TOOLS for HOPE MONTHLY REPORTS


October 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter


                                                                                                 


Introduction

Tuzamurane farmers (mentored by Frank Mutesa) are smallholder farmers in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.  Frank has begun visiting their farms to see how they are preparing for this upcoming agriculture season (2022 A).  They are still applying traditional techniques.  Frank is ensuring those techniques are applied in effective ways while helping them learn modern farming technologies which help in boosting their yield.

Diane Uwamahirwe is in the preliminary stages of mentoring the Twisungane group on business plan development.  She is helping them understand, develop, and implement business planning for their future income producing enterprises.  She is tailoring her training to help those who are literate as well as the (usually older) less educated farmers understand and apply the concepts involved in business plan development.

Tuzamurane Group

Gathering information about the new group

Tools for Hope (TFH) always takes time to listen to the farmers about their lives, goals, challenges, etc.  We try to implement changes “solutions” that are fully acceptable to the farmers i.e., acceptable socially, culturally, economically, technically, legally, etc.  Frank is an expert in rural development and is well equipped to help the group raise their standard of living.

After discussions with the group, Frank was able to prioritize a list of projects that will help them achieve their near-term goals.  They are as follows.

  1. Raising pigs and goats - these are projects that can enhance their lives.  They are a reliable source of manure and can produce a positive cash flow.
  2. Transportation plays a critical role in their community.  The TUZAMURANE village is a bit far from the center market, therefore they need simple transportation tools, i.e., bicycles.  One bicycle per family will help them transport their goods to the nearest market, allow for access to food, increases access to recreation, entertainment, healthcare, and educational opportunities.
  3. They need land for a community farm.  The land would serve as a demonstration farm where different modern agriculture technologies will be applied, and it will function as a ‘Farmer Field School’ for many smallholders in the community.  Frank gave them the task to go and check the price for borrowing land for 2 agriculture seasons (1 year).
  4. Women need off-farm activities to supplement their family income.  Tuzamurane women can receive help from developing a vendor business where they can sell some of the things that are needed in the neighborhood.  Six ladies in the group are asking for sewing machines.

These ideas will need further development.  Tools for Hope will try to supply funding for the projects in the form of no-interest, no-recourse loans once the project plans are completed and agreed upon by TFH and the Tuzamurane group.


Introducing No-Till Farming to the Tuzamurane

The no-till or conservation agriculture technique has been a success.  The Twisungane group evaluated this system, with tremendous and significantly superior results.  

Frank is talking to our new group about how they can adapt the no-till system to compare this system to what they have been doing.  The no-till system will be a new system for them because what they have been doing mostly involved totally tilling the land.  No-till farming means no-tilling of the soil at all.  The system is more productive, uses significantly less labor, and helps improve the soil over time.

No-till will increase the microbial activities in the soil.  This also helps in enhancing the nutrient availability in the soil and helps in controlling soil erosion especially in Rwanda (Mountainous and hilly areas).  No-till will enhance agricultural productivity and help in fighting food insecurity with smallholder farmers.   

Twisungane Group Business Plan Development

Meeting the Teaching Challenges

Diane has two classes of committed students. Farmers who know to read and to write bought books and pens to write down lessons, for those who do not know how to read and write lessons are transmitted orally, through conversations. With both groups, we started to discuss the purpose of learning about business plan development. Diane shared with them the main purposes of business plan development i.e., Business plan development is a plan of action.

Strong business plans will help them in the following ways.

Ø  SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat,) to make best and informed decisions.

Ø  create an effective strategy for growth and to think clearly about their business ideas.

Ø  determine their future financial needs, exactly how much capital they need and for what they will use it.

Ø  plan development can quickly show them whether they will be making a profit or running at a loss, and it shows how much those losses may be every month during implementation.

Ø  gain a wider, deeper, and more understanding of their marketplace.

