Most of the Tools for Hope (TFH) work in Rwanda for the month of April was concentrated on the preparation of the basic utility vehicle (BUV) to enable us to sell it, discussions with the farmers on their post-harvest handling techniques, planning for the next agricultural season, which is JJA (June July August) commonly known as the dry season, and also the way forward of the partnership between TFH and Twisungane farmers Cooperative.
The agricultural activities are on-going, and we are still mentoring the farmers. The farmers have been calling us daily to assist in different activities and give our understanding on matters regarding on-farm and off-farm activities.
Thanks to TFH (USA) we to have managed to secure a buyer for the BUV and we are now in the process of delivering the BUV to the destination as requested. Farmers are eagerly waiting for the projects proposed. We tell them to continue their business as usual until after we will sell the BUV and implement the projects that TFH staff in the USA have approved.
Farmers are still working in their fields as usual. The have planted sorghum, maize, pumpkin, banana, and beans. In their banana fields they have also inter cropped them with beans as to maximize the use of the land. This is the right combination as beans can fix nitrogen to the soil and that nitrogen benefits the banana crop. (Inter-cropping is a multiple cropping practice involving growing two or more crops in proximity.)
The intercropping system is very well known among farmers in this area, but some of them do not know what the best intercropping combinations are for their crops. This is what we as TFH have been teaching them i.e., how to best inter-crop using cereals and legumes, and how to prepare and get the best production.
As we approach harvest time in May, we found it very important to provide technical advice to our farmers on the issue regarding post-harvest handling. This is a continuous TFH activity, and we gave this technical advice to individual farmers while monitoring their individual farms, and their cooperative’s farm. TFH employee Frank Mutesa has been teaching them how to prepare and use the appropriate materials and equipment for their harvests e.g.,
- good clean sacks,
- appropriate grain removal materials / equipment,
- how to properly store their yield e.g.,
- managing the store room temperature,
- maintaining storeroom neatness to avoid rodents, other pests, and diseases,
- farm to market transportation materials,
- how to use materials (preservatives) for storing the harvest to make the food last longer.
We are encouraging them to be valiant and to look for better market opportunities and learn the principles for attracting more and better customers.
A significant part of our technical advice and support has been focused on how to prepare their harvests especially maize harvest, because some of them are still using the local and traditional way of dying maize which results in 40% of the harvest being destroyed because of improper handling leading to attacks by insects, other pests, and diseases. Therefore, we have urged them to use a more modern way of handling their maize harvest during post-harvest, by building what we call a hangar for drying maize.
The above picture is a hangar for dying maize that the Rwandan Agricultural Board (RAB) recommends. Frank is happy to be one of the trainers that was responsible for its implementation and is very happy to introduce this technique to our Twisungane farmers.
Keeping up with individual livestock activities and other off-farm activities
TFH has been conducting a small survey while giving technical advice to the Twisungane farmers on the issue of their livelihoods and sustainable production planning. The farmers well understand the advantage of combining their farming practices with livestock rearing. They understand the benefits of raising livestock. The benefits include manure which will boost their soil fertility so that they increase their production, and for improved nutrition. For those who are keeping cattle, they do get milk for their children and their old people. There are also few farmers who are keeping pigs for business purposes and to get manure.
Therefore, we have been showing them how to go about keeping their livestock with care and cleanness as we found that the issue of keeping the barns clean is still difficult. This is because they feel that it doesn’t add anything to the production. We reasoned them that it is very important to keep the animal clean as it helps prevent harm to the animals from diseases caused by pathogen attack, and that eventually they will save the money that would be needed to buy drugs for livestock medication.
Four farmers do combine crop farming with rearing pigs, and they sell piglets twice each year. Also, two farmers do cattle rearing with their crop farming, and three of them have goats and chickens combined with crop farming. The rest of the cooperative members are just doing only crop farming. When we compare, we have seen the farmers who are practicing both livestock keeping and crop management are the ones doing fine with life, in terms of wealth at home and the health of the family members as compared to those practicing crop management alone.
The way forward
The farmers are planning to be spreading out into various business ideas and to start working seriously with banks. Frank has reasoned them that bank loans are best way to expand operations for those that have assets like pieces of land that are well documented and who have the property license(s) which permit(s) them to get loans. Others, without such assets, are still engaging in small holder farming and they rely on TFH for the continued collaboration.
Until I became involved in helping Tools for Hope raise money to assist Rwandan subsistence farmers, I had a very different perspective on charitable solicitations. I dutifully made weekly contributions at church, threw a few dollars into the Salvation Army bucket, and occasionally wrote a check to some other worthy cause. But the contributions were generally small and often given begrudgingly. The ubiquitous mail solicitations promptly went into the waste basket, unopened.
Today I have a completely different perspective on charitable giving. Through my involvement in Tools for Hope, I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how important every contribution is to improving basic farming and small business activities. I’ve seen how the money is used to save lives and to preserve the quality of lives. I’ve also seen firsthand how important generosity is to non-profits such as TFH. And I’ve learned how difficult it is to raise money, and how very hard it is to ask someone to contribute to a charity you relate to or feel passionately about.
I’ve come to believe that everyone at some point in their lives should involve themselves with a charity by volunteering their time and committing their resources. You’ll learn a lot about how necessary charitable giving is, and you’ll help the team with their important work. You’ll also feel good about yourself.
Most of us have far more material things in our lives than we need, and we continually add to them. Supporting central African subsistence farmers is a great opportunity to divert a portion of that spending to a better place; to do something that will have a lasting benefit for generations to come. Please consider giving something back.
Tools For Hope, Inc. Board of Directors
In accordance with the Tools For Hope, Inc. Bylaws our corporation is to be governed by a Board of Directors. Our Board has three primary legal duties known as the “duty of care,” “duty of loyalty,” and “duty of obedience.”
We have begun steps toward forming a five to seven-person Board this month with a goal of identifying the Board membership in June (2019). If you are interested in volunteering to be on the Board (we anticipate two-year terms) or would like more information please contact Richard Trevillian at email@example.com or at 865-696-6032.