Frank Mutesa (Tools for Hope mentor to the farmers) has been collaborating with the Twisungane cooperative farmers helping them to fight pests and diseases. These problems arise during November as the temperatures favor the occurrence of many pests and diseases.
During November Frank had an opportunity to discuss with the Twisungane farmers issues involved with obtaining new loans from Tools for Hope in addition to those they have now. (TFH loans are interest free)
The Twisungane community suffers from a lack of affordable, nearby, clean water. Tools for Hope (TFH) is exploring solutions for this issue. We have already bought ceramic water filters to evaluate the viability of ceramic filtration. We need to find out if this technique will work in our farmer’s area.
Food preservation is one of the most critical problems that the farmers need to solve to combat hunger. Most of their crop yields are lost or sold at minimum market prices because farmers have no suitable techniques for food preservation.
Crops Get Appropriate Care in the Fight Against Pests and Diseases
Rwanda has four seasons. Their short dry season is from December to February, March through May is a long rainy season, June to August is known as the long dry season, and September to November is the short rainy season. In November, at the end of the short rainy season farmers need to be careful and always ready to work on their farms.
During a rainy season, crops tend to be more affected with pests and diseases because of the favorable conditions for insects and other diseases on wet soil and cool temperatures. Pests and diseases are difficult to fight when you do not have adequate skills and knowledge.
The farmers had to be trained and shown the techniques to help them know which pesticides and insecticides that can be used and, to know which kinds of pests and diseases that are affecting their crops. Frank showed them the various symptoms and, how to know the fungal signs. He is helping them to get rid of these pests and diseases.
Frank encouraged the farmers continually to visit their farms, especially during the rainy season to see what is happening to their farms. If they detect any signs on the leaves and they do not know what it is, they call Frank at once and he gives them the prompt technical support they need.
Frank helped the farmers on their individual farms and on their cooperative farm. Farmers managed to apply the required pesticides often enough. We always recommended that they follow all the protocols that agro-dealers offer.
Loan Request Discussions with Twisungane Committee Members
TFH is not just helping the Twisungane cooperative with sustainable agriculture development, but we also help with other economic development paths. TFH has supplied loans to Twisungane farmers for off-farm income producing activities. Developing these activities is essential because off-farm employment is difficult to find and pays little. TFH is considering giving them more loans because, farmers are repaying their TFH loans very well. They have now repaid more than a half Million Rwandan francs (> 500,000 Frw) towards the TFH loan they received for the purchase of their motorcycle transportation service. They are also on schedule to repay the TFH loans they received in March to buy twenty-two goats.
Frank has been discussing with the committee members the possibility of requesting more loans from TFH to expand their businesses, to continue their journey of sustainable development. They discussed the possibilities of paying them in the same way as they do to the earlier loans. TFH is their foundation on the issue of getting loans and the loans are the roadmap for their success.
Usually, poor families in Africa are not considered for loans from banks because most of them are not well trained on loan issues, do not have steady employment, and have no assets to provide as loan security. TFH has tackled these problems and trained the farmers on various techniques and ways to manage loans.
Based on their discussions with Frank, the Twisungane group now would like to request loans for another motorcycle and for more livestock, especially goats. This is a group request, however there are also individuals who may want TFH loans. Frank is discussing with them the possibility of requesting helpful loans that they will be able to manage and to repay properly.
Working on Clean Water Issues
Frank had also time to review the issues of water purification and how best to deal with their water problem. The Twisungane community suffers from a lack of affordable, nearby, clean water (closest is ~ 3 miles away). Tools for Hope (TFH) is exploring solutions for this issue. We bought ceramic filters to evaluate the viability of ceramic filtration. We need to find out if this technique will work in our farmer’s area. To be acceptable the filters must supply clean water at a reasonable cost and be viewed by the farmers as safe, practical, and dependable.
Frank has received three ceramic water filters from a supplier in Tanzania. These will be used in combination with Madidrop+ tablets to start treating water for domestic (potable) use. These three first units will be used in evaluating the water cleaning efficacy of the filters.
Above are the ceramic filters that will be used for water treatment activity.
Training Farmers on Food Preservation Techniques
Food preservation is one of the most critical problems that the farmers need to solve because it is one of the best ways for them to combat hunger. Most of their crop yields are lost, damaged, consumed at once, or sold at minimum market prices because farmers lack proper techniques of food / crop preservation.
Food preservation presents difficult and daunting activities for our farmers, especially for some vegetables which may need canning techniques. However, some of the crops which they can easily preserve such as maize, beans, cassava, sorghum, sweet potato, and Irish potatoes, are not very well known to the poor families. We have managed to show them and are helping them with technical support on how to preserve these for future use, especially during dry seasons.
Farmers are starting to apply preservation techniques to their harvested beans and maize/corn. They are using some old / traditional technologies as well as modern chemicals to fight pests and some insects that damage the harvested yields of beans, cassava, and maize. We are now trying to develop canning methods. We will start with some few members of the Twisungane. Frank will seek advice from TFH staff in the USA. These efforts will help us defeat hunger among the cooperative members.
Here is the old method of preserving maize/corn which is still used in Rwanda by many farmers. This method is used when corn/maize is stored for later use by turning this to maize flour for the preparation of a local meal known as “Ugali” the maize local cake. On the far right, is the canning technology which we are eager to learn and to be able to preserve vegetables and legumes for future use.
The way forward
Based on their progress the farmers should be able to manage added loans from Tools for Hope, in the next few months. We do not want to get them into too much debt nor, do we want to slow their economic progress. Presently, a typical Twisungane family may spend up to 50% of their annual income on food. With good off-farm income producing activities they should be able to drive that percentage much lower.
As mentioned, bank loans are unavailable to the farmers. Because of their (previous) lack of money, savings, financial and organizational skills, they had no way to develop their own investment capital. Your financial support for Tools for Hope helps us help the farmers help themselves. Thank you for your faithful, continued support of their efforts.