Twisungane Group Resources and Challenges

Diane has been discussing resources, opportunities, and challenges they face.  They have TFH who has supported them in different areas (through agriculture, livestock, health, financially and trainings, materials) to reach a sustainable development level. Funding for loans for their projects will come from the TFH bank account in Rwanda. That account holds funds repaid by the Twisungane group for previous projects e.g., their motorcycle taxi business. Other resources and opportunities are that some of them have different skills (good agriculture practice, livestock farming, tailoring, basic knowledge in small business) which showed that they can implement some business plans in these areas.

Diane also encouraged them to create small saving groups amongst themselves, from low contributions to high. This is to help them to be prepared according to the business they will implement.   See for example https://www.afi-global.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/AFI_Gender_Saving_Groups_WEB_2.3.pdf

“UPSCALING AND INTEGRATING GENDER SAVINGS GROUPS INTO THE FORMAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM”

Challenges they are facing being smallholder farmers living in remote areas include difficulties accessing both input and output markets. For the TWISUNGANE group, the first challenge they have is that they do not have their own land titles. This is a big challenge because they are not allowed to apply for a loan in the bank for big projects. Additionally, because they do not have one big land they share, every farmer prepares his land, sows, fertilizes, and harvests him/herself which leads to producing low yields. This makes it hard to follow up on their activities because each one is working independently. If they had one project they shared, the follow up would be easy and the outcome would be better than working each on his/her own.

Next Steps

 As she continues their business plan training, Diane is encouraging and supporting the Twisungane in their continued use of no-till farming techniques, introduced by Frank.

Similarly, Frank is introducing modern agricultural techniques to the Tuzamurane. He also recognizes the need for more formal and informal training for the farmers.

Both groups will benefit from having a relatively large plot of land to cultivate as a common farm.  Such a common plot would ease training and improve overall productivity.


Thank you for your kind donations!



http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.





September 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

         Diane Uwamahirwe and members of the Twisungane Cooperative                                      

Introduction

In August, our two Rwandan agricultural professionals Diane Uwamahirwe and Frank Mutesa worked to begin mentoring a new group (Frank) and expand agricultural mentoring with our original group to focus on agri-business training (Diane).  Transitioning the original group (Twisungane “the hard-workers”) to Diane’s mentorship went smoothly thanks to Frank and Diane’s professionalism.  Frank did an excellent job in paving the way for Diane and she was well received by the Twisungane.

The new group (Tuzamurane “lifting one another”) is small (20 members) and is primarily made up of made up of young women and young married couples.  The Twisungane group started with 15 members and has grown to 80+ members.

Twisungane Group Mentorship Transition

Our primary goal in the transition is to build on the agricultural strengths developed by the group through Frank’s training and leadership.  The group is now able to move into income producing agri-businesses.  Frank helped the group develop from 15 subsistence farmers into an organized cooperative with a self-sustaining, healthy and stable lifestyle.  They are ready for the next step “up the ladder.”

The Twisungane welcomed Diane.  Because of Frank’s training and their trust in Tools for Hope they are open-minded about change.  

Diane’s focus will be on business development for the Twisungane cooperative.  Just recently, Frank transferred ownership of their motorcycle (taxi) to the group based on their loan repayment.  This helped set the stage for Diane and the cooperative to move forward with new initiatives based on lessons they learned from that business venture.  Diane appreciated the way they have managed to pay the motorcycle.  It showed her that they will be able to implement their business plans while they are still struggling for sustainable development and that they are excited and committed to collaborate with her.

In other later discussions, Diane found that within the Twisungane group there are two groupings of farmers.  One group is made up of older and illiterate farmers.  The other group is younger and more literate.  The older members were reticent about learning and implementing business plans because of their insufficient educations.  The younger, better educated farmers were more accepting.  Diane assured both groups that she was able and willing to adjust her mentoring to accommodate their needs.  Current plans are for a two-tiered approach to their training.

Diane Uwamahirwe in meetings with the Twisungane Cooperative Leadership


Frank’s Initial Work with the Tuzamurane Group

We have been able to form another group.  This group is in the Eastern province, close to the Twisungane group.  In forming this new group, Frank asked them to name their group.  They choose TUZAMURANE (it means “lifting one another”).  They have all agreed to this name and Frank also agreed. 

