In February, Rwanda had heavy rainfall that destroyed people’s houses with some loss of life. We thank God that our farmers are all OK. They had minor losses to their harvests.
During February, Frank and the farmers began a research activity to determine the efficacy of no-till farming and to compare it to the usual way of preparing soil for planting.
Additionally, Frank and the farmers held discussions on their up-coming goat purchases through loans from Tools For Hope (TFH). The goats were delivered the first of March 2020. We will be able to report more about the project next month.
Their discussions also included the issue of clean water. The farmers were very much concerned because obtaining clean water is among the difficult issues that they have experienced all their lives. They addressed deposit time-periods and, methods for depositing their loan payments to TFH for their motorbike.
They continued their discussions about food preservation techniques and about how to improve their food supply security through better food / crop preservation. They also discussed the potential of solar energy providing electrical power to their households.
Frank and the farmers also discussed the significant issue of the government closure of the community school. We have asked Frank to gather the details about this issue for us.
Preparation for No-Till Farming Research Trials
Land preparation came after Frank had trained the farmers on the meaning of no-till farming and, the objective of this research. This was their first time to hear about this system.
This is an innovation to our farmers, and we needed to train them on how to do it and on the purpose of this research. They are used to tilling their land in every season, and they haven’t tried any other ways of farming.
Frank explained the technique to them and told them no-till is a farming system that is beneficial to crops and soils. It increases soil fertility and thus increases crop production, it also reduces fuel, labor, and equipment costs and it improves soil structure.
This method can also reduce erosion, as it leaves more residues on the soil surface and thus reduces the velocity of rainwater run off which causes erosion. In Rwanda, the country of a thousand hills, farmers know the damage that erosion can do to their lands.
Looking at the picture above, you can see the differences between plots prepared by tilling the soil and those prepared for no-till farming. In the tilled plots you can see that soil was disturbed, was lifted, and how soil was taken away from its natural state. Looking at the no-till plots you can see the soil is in its natural state. What the farmers did on the no-till plot was just to remove the harvested maize and cut some shrubs without disturbing the soil.
Planting began the weekend of February 29, 2020. Frank put some signposts indicating plots with the different techniques for others to look at and to observe the differences in crop growth for these two different techniques. We have 6 plots for no-till farming and 6 plots for tillage farming. The till and the no-till plots will be used to grow the same crops using the same inputs (e.g., fertilizers, etc.) for comparison purposes.
Meetings with farmers on projects and on their livelihood problems
Farmers have income producing projects that are on-going. These projects increase their earning capacity and their knowledge in adapting to business thinking. An off-farm income producing project for our farmers is crucial because their farms are too small to produce the food and incomes that they need to survive. Off-farm income is often the only barrier between them and malnutrition or starvation.
Eleven Twisungane Group Families Receive Loans for Goats
The (11) families thanked TFH USA for accepting their requests and granting them loans with which to purchase two goats per family. TFH invested ~ $1,870.00 to purchase and deliver the 22 goats. These eleven families needed the goats and they each agreed to the TFH loan repayment terms (i.e., they will each repay TFH for their two goats after 12 months to allow them time to generate income from the goats).
We (Frank, Deo, and TFH USA) have discussed the issue of a pending goat project since the time of our original employee Deo, in 2016. Because of the time lag, the farmers were concerned that TFH might not carry through on its promise to loan them funds for the goats. The project was delayed because everyone involved needed to agree on loan repayment terms and, because the farmers needed their transportation issue addressed as their priority.
Obtaining clean water is one of the most distressing issues the farmers face. The water they use mostly comes from a river near their farms. That river water is dirty. When it rains, many of the farmers get water from small ponds that are in the neighborhood however, the ponds are very dirty.
Above is a photograph of the pond located in the farmer’s neighborhood. Some people are using that dirty water for home consumption. Frank spoke with them about buying some water tanks to be able to catch the rainwater during rainy seasons and use rainwater instead.
