Land preparation and planting / sowing dominated the Twisungane farmer cooperative’s October agricultural activities. As usual Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) employee Frank Mutesa helped them during these times and gave them the necessary technical support for them to apply effective methodologies to bring about sufficient yields.
The farmers were met with heavy rains which came right after sowing. This tends to destroy some of the fields due to their topographical condition. Frank was busy showing them how to combat this issue of erosion and be able to save some crops from the heavy rainfalls.
We continued to work on the Twisungane projects and worked on the future projects as well. All the projects we have are doing great. We want to give them more business management training so that they can be able to manage these projects themselves in the future.
We still working on the clean water issues. We which have met some difficulties, but we hope that soon we will begin trials on the best ways to purify our farmer’s dirty water.
We are still working on the issues of food preservation. We are looking at which types of food preservation we can promote and that can be adapted by farmers easily.
Preparation and Planting Activities for 2020-2021 Season A
Seasonal preparation was done by preparing the inputs (e.g., fertilizers) and working the land to make sure that at planting time farmers will have good land with which to start their season. The PICSA (Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture) approach was used up until planting time. This important strategy helps the farmers individually and on their collective field, to plan and to decide which crops to plant and which agriculture system to use. We helped them with selecting good seed and showed them how to use the fertilizers in the best combinations i.e., combining organic and inorganic fertilizers.
Helping Farmers with Soil Erosion Strategies and Water Catchment
This October was dominated by heavy rainfalls and this tends to be a disaster for farmers if they are not well prepared. We have been training them to use PICSA. PICSA is all about combining weather and climate information from METEO-Rwanda. That service gives us updated weather forecast information. We and the farmers use this information to plan accordingly.
The METEO-Rwanda information showed that during mid and late October there would be heavy rainfalls. After hearing this we reasoned with the farmers to use all necessary means to use best practices to help to catch water in the soil and to fight against erosion and runoff. Frank showed them how to use furrows and ridges as the better system to catch and store water in the field and to reduce the velocity of runoff from washing away their crops.
Frank also showed them how they can divert the runoff using drainage channels dug in the field and by doing this, they can direct runoff water to an excavated pit and store it for irrigation purposes during drought time.
This is an example of furrows and ridges in the maize field. The crop is planted in the upper ridge while the furrow acts as the water collection and drain water and use them to infiltrate slowly to be used by the crop roots.
Twisungane Group’s Non-Farm, Income Producing Projects
Twisungane cooperative is not only involved in agriculture, but they are also undertaking other businesses. Because of the small sizes of their farms they must find income producing activities to support themselves. The usual way has been for them to try to find ‘day-labor’ jobs when they are not occupied on their farms. TFH is helping them develop their own businesses.
Their motorcycle is working as a transport facility (taxi). They are repaying their TFH supplied loan on a weekly basis (Frank reviews and sends TFH a monthly bank statement showing that the cooperative is repaying the loan as agreed). Soon their loan will be repaid, and they will have full and clear ownership of their motorcycle.
They are also engaged in goat rearing and this is also going very well. The farmers are asking for another TFH supplied loan so that they can expand their goat business. As their supervisor / mentor, Frank believes they are ready to have another loan because they have understood the TFH concept i.e., helping them to help themselves.
The photographs above show the current condition of their motorcycle. It is in good condition. The farmers are taking good care of it. It has been a year now and the motorcycle is well kept. Twisungane farmers are now mature in-terms of monitoring their assets and they are well prepared to receive other loans.
During October we ordered materials to conduct three trials of a technique aimed at supplying clean drinking water, economically, to the Twisungane group. We plan to use ceramic water filters produced at a Tanzanian ‘Water to Wine’ facility (https://www.winetowater.org/our-work-eastafrica) to filter and clean the water, initially. We also plan to place a Madidrop+ water purification tablet (https://www.madidrop.com/) in the container of filtered water as an added safety measure. The MadiDrop+ is a micro porous, water permeable ceramic tablet infused with microscopic silver clusters.
We plan to begin our tests in November. Issues with shipping and communications delayed the project by several weeks.
Our Way Forward
The COVID-19 virus is still in the farmer’s vicinity. While they have resumed schooling and all other activities, there are challenges in every aspect of life. Apart from helping our farmers to regain their full strength, kids in school also need our attention for whatever we can do to help them, starting from uniform, books, clean water, chalks and all necessary tools like clothes, shoes and etc.
Recently Frank was touring the village to see how the children were doing. He found that they are healthy, but they lack proper clothing, shoes and other school materials.