They then voted and chose a committee of four members.  They are:

  1. President: Mariko NIYOMWUNGERI (Man)
  2. Vice President: Jeannette NYIRAHAKIZIMANA (Woman)
  3.  Secretary: Jonathan NTEZIRYAYO (Man)
  4.  Accountant: Eugenie NYIRAMFUKAMYE (Woman)

What is important and unique with this group is that all of them are below 30 years of age, young married couples, although poor they are energetic and are willing to move fast into their development. 

The total number of the group is twenty members.  We agreed to that number and in the days to come we will see how to adjust and add more members as per the upcoming programs.  This group has more women members than men.   This is caused by young men who are migrating to town in search of new and better jobs.  This leaves many single women in the village.  TFH is going to help these women and bring back hope for a better life in their village.

 

 Above is the TUZAMURANE committee and the advisors.  We are glad that these are young, and women are now more committed than before and TFH will make sure we help them to help themselves and hence the family development.

Tuzamurane Objectives, Plans and Challenges

The Tuzamurane group is made up of subsistence farmers.   They will be focusing on agricultural innovations, raising livestock, and non-agricultural business activities. 

Challenges and opportunities they face include the following.

1.   They do not have a common farm (a collective land) that they can practice together modern farming techniques.  They need to borrow / rent the land for their agricultural activities as a group.
2.   Transportation of their harvest to market is an issue.  Although their location is not hilly and has good roads, they lack transportation resources e.g., bicycles which can help carry their goods (one bicycle per family project),
3.   September is the beginning of the agriculture season 2021-2022 A; they are planning for their plantings.  They will need the best quality seeds for Irish potato, maize and beans and other inputs like fertilizers and manure.
4.   Livestock (pigs and goats) and poultry are needed for their manure.  Other similar business activities are needed.
5.  Because of their poverty and the COVID-19 with their children going back to school this September they have difficulties in getting the basic equipment for the children to go to school e.g., books, uniforms, shoes.  Additionally, they are having issues in paying for their (government sponsored) health insurance commonly known as “mituelle de sante.”


 Typical bicycle transport for farm produce

Frank gave them the assignment of thinking about what they can do.  He wants first to hear from them and then he will help them to adapt.  He will train them on issues that will help them through this development journey they are starting with TFH.

The Way Forward

The farmers are grateful that TFH has started mentoring and helping another group of farmers, the TUZAMURANE Group.  This is substantial progress, and we believe it will have a positive impact in the society.

We are glad TWISUNGANE have finished paying their motorcycle loan.  Thanks to their commitment to abide by the agreement, they are truly gentlemen. 


Thank you for your kind donations!



http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.
 





August 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

Introduction

Despite the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda, Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) achieved two significant milestones in July.  We hired our second farmer cooperative mentor, and we added our second group of farmers to mentor.  Our new hire, Diane Uwamahirwe, is an Agribusiness and Environment Specialist with a BS (honors) in Agribusiness and, who is completing her master’s degree.  Frank Matuesa, our most experienced agricultural mentor, found a new group needing and wanting our help.  He has started their mentoring.

Our Near-term Strategy
Frank succeeded in helping the Twisungane Cooperative members improve their lives in many ways.  Their health, education, nutrition, financial, and overall welfare all improved under Frank’s mentorship.  Agriculture alone cannot supply a sustainable path for the Twisungane to a middle-class lifestyle.  This is because the land they farm is limited in size and availability to them i.e., they are able only to rent small plots to farm.  They need income producing enterprises.

Diane will provide the Twisungane group with training and help in business plan development and implementation.  She will also continue Frank’s work in improving the group’s agricultural knowledge and skills.  The combination of stable incomes, and quality food security will help the farmers achieve a healthier, more prosperous life.   

