As a result of extensive meetings between the Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) Board of Directors and our Rwandan employee, Frank Mutesa, we developed three primary goals for 2020. The Rwandan subsistence farmers will benefit from improved food preservation techniques, implementing no-till farming techniques to improve agricultural efficacy, and generating more off-farm incomes.
Frank worked with TFH from the 4th through the 14th of November 2019. In the months leading up to his arrival, TFH Directors and Frank planned extensively for his visit. Both Frank and the Board needed first-hand information and, face-to-face communications about how best to guide the Rwandan subsistence farmers. Together, we had almost two weeks of intensive work, meetings, presentations, and dinners, as well as training on food preservation techniques, and farming techniques by University of Tennessee Agricultural school faculty.
Meetings with TFH Directors
Frank met with the TFH Board of Directors (Clare Roop, Rick Shipley, Father Laird Bryson, Father Doug Floyd, and Richard Trevillian) almost daily for several hours each day during his time in Knoxville. He concentrated on explaining the farmers progress, discussing where we are, where we are going, and our and their challenges. From there we started working on practical solutions. The Board of Directors helped Frank with solving some of the issues with farmers such as their organizational structures to help them recognize and improve on their strengths.
TFH Directors and Frank determined that the farmers are facing three primary problems i.e., food security, agricultural efficiency, and off-farm incomes. While their incomes, health, and overall welfare have radically improved over the past few years with help from TFH they still have intractable problems in climbing out of poverty.
Subsistence farmers in Rwanda discard more food than they consume because they lack proper methods of food preservation. Because of a nation-wide, general lack of food preservation in Rwanda, food is expensive once harvested crops have been consumed. This situation must be resolved because subsistence farmers often spend up 80% of their incomes buying food once the harvested crops are gone.
Land available to them for farming is limited because of governmental policies. They are not able, and will never be able, to generate a living wage only from farming. No-till farming technology will help them reduce the manual labor and costs that they now spend on farming activities and significantly improve yields. Consequently, Frank and the Board determined that the farmers will need TFH help in developing off-farm incomes e.g., raising livestock, running small businesses, etc. as well as developing food preservation and no-till farming methods.
University of Tennessee Faculty
We had several hours of productive discussions at the University of Tennessee (UT) on issues related to agriculture, natural resources, project management, no-till farming innovations, irrigation, and forage management. While at UT we had time to present our work in Rwanda.
On Saturday, November 9th we visited with Peggy Adam on her farm. There we learned more about food preservation and food canning. We had an enjoyable and wonderful session with Peggy. We learned a great deal about food canning. We were fortunate to train with someone who has done this for years. Frank will try canning with his family in Rwanda and eventually will teach farmers about food preservation methods that can be easily adapted by them.
Presentations at Fund-Raising Dinners
We prepared fund-raiser presentation materials for a dinner held at Apostles Anglican church on November 7th. After the dinner we had a fundraising presentation, and Frank was happy to meet with the attendees and to describe to them the work of TFH in Rwanda. They were very pleasantly surprised by the work of TFH.
At the presentation, Richard described the TFH plans. He presented the goals and objectives of TFH for 2020, how we are giving farmers hope and helping them with some tools that can help them to do for themselves and prosper in the future without our help. He reiterated that the purpose of TFH is to help poor farmers learn how to prosper and to be successful in their lives without the need for outside help.
On Sunday 11/10/19, after church at Apostles Anglican in Knoxville we had a ‘Meet and Greet’ session. This was another opportunity to introduce the activities of TFH and for Frank to explain some the issues that people in attendance wanted to know about and to explain the agenda for the upcoming projects.
During the Meet and Greet Richard supplied explanations of our upcoming efforts to address those three primary issues. Those in attendance were enthusiastic and committed to support the activities of Tools for Hope.
We had a wonderful time at the Meet and Greet as people were very much interested in TFH activities.
We also an enjoyable time in Farther Doug Floyd’s home for a fund-raiser dinner on November 12th. There we met with another group of people who were very much interested in TFH work in Rwanda. They were particularly interested to know about the life of farmers and all that the farmers are doing. We were able to explain in depth about the farmers and to show them how our farmers are making progress in their journey towards prosperity. We connected with many people who would like to support the work of TFH. Richard also explained to them the goals and aims of TFH.
Our Way Forward
Before he left to return home to Rwanda, the Board of Directors gave Frank some important assignments i.e., get needed data for the food preservation initiative, work on starting the research on no-till farming practices for soil fertility enhancement and to decrease labor and other costs, to continue working with the farmers to honor their motorbike payments, to continue teaching farmers in agricultural activities, and to help develop strategies for off-farm income producing activities.
Tools for Hope, Inc.
1540 Robinson Road
Knoxville, TN 37923
Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
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