During December, the farmers began harvesting their crops. Overall, their 2020 yields improved through use of new techniques such as no-till farming introduced by Tools for Hope (TFH). Research shows that during harvest, Rwandan smallholder farmers lose 40-60% of their yields to improper harvesting and poor post-harvest handling techniques.
Post-harvest handling (PHH) is one of the most important farming activities. The activities making up PHH are, cooling/drying, cleaning, sorting, packaging, and storing. Many smallholder farmers however do not perform PHH activities as they should. Frank Mutesa, Tools for Hope (TFH) mentor in Rwanda, is training the Twisungane cooperative on how to do their PHH properly. Proper PHH supports our TFH 2020 goal of improving food security for the Twisungane group.
Also, during December, Frank began discussions with the farmers about evaluating the use of ceramic water filters to purify their domestic water supplies. We plan to ask for three families to volunteer to use the technique. If successfully adopted by the cooperative, the farmers’ families would have a more readily available, healthier, and more economical potable water supply.
The farmers’ motorcycle taxi business and their goat raising project continue to prosper.
Harvest and Post-Harvest Handling
During this past December farmers began harvesting their crops. Harvest continued into January 2021 because of different planting times and different crops. Those who planted beans harvested in December and those who planted corn/maize during this season will harvest in January 2021.
Research revealed that during harvest, 40-60% of the yields are lost due to improper harvesting techniques and poor post-harvest handling. TFH is aware of this and Frank is there to stop that loss from happening to our farmers. Farmers are adopting the new techniques and are eager to learn more every day. They have understood and appreciate the value of learning better techniques in their journey to sustainable development.
As one the most important parts of agriculture, PHH can be a life saver considering the demanding work done during agriculture season. If not well done, it can ruin all the excellent work put in during the agricultural season.
Frank has been working door to door and, field to field looking at and checking on the kind of crops planted. Based on his observations, he advised the farmers on harvesting issues which included, looking for better tools that can help farmers during harvest and, also how to go about post-harvest handling (PHH) which needs some proper tools, such as good sacks, good tools for sorting, good techniques of transportation because sometimes poor transporting the yield from the field can cause loss of harvest.
Frank reminded the farmers to take diligent care and plan accordingly, to search for tools to help them in the activities, like sacks, bags, baskets, etc. Frank also showed them how to sort, the sorting is also especially important because there are those harvested crops that can be consumed at once and those that can be stored / preserved to be consumed later or to be sold later.
Frank examined crops in the fields and provided individual farmers with advice on the time of harvest depending on crop and how their crops are doing in the field. This is important because there were some farmers who harvested too early before the crop matured. We are happy to say that the farmers accepted all our advice. Frank discussed his advice together with them because this is our style, we do not impose solutions on the farmers instead we discuss and show them how best they can manage their tasks.
Harvesting Various Crops
Harvesting was successful for those who planted beans (climbing beans and bush beans). Farmers used all the protocols as discussed and Frank supervised some of our farmers. They were on time with their harvesting as discussed, they had all the tools, and they used all the modern methods of harvesting without damaging the crops. In the days before TFH help, they used to make many mistakes including damaging the crops during harvest time and thus caused losses of 45% of their entire harvest. TFH is doing all it can to stop these losses and introduce new and more effective ways of improving farmers’ activities in sustainable ways. Their farms are small, and they are still using sickles, hand-held hoes, machetes, and their own hands to farm. However, Frank helps them to use everything they have in a systematic way to save 100% of their harvest.
Our farmers were trained on how to achieve good threshing, reaping, cleaning, and sorting of the crops during harvest time. Some of the farmers are now harvesting beans and we believe by early January they will be done with the harvest.
Twisungane Decides Water Treatment Trial Volunteers
TFH and the farmers are always discussing issues that are outside of basic agriculture when there is time. We want them not to depend on agriculture alone, that’s why TFH has loaned funds for their motorcycle and their goat project.
Frank discussed on how to continue working on the motorcycle taxi activities. They are depositing the agreed amount to TFH account to pay their loan. This is a good sign of the committed people and Frank always encourages them to do it in a seamless way so that they can have that ability and experience in requesting other loans.
We have other pending activities that we discussed like working on the water treatment trials, having more loans, and learning the preservation techniques. Working with the Twisungane group’s leadership we selected three members that will undergo the water treatment trials using the ceramic water filters TFH purchased from a supplier in Tanzania.
Farmers are also grateful for the TFH support and they told Frank to pass along their greetings and their well wishes to the TFH and TFH Board members in America that you will have a wonderful new year 2021 as you continue collaborating with them in this journey of combating hunger and poverty and enter their better future where they will be able to have decent life and forget hunger forever.
Our Way Forward
The farmers continue to grow in their knowledge of not only farming techniques but also of economic value creation. One of the most significant changes that they have made is to value the ‘spirit’ of saving. Throughout the third world, most impoverished people have no hope for a future and therefore do not save (anything) for tomorrow.
Farming, even with the best techniques, will not be enough to bring the Twisungane group to middle-class income status. With formal, full-time employment being scarce for them, they will need to create their own off-farm income producing activities. To help with this, TFH lends funds (at zero interest) and supplies advice to help them develop small businesses (e.g., their motorcycle taxi business).
From Frank: Thank you once again and we wish you a happy new year 2021 as we continue to prosper and aim for the highest in terms of helping those in need to help themselves.