Tools for Hope, Inc., with your help, will support their efforts primarily through funding Diane and Frank’s salaries, and through supplying advice and interest free loans for good income-producing enterprises.  We are also helping the groups with capital formation.  We do this by keeping their loan repayments in a bank account in Rwanda to help fund their future projects.  This is crucial because of the lack of available loans from local lenders.

Importance of Self-Sustaining Economic Development
In the past, many well-meaning charities supplied free products and services to communities like the ones we mentor.  When free items such as clothing, mosquito netting, water wells, etc., arrive in a community the local businesses providing such products are forced out of business; no business can compete with free stuff.  When local businesses fail people lose their incomes.  Unemployed people in countries with no social safety net(s) often starve or turn to crime to survive.  One source claims that such aid (~$1 trillion) over the past 50 years has lowered the standard of living of the average sub-Saharan African by 30%.    Poverty can have other equally devastating effects.

In Rwanda, for example, the HIV / AIDS epidemic causes tremendous suffering.  The government and NGOs are fighting the disease with medicines, education, prophylactics, etc.  One of the primary drivers of the epidemic results from poverty.  Young ladies looking for a spouse often marry older men rather than young men more their age.  Older men typically have a house and a way to support a family; younger men usually do not.  However, the older men also have higher incidences of AIDS.  TFH looks to raise the prospects for a better future for all those facing extreme poverty.

The New Farmer Group
The following is from Frank’s recent monthly report: 
        “This new group we are selecting is in Eastern Province of Rwanda, Rwamagana District, Gishari Sector, Gati Cell in Nyamabuye Village and the group leader goes by the name of Mariko Niyomwungeri.  The population of this area, especially the smallholder farmers and subsistence farmers are practicing traditional farming, whereby their field are always crowded by multiple crops including sorghum, sweet potatoes, Irish potato, maize/corn, beans, soya, and the yield is always low.  There is always a risk for many of these subsistence farmers of not getting enough to feed their families through the next season.  Not only feeding their families but also taking their kids to school is still an issue as they cannot get enough money to pay for school fees.  There are many basics needs that are still lacking with these subsistence farmers and this is because of the work they are doing which is not promising.  TFH then is going to see how we can mentor these farmers and helping them to cater for these basics needs but through helping them to help themselves by giving them more innovation strategies that they would apply in agriculture and other projects that are linking together agriculture, business and other off-farm activities…”

The new group has eighteen members, all of which are subsistence farmers.  This is a wonderful opportunity for Frank to do the things he does best i.e., introduce extraordinarily successful agricultural techniques that are fully acceptable to the farmers.  With Frank’s help the group will be able to move themselves for the extreme poverty of subsistence farming to a much better life.  


Pictures Frank sent recently of the new group members and their fields





The Way Forward

Diane will meet with all the members of the Twisungane group once governmental restrictions on travel and group gatherings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted.  She has met with the officers of the group and discussed their overall situation with Frank.  Diane will continue improvements in agriculture begun by Frank and extend the farmer’s economic progress by mentoring the group on successful business development projects that are right for them.

We are excited about the challenges and opportunities facing Frank as he begins his journey with the new group.
 

Thank you for your kind donations!




http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.
 

 

Copyright © 2021 Tools For Hope Inc, All rights reserved.


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July 2021 Tools for Hope Newsletter



Introduction

Frank Mutesa (Tools for Hope mentor to the Twisungane Cooperative farmers) visited the farmers’ fields in this June and, he is happy to say that the farmers are doing well in terms of using modern ways of farming.  He believes their yields will continue to increase.  Proper intercropping system, mulching and rotational systems are now common with our farmers and hence the increase of yields day by day.

When the current COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted again (after July 14), we will give three farmers the ceramic water filters as agreed, and we will begin our clean water trials.

