January 2020 Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) activities focused on searching for places to establish our research on no-till farming practices and, on planning for a proposed goat project. TFH also began assessing water purification technologies, and potential solar power systems for the farmers.
No-till Research Preparation
The no-till farming practice we will initially research is one of the solutions that has been evaluated in many parts of Africa and has shown its potential in improving soil fertility and boosting crop productivity.
Frank Mutesa and the farmers started looking for land with which to start our research. Frank talked with the farmers and they agreed on the terms of the research. A little later in January Frank was able to identify suitable land and farmers who were willing to collaborate with us and have our trials on their plots. They have also decided to abide by the conditions of the research work.
Eight farmers will participate in the research. Four will use the no-till system and four will use their normal way of farming by ploughing the land. We will use the same inputs (same seeds, fertilizers), the same land size and all the agronomic parameters will be performed on both plots equally. Frank will assess the yields and other relevant parameters.
The farmers will be custodians of these activities and will monitor the plots as usual. TFH will provide the inputs (e.g., to ensure necessary consistency in seed quality) and take data where necessary.
As part of our agreement with the participating farmers, TFH agreed for those who are testing the no-till farming techniques, because this will be their first time to do so, that if their yields are less than those who practice the normal way of farming TFH will compensate their loses.
Goat Project and Selection of Participating Farmers
Frank also discussed with the farmers the issue of the proposed goat project. He discussed with them issues such as how to repay the Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) loans for the goats. He identified the farmers willing to sign the loan agreements. Frank emphasized that the farmers need to be conscientious and to participate in their own development (i.e., care for the goats and repay the loans).
We decided that each farmer will get two goats and after one year, they will pay back those two goats to TFH to loan to future farmers. Eleven farmers expressed willingness to participate and accepted the conditions of the agreement. After surveillance of the local markets Frank found good goats that can reproduce twice a year. These goats cost 65,000 frw ($69) each. Therefore, for the 22 goats the price will be $1,518.00.
Frank explained that TFH’s job is to provide the tools and they do the work. The farmers fully understand the terms of our contract with them and they are willing to do all they can to continue having projects that correspond to their need for off-farm income producing enterprises.
Goats produce manure which helps in reducing fertilizer or compost costs for the farmers. In addition, goat manure is 2 times richer in nitrogen and phosphorous as compared to cow manure. This was the primary reason that Frank recommended rearing goats to the farmers.
Both small scale and commercial goat farming businesses play key roles in meeting the increasing food demands in Rwanda. Goats are raised for various products such as milk, meat, skin, and fiber, while goat meat and milk are tasty, nutritious, and considered good for human health. The demand for goat meat is growing in Rwanda, as it is popular in making brochettes in many restaurants and hotels all over the country.
Clean Water – Rwandan Standards Bureau
Our subsistence farmers need clean water. Accessing clean water is a challenge to most Rwandan rural populations. It is an issue that the government is working hard to resolve.
TFH has been investigating utilizing a technology represented by MadiDrop (https://www.madidrop.com/). The MadiDrop+ tablets work alone or in conjunction with colloidal silver impregnated ceramic filters to clean and purify unsafe water. See for example the US Center for Disease Control web page (https://www.cdc.gov/safewater/ceramic-filtration.html).
We are working through the Rwandan Standards Bureau (RSB) to ensure the safety and efficacy of the technology before presenting it to the farmers for their use. Frank consulted with the Quality Assurance office of the RSB to determine our obligations.
Frank also started talks with a solar energy company known as BBOXX (https://www.bboxx.co.uk/) to see if they can provide our farmers with renewable energy for their domestic use. These talks are ongoing. Below is some information about BBOXX.
BBOXX customers in Kenya and Rwanda usually earn around (USA) $100 per month and spend $6-$12 on energy expenditures such as purchasing candles, kerosene, or batteries for flashlights, and charging their cell phones. BBOXX prices its solar home systems to match these existing energy costs, spreading payments over time to widen its customer base, enabling various segments of the population to purchase clean renewable solar energy.
Their flagship smart solar home system, the bPower50, is designed for rural off-grid customers. Once connected, the bPower50 can power lights, radios, TVs, and charge phones for household and micro-business customers. The bPower50 comes with a 50W roof mounted solar panel and can be purchased on a three-year payment plan. Each unit connects remotely to the BBOXX remote management system to give customer support, predict repairs, and assist upgrades.
Our Way Forward
Preparations for the no-till farming research activities are in progress. We believe we will be able to start farming at the end of February.
We also plan to double-check the food preservation techniques that our farmers are using. Frank will document and take pictures of all preservation techniques they have as we approach harvest time. We want to ensure that as much of the harvested crops are preserved as practical.
Frank has verified that the farmers are still repaying their Motorbike project loan as agreed. We believe they will continue to do so without any difficulties. This is a key factor in deciding to loan the funds for their goat project.