During April 2020 Rwanda implemented a nation-wide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tools for Hope (TFH) activities were still ongoing despite the COVID-19 pandemic. We continued our research trials on no-till experimental farming.
During the lockdown we provided food security for the Twisungane farmers. TFH provided rice, corn flour, and cooking oil enough to sustain them for 2 months. Normally, TFH does not give such free aid. However, the COVID-19 problem is unique. TFH provided the (Rwandan) funds to the farmers to purchase their food supplies from Rwandan markets. Providing free food to the farmers would have the effect of undermining local businesses i.e., no businessman can compete with free.
Frank made regular phone calls to the representatives of the Twisungane cooperative to give them current advice on how they should care for themselves and to encourage them to follow all the procedures given by the government as they are law abiding citizens.
Because their farms cannot produce enough food and income our smallholder farmers depend on informal day-work. The government of Rwanda put in place measures to minimize travel. This meant that our farmers could not travel to find work. Without income from day-labor and while waiting for their primary crops to mature they were down to one meal or less per day.
Germination Rate and Weeding on No-till Fields
The no-till experimental research at our farmer’s fields is doing great. Our farmers are managing all the activities and following all the research protocols as Frank has trained them to do. This is especially important to our farmers to learn for themselves and to experience diverse ways of farming without disturbing the soil structure and be able to get good yields
The initial research activity was to record the germination rate after planting. This is particularly important because it shows how good and healthy the seeds are, and how the seeds may perform in the field, and how the seeds are responding to that soil. The germination rate also shows how the abiotic factors are working to help seed germination in an area. We had more than 90% germination rate. This show good sign.
The pictures above show times before planting and after the germination (just one plot) and as you can see the germination rate is above 90%. This is exceptionally good in agriculture and we hope to have a good yield, if other agronomics parameters are done properly and on time.
When the rain started after 3 weeks of germination, we conducted another activity which is also very important, and that is the uprooting of all weeds that can compete for nutrient absorption with crops (Beans).
Weeding activity was done properly. Frank had trained our farmers to do it as it should be done. Frank also discussed with them the issue of social distancing while they were weeding.
The picture above shows farmers working on the field uprooting the unwanted plants (weeding). This activity helps to alter the microclimate below plant leaves, it helps also to reduce humidity as the sun and wind can penetrate deeper and easier in a weeded crop-plot and hence have a positive impact on pest and disease control.
Helping Twisungane Farmers during the COVID-19 Food Shortage
Tools for Hope (TFH) gave the twenty Twisungane families food (25 kgs Rice, 10 maize flour and 3 liters cooking oil per family) to help them during these demanding times where most of them have lost their jobs during this lockdown.
The farmers were incredibly happy to get the food supplies from TFH. Frank could not gather all of them together for a photograph because of the rules about not gathering more than 10 people.
Below is the Twisungane farmers committee with the post which says “ON BEHALF OF OTHERS WE THANK YOU TFH. GOD BLESS YOU ALL”
Although it was not easy to move from one area to another because of the official lockdown, Frank managed to convince the local leaders to allow our farmers to travel between a distant market and their community. The local leaders and government officials know TFH and the activities we do to help the farmers, therefore they granted farmers the permission to move from their village to the shopping centers located far from their village. The quantity and quality of food supplies we wanted were more than the local shops could provide. So, our farmers had to travel to the large shopping center. We thank the local leaders for their understanding.
Below are some pictures taken during the process of buying and delivering the food, which was done on Friday 24th April 2020. These Twisungane representatives distributed the food to each farmer that remained at home. The process went well. They thank you a lot and ask God to bless TFH.
They used bicycle and motorbikes to carry the food stuffs. Our own motorbike (TFH motorbike) was also used to carry the food stuff. Because it was not working for transporting people, but it can be allowed to carry food commodities.
This was the happiness moments, when you get food to eat during these times of lockdown, it is like a miracle. And this will sustain them for 2 months, because they have vegetables in their farms, therefore, because each family was given, 25 kgs of Rice, 10 kgs of Maize flour and 3 liters of cooking oil. Now, they will have a balanced diet for not less than 2 months.
Frank and the farmers discussed nutrition and now they know how to modify their diet to maintain their health. This is very important during these days as to boost their immune systems so that they can be able to resist so many diseases. Therefore, it was also a good opportunity for TFH to introduce this lesson of combating malnutrition among our farmers.
Smallholder farmers’ happiness is the most important thing that TFH is working on, because when farmers are happy, they can be able to secure their tomorrow with plenty of innovation and hardworking mood. They just need a little help and encouragement like this.
The No-till experimental trial is giving hope that we will have good and reliable data that will help us to come with good recommendation. Again, we believe this pandemic will soon be over and we continue our lives and even have better hope than ever. Farmers are calm even if they do not understand what is going on in this world, but we still believe in God and we will see this through.