Evaluating Other Farmers Who May Use Our Mentorship

Tools for Hope (TFH) requested Frank to inquire about mentoring another smallholder farmer group.  He has been looking for possibilities in different areas and weighing what we can offer the new group.  Frank went to Rwamagana (a city and capital of both the Rwamagana District and the Eastern Province in Rwanda) to check on some of the smallholder farmers and to see what we can help them to achieve.  There is a significant amount that these smallholder farmers can learn from us.  Frank can mentor them to become more self-sufficient and to have better futures.  These farmers are near a supply of water which means they can use powered irrigation.


These farmers can be mentored to look for markets for their produce.  In addition, Frank can help them on issues of post-harvest handling.  They can also be trained to work on off farm businesses and to explore other business projects.

Some Farmers Work their Fields During Season C in Marshlands

Farmers are approaching Season C.  Farming during this season is practiced mostly in marshlands because of its drought period.   Those farmers with some land in marshlands can plant some vegetable crops.

 

The use of mulch and the proper intercropping is necessary for sustainable crop yield.  Farmers are now familiar with the smart agricultural technologies that we encourage them to use.

The Way Forward

Things are going well for the farmers despite the coronavirus restrictions, as of now they are in kind of lockdown (from July 1 to July 14) for two weeks and therefore some businesses have locked down.  Curfew hours are in effect.  We believe life will return to normal soon.  Agriculture activities are among the opened activities, so we hope for the best.



June 2021 Tools for Hope Newsletter

Introduction

During May 2021 Frank Mutesa (Tools for Hope, Inc Rwandan mentor) worked with the Twisungane Cooperative farmers in three primary areas.  They included livestock management, water catchment techniques for their farms in advance of the upcoming seasonal drought period, and the cooperative’s requests for funding from TFH for income producing projects.

The Twisungane group is being challenged to learn the basics of business plan development.  Tools for Hope encourages development of sustainable, self-sufficient, income producing projects by the farmers.  The farmers need such projects because their small farms cannot be enlarged and as such cannot produce adequate incomes for a suitable lifestyle.

Training Farmers to Take Care of Their Livestock

Feeding livestock based on nutrient needs.

With help from veterinarians and agronomists, farmers can get aid in evaluating their forage for its nutrient content.  Frank encourages the farmers to adapt best forage varieties.  Frank contacted the Rwandan Agricultural Board’s livestock department for help on different feeding varieties that can help our farmers.  By knowing the nutrient requirements of their livestock, they may be able to prevent overfeeding.

One goal of such a strategy is to help our Rwandan farmers do their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions e.g., methane.

This picture shows a proper cattle barn.  This was used as an example to the Twisungane farmers.

Water Catchment in Preparation for Drought Season

We are approaching the drought period.  In late May the farmers began harvesting their crops and preparing to enter Season C which is known for its extended period of drought.  Few farmers cultivate in this season.  With good techniques the Twisungane farmers will be able to raise some crops during season C.

Some land use management techniques that Frank highlighted to the farmers included the following.

  • The use of conservation agriculture or the no-till farming system. This simply means, leaving the crop residues on the field after harvesting and with minimum tillage when sowing.  We have done research on this no till farming and farmers are now encouraged to use the method during drought season.
  • Farmers were also encouraged to use methods such as mulching and other farming techniques like furrow and ridges. Also, farmers were encouraged to keep the rainwater through different water reservoirs they can afford, like digging holes for keeping runoff water, and catching water from their house tops/roofs.
  • Another choice is to use native crops varieties or drought tolerant crop varieties. This depends on the water requirement of the crop and linking them with weather and climate forecasting info from meteorology agency (METEO- Rwanda) which gives this information each season.  Farmers can use the PICSA approach to plan for seasonal agriculture activities.
  • Fallow periods leave the land without any disturbance and allow the weeds to grow and give the land a chance to regenerate. Cultivation can begin in the next season.

Above is the illustration used to show farmers the furrow and ridges technique they may use to store water to be used by their crops.

