief executive officer, said the joint venture demonstrates the increasing role of development partners in supporting initiatives that reduce unemployment, besides fighting malnutrition.

Construction of the factory will commence before the end of this year in the Kigali Special Economic Zone. The project is expected to serve more than one million people annually by 2017.

Under the joint venture, partners will help fund a minority equity stake in Africa Improved Foods to manufacture affordable, nutritious and high-quality foods to improve the nutritional status of people in Rwanda and the region, the statement indicated. UN’s World Food Programme has already expressed interest to buy some of the fortified foodstuffs.

“The government is also committed to ensuring that the Rwandan population accesses nutritional foods,” the minister said in the statement.

Already, government and the Export Trading Group of Investments, a Mauritius-based company, are in final stages to setting up a baby food processing plant.

The plant, which will be located in the Kigali Special Economic Zone, will have capacity to process 10,000 tonnes of soya beans per month, Innocent Musabyimana, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources permanent secretary, recently told The New Times.

Therefore, the venture is a big boost that could help reduce government’s import bills on fortified foods. Rwanda currently imports about 30,000 tonnes of edible oil estimated at $42 million, besides animal feeds.