They had waited for the government to provide them with clean water taps (hand-pumped water wells) but up until now there has been no action. The government did provide their community with a tank and guttering to collect rainwater runoff from the roof of the local one room school building.
Frank and TFH USA are investigating low-cost, viable, simple, and socially acceptable methods for cleaning the water from their local water sources. Currently, two technologies look promising. One technology involves ceramic water filters impregnated with colloidal silver. Colloidal silver is a mineral. Colloidal silver can kill certain germs by binding to and destroying proteins. A second technology uses silver ions on the internal surfaces of a porous ceramic tablet. The two technologies may be used together or separately.
From the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/safewater/ceramic-filtration.html :
“Locally manufactured ceramic filters have traditionally been used throughout the world to treat household water. Currently, the most widely implemented ceramic filter is the Potters for Peace design. The filter is flowerpot shaped, holds about 8-10 liters of water, and sits inside a plastic or ceramic receptacle. To use the ceramic filters, families fill the top receptacle or the ceramic filter itself with water, which flows through the ceramic filter or filters into a storage receptacle. The treated water is then accessed via a spigot embedded within the water storage receptacle. The filters are produced locally at ceramics facilities, and then impregnated with colloidal silver to ensure complete removal of bacteria in treated water and to prevent growth of bacteria within the filter itself. Numerous other locally-made and commercial ceramic filters are widely available in developed and developing countries.”
The other technology is the Madidrop+. See https://www.madidrop.com/how-it-works.
“Silver ions delivered by nanoparticles to bacteria promote lysis, the process by which cells break down and ultimately die, which makes silver nanoparticles a superior and widely used antibacterial agent. New research by Rice University found that silver ions, not the particles themselves, are toxic to bacteria. They also found that ligands in the vicinity of a bacteria can bind silver ions and prevent them from reaching their target.” (Credit: Zongming Xiu/Rice University)
The Motorbike Taxi Project
Frank and the farmers discussed the best ways of paying the TFH loan for the motorbike. They agreed on modified terms and conditions that will help them with depositing their payments into our bank account. The motorbike project is doing well, and they are depositing money to the TFH account every two weeks to repay their loan. At the same time, they are also depositing money into their own account as well.
Food / Crop Preservation
The farmers and Frank continued their discussions about food preservation. Frank learned that they only utilize a technique of preserving beans where they store beans in a sack and put some product (pills) they buy at the Agropharm (local agricultural supply store) which prevents their beans from spoiling. Other crops such as cassava they just leave in the field and take what they can consume and leave the rest in the field.
There are other techniques for food / crop preservation that they may be able to take advantage of. The photograph above shows a traditional way of drying maize grains. The dried grains are ready to transform to maize flour. This technique is usually used when the farmers need to quickly have their grain turned into flour.
Government Closes the Community’s School
The classrooms are not in service anymore. The government closed the community’s only school. The children are now walking a long distance to attend school in another village. The distance is extremely far for the little children to walk every day. We are afraid the number of children attending school will drop. Frank still encourages parents to keep allowing their children to go school. We are also connecting with local government officials to see if they can influence the central government to reopen their school and to provide salaries to local teachers to come and teach at the school.
Solar Energy for Electrical Power
Last but not the least among what the farmers and Frank discussed, is the issue of electricity. They have shown their interest in having solar energy, and they wanted to start with electricity for lamp lighting. Many of the ladies in the group told Frank that they suffer during the night especially in food preparation and in helping their kids with their homework from school. Solar energy may become one of the next projects that TFH helps with. Frank is investigating the issue(s).
The Way Forward
The farmers were encouraged to make their activities more business-smart and to think of projects that can improve their standards of living. They can grow these ideas into something big in the future.
Next month we hope to have photographs and videos of the farmers with their new goats. The farmers are on the right track for development and what we need to do is to give a little push and help them achieve their goals.