Twisungane Proposed Projects and their Progress on Business Plan Development

With Frank’s help the Twisungane have named three projects that they would like Tools for Hope (TFH) to fund.  The projects and associated funding request are:

  1. Motorcycle / transportation business: $ 2,800.00 (for purchase of a second motorcycle taxi)
  2. Pigs’ business: $ 1,250.00 (5 pigs, each will cost $ 250)
  3. Sewing clothes business: $ 1,500.00 (For 3 sewing machines plus other starter tools)

They are requesting 100% funding at no interest and no ‘recourse.’  TFH is willing to loan the funds on such terms provided that each project is described properly in a basic business plan. (e.g., project description, market analysis, competitive landscape, operating structure, sales strategies, financial health and future)

Our requirement for project business plans is based in the following reasoning.  Long-term, such lenient loan terms as offered by TFH would undermine local lenders i.e., commercial lenders cannot compete with ‘free money.’  By undermining local lenders TFH undermines the Twisungane cooperative’s ability to secure future loans locally thus breeding long-term reliance on charity.  By developing the knowledge and skills they need to create a project business plan that is a practical ‘roadmap to success’ the cooperative members help to ensure their future ability to get project funding on their own i.e., independent of TFH.  This is a core value and guiding principle of Tools for Hope, Inc.

The Way Forward

Things are now getting back to normal, and farmers are now busy looking into how best to support their families.   Their children are back to school as usual.    There are still challenges on how they can work with banks because some of them have no collateral.

The issue of business planning is an important one.  Early on when TFH began working the Twisungane group most people had little or no hope of a future.  This worsened their poverty because it encouraged them to spend any extra money at once on ‘goodies.’  A common saying among them was “tomorrow is for tomorrow’s people” meaning that they primarily focused on living for today.  This has changed and continues to change.  They are learning to plan for a better future for themselves and their children.  Given the low level of literacy among the group, it is a difficult challenge for them culturally, economically, socially, and technically.

Thank you for your help!

Tools for Hope

 





May 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.
Together you, the Twisungane Cooperative farmers, Frank Mutesa, and Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) with help from Rwanda governmental agencies, have gone far in the past five years.  We have further goals which will require us to travel together to reach.
In addition to becoming much better farmers, the Twisungane group members are becoming effective entrepreneurs.  This monthly newsletter discusses new goals to further improve the standard of living for the cooperative members and their surrounding community.


Leveraging Supply and Demand in the Local Food Markets
For practical purposes, harvest times in Rwanda occur simultaneously.  Across the country, in smaller communities, food preservation techniques are lacking i.e., for many years discarded spoiled food exceeded the amount of food consumed.  The effect on food prices was to depress them at harvest time and to increase them later as the harvested food spoiled, and edible food became scarcer.   This worsened the financial and health problems facing subsistence farmers.
Frank Mutesa has been working to increase awareness of better ways of achieving food preservation.  Also, he has helped the farmers see that they need to make food preservation one their top priorities.  This combats hunger and adds value to their harvested crops.
All our farmers are following food preservation techniques.  In addition, they have agreed not to sell their harvested crops at once after harvest when prices are typically low.  So, they are now working to improve their preservation techniques and to add value to their crops.  By ‘buying low’ and ‘selling high’ in the local food markets the farmers can improve their overall well-being.             


Projects Under Consideration
Tools for Hope Directors, Frank, and the Twisungane group leaders have several projects under consideration.  As discussed previously, the farmers cannot produce enough from their small plots to sustain an adequate lifestyle.  There is little opportunity for them to enlarge their landholdings and similarly there is little opportunity for full-time, steady (formal) employment.  Therefore, non-agricultural, income producing projects take on increased importance in improving their lives.  TFH will supply (interest free, no recourse) funding for their projects where the projects are well thought out i.e., where there is a basic business plan showing a ‘road-map’ to success for the project.
Some projects under discussion are.

