During the COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda, our farmers are legitimately concerned about their financial health. Many businesses have closed, and people are focused on businesses essential to their community and which can help them survive. Tools for Hope (TFH) is similarly focused on its farmers and their community.
Frank Mutesa (TFH-Rwanda employee) taught and prepared the Twisungane committee members to work together and to develop a sense of helping one another with in the cooperative. By doing so they can elevate one another even those who are weak can be able to be resilient. For example, when they help to prepare one another’s field in one week they can finish all the agriculture activities in all their individual farms working as a group.
The farmers just completed harvesting our trials and soon we will present the data after the analysis.
We are addressing the issue(s) of clean water. Too often they are using water from the river which is dirty, and this has affected their health for so long.
Frank continues to look for and evaluate a new group to mentor. There are many of them, so we are still considering which group is more in need.
Training Committee Members to Work Together
Meetings and training these days are done with few people, following the rules for combating the coronavirus. Therefore, Frank usually only meets with committee members (coop group leaders). Frank usually finds other cooperative group farmers in their field /farms as they are doing farm work. There, they can have a little chat and discuss different issues.
During June, Frank put more emphasize on issues of working together, he has been encouraging them to work together to help one another so that the group can stay well and healthy, together. An example is the activities we conducted in our no-till research. That effort has been a collective effort and Frank used this example to ask them to do likewise on their individual farms. This can be done by working together on each family’s farm. For example, all of them may meet at one individual farm and work and, then the next day at another members’ farm and so on.
This concept has been well received and all farmers see the benefits. The purpose here is for them to share and to care for one another. Such sharing was not common in Rwanda before the Tutsi genocide in 1994. People used to hate one another based on their tribes (Tutsi, Hutu, Twa). TFH promotes the Rwandan government’s teachings on reconciliation and these strategies of working together is a proper path to sustainable development as well as sustainable peace and reconciliation.
The picture above was taken during a meeting and discussions with Twisungane committee members. As you can see some of the group members are wearing their masks to abide by the rules. Because Frank does not live in their community he has to talk to them when a wearing mask to show them that he cannot infect them with coronavirus in case he might have been infected in the city where he lives.
The extremely poor among the farmers live in mud houses, such as shown in the pictures above. However, we have a plan to use revenue from the motorcycle taxi business and goats’ projects to raise their lifestyle and be able to renovate their houses as well. This is not the type of house in which they want to raise their children (dirt floors, walls that cannot withstand heavy seasonal rains, no water, sanitation, or power). While some of them have been raised in such houses we do not want others to continue with such a life. This is what TFH is fighting for. We want to help raise the standard of living among the poor and, with a little help, get out extreme poverty.
Harvesting No Till Research Trials, Data Collection and Recording
During June, we harvested our no till trials. This was the most important activity related to the agricultural work our farmers are doing. Their farming activities are not an occupation that is supplying them a good living. Many factors have hindered and continue to hinder their farm’s productivity e.g., limited land size, lack of proper techniques / methods of cultivation, soil fertility issues, lack of proper inputs (poor variety of seeds, lack of fertilizers and manure). That why we conducted no till research i.e., to see what kind of cultivation method can best help them to have good yields and to understand their soil fertility issues. No till farming requires much less labor in the preparation of the farmland.
TFH has given our farmers goats for many purposes but among is to increase manure for their agriculture purposes.
The activity of harvesting our trial was well organized and every member was present, men and women working together. Every plot was harvested separately using all the agronomic parameters.
The above pictures show what the farmers do to harvest their crops. Briefly these pictures show the harvesting process and all the activities. As you can see all the work is done by hand. You can see how they are working together in friendship, women, and men together. Beans require a lot of work during harvesting. Our farmers do not have modern equipment for harvesting beans. Lack of machinery is another constraint on productivity. The pictures show how tough agriculture can be especially for poor people.
Apart from the agriculture activities you can see that they are willing to help one another. This is what we are looking for, togetherness and get to where we want to be i.e., a good life with peace and harmony.
We are now recording data and soon Frank will supply the results and the analysis and the recommendations on the issue of no-till and till methods.
Water scarcity is a big problem in sub-Saharan African and in Rwanda. It is a huge problem that the government is working day and night to solve. However, in rural and remote areas it is not just the scarcity but the cleanliness of available water that has put the poor families at risk from diseases. People travel long distances to just get clean water. Sometimes they use water from sources near them which are not clean.
Frank took this picture when he was travelling by motorcycle around the community where our farmers live. The person in the picture is one of our farmers and he was returning from fetching clean water in a distant area where the small container (5 gallons) of clean water cost 100 frw (~16 US cents). So, the issue is not about the cost but the long distance. Frank and the farmers are suggesting that TFH supply them Madidrop+ ceramic tablets to help purify water. With those tablets they can try to clean (decontaminate) water they fetch from the nearby river. Someday the government will be able to bring pipes to this neighborhood and supply clean tap water.
So far farmers are happy with all TFH is doing and they are more than ready to show that they have been learning a lot. They know it is up to them to show progress in what they are doing. By looking at the pictures in this report you can see they are looking healthy. There is an issue with their kids, Frank is not always satisfied with how their kids look in terms of health and cleanness. However, this is the fight and Frank is determined to continue to fight along with TFH. We believe we will win and change these people’s lives for the better. Therefore, on behalf of the farmers Frank would like to express their appreciation for everything TFH is doing “God bless you abundantly.”