  • Purchasing a second motorbike taxi:  Such transportation is popular everywhere in Rwanda.  Their first motorbike taxi business is working well even with the COVID-19 travel restrictions.   Many in the group are familiar with such taxi operations.  TFH has agreed to loan funds for a second motorbike once the Twisungane group has repaid one-half of their original loan.  This is based on our belief that the group can manage the added loan repayment burden because of their reliable performance with the first taxi i.e., repayment has been particularly good, they have kept the motorbike in good condition, and have met all legal / administrative requirements.
 Raising Pigs and Poultry:  The business plans for these two projects are under development.  There are resources available to Frank and the farmers to address the basic questions a business plan should address. See for example   https://www.thepigsite.com/country/rw and https://www.thepoultrysite.com/country/rw

Those and similar resources (academic and governmental) can supply information and best practices for the farmers e.g., Rwanda Pig Farmers' Association and the Rwanda Poultry Association. 

Sewing: The group has found three ladies who have earlier experience with sewing.  The proposal for the sewing project thus far, is simply to buy three sewing machines.  TFH will work with Frank and the group to refine the project plan.
TFH believes that skill in producing practical business plans is crucial to the long-term success of the Twisungane Cooperative.  With a good business plan the cooperative should be able to secure financing for all their future projects.
 TFH encourages a basic business plan addressing the following in adequate detail.
  • The goals of the project
  • How the business will make money
  • What the project needs to get started
  • The operating budget
  • Customer Identification
  • How the project will reach customers its
  • The effect of competition
  • Outline project strengths and weaknesses
  • How the project measures success
Fruit Trees
In addition to projects which may produce incomes in the near-term, Frank is encouraging the farmers to plant fruits trees on their individual farms.   Frank discusses with them the benefits of having fruits trees in their compounds and on their farms as well.  In Rwanda there is a huge demand for fruit.  Rwanda relies on imports for mango, oranges, apples, passion fruit, and many other fruits.  Research shows the soil of Rwanda will support these types of fruit trees. 
The way forward
This COVID-19 is still hindering some progress about the sustainable development journey, because of some restrictions including lockdowns and curfews in Rwanda.  But slowly the government is trying to bring the life back to normal and many people have taken their COVID vaccines doses therefore we believe things will be better soon.   
 

Tools For Hope, Inc.
1540 Robinson Road
Knoxville, TN 37923
http://www.toolsforhope.org/

 

 

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.

 

 






April 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

Introduction
Frank Mutesa, Tools for Hope (TFH) Rwandan agricultural mentor, continued to train and encourage the Twisungane Cooperative farmers.  
During March, the most important agricultural activities were weeding, pest, and pathogen control.
During April we expect to begin the clean water treatment trials, with the consent and approval of the Twisungane Cooperative leadership.  
Frank continued encouraging food preservation in the Twisungane community to ensure they are not losing their yield due to lack of proper preservation. 
TFH and cooperative representatives continued discussions on projects enabling sustainable development e.g., an added motorcycle taxi, and sewing machines for a tailoring business.
 
Weeding, Pests and Disease Control Techniques
When weeding is not done on time farmers can lose more than 50% of their yield, as weeds compete with their crop for nutrients necessary for crop growth.  To reach sustainable and decent quality production in agriculture they employ specific and frequent management methods for crop growth.  Management involves deciding which activities to follow in each stage.  TFH continues to train and encourage farmers in all those aspects. 
 
In March, the most important agriculture activities are weeding, pest, and disease control.  Many of our farmers cultivated beans in this season and the weeding activity was done using a hand-held hoe.  This is an important activity in agriculture, because if not done on time, then farmers can lose more than 50% of their yield, as weeds compete with crops for nutrients.

TFH also helps farmers in detecting and finding deficiency symptoms in their crops.  Frank mentors them in differentiating between nutrient deficiencies by field observations and, pest and disease damage to the crops. 
Frank’s primary role is to encourage good management.   To that end he explains to our farmers the danger of not doing the weeding on time and its importance in agriculture and crop production.  Weeds are an important biotic constraint to crop production because they compete with crops for the same resources i.e., water, nutrients, light, and carbon dioxide.  Frank is simplifying the scientific language for local understanding and is happy that our farmers have understood these concepts.  Farmers have understood that weeds can be the alternate hosts for crop pest and pathogens, and they are the major yield reducing factors.  This knowledge is very important to farmers and it is good that they put this knowledge in practice.    
 
Clean Water and Food Preservation Technologies
In Rwanda, an estimated 57% of the population has access to safe drinking water within 30 minutes of their homes.  The issue of available, clean water is significant for our community.  Presently, they boil their water to make sure bacteria are killed. Boiling their water is expensive for smallholder farmers and poor families. 
TFH is trying to supply a solution for this issue.  Our proposed solution is based on using specially manufactured ceramic filter units.  The units are inexpensive and last for several years with little to no maintenance.  The input water can come from mud puddles or polluted streams.  We have 3 such ceramic water filter units to be evaluated by the farmers. 
As always, we have discussed this with our farmers.  They are asking for more explanations about how the ceramic filtration system works.  Some of them have used mud pots in the past to filter water, and they think that our proposed ceramic filters are in some way like those mud pots. 
Frank spends the necessary time with the farmers to answer their questions and to explain how the proposed system will work.  (the ceramic filters are impregnated with silver to kill pathogens in the water, the filters also are made with holes small enough to filter out pathogens and still allow water to flow through; such filters are highly effective.  TFH proposes to add a step to ensure that the filtered water is pathogen free i.e., via a solar disinfection technique)

Frank also continued his discussions with the farmers on the issue of food preservation.  This is one of the TFH high priority goals towards sustainable development. 
The oldest methods of preservation are drying, refrigeration, and fermentation.  More modern methods include canning, pasteurization, freezing, irradiation, and adding of chemicals.  Our farmers are now using drying and fermentation (sour milk) systems and adding chemicals to aid in preservation.  TFH encourages farmers to keep using the safest ways of preservation according to their capability and financial means.  Most of our farmers lack the financial means to apply the modern methods of preservation and lack of modern and advanced packaging materials e.g., canning or pasteurization.   
 
Non-Agricultural Enterprises for Sustainable Development 
TFH and Twisungane farmers agreed together that, the development of smallholder farmers cannot just be achieved with agriculture alone.  Although their agriculture is improving day by day, however because of the size of their land and lack of modern technologies, agricultural development for them is extremely limited. 
They need other, non-agricultural alternatives.  TFH and the farmers continue to discuss and investigate other business channels that Twisungane cooperative may engage in e.g., their transportation business, selling small items that are consumed in the community.  They are also focusing on businesses that our women can engaged in.  They are now discussing the tailoring business. 
The cooperative members and Frank are encouraging TFH (USA) to supply support to buy three sewing machines and another motorcycle for the taxi business.  TFH supplies such funding when the farmers present a workable business plan and loan repayment agreement.  
 
The Way Forward
Twisungane farmers are doing their best to plan for their future with the help of TFH.  Frank is now collaborating with the farmers to develop the necessary business plans as bases for the support to continue expanding their business and be able to take care of other pending projects. 
 




http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.
 

 





March 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

Introduction
Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) magnifies donor support by combining it with profits from Rwandan small-holder farmer run enterprises.  Each dollar donated to TFH is multiplied by incomes from businesses mentored by TFH and started with no-interest loans from TFH.  Thank you for helping to make a positive difference in the lives of the Twisungane group families.

During the current pandemic it is especially important for the Rwandan farmers to use the best agricultural methods to secure a stable, nutritious supply of food. 

The Twisungane cooperative combines their agriculture activities with non-agricultural activities to make money.  The combination is necessary, and often the only barrier to malnutrition / starvation, because at best the small-holder farmers cannot produce enough food or income from their farms to sustain themselves.

Tools for Hope Increases the Impact of Donor Funding
TFH has exceptionally low overhead costs (e.g., no paid employees except for Frank our mentor to the Rwandan farmers, no office rent, web-site fees, etc.).  More importantly however is the remarkably positive impact TFH has on the community with which it works i.e., the Twisungane Cooperative.  
TFH lends at zero interest for the length of time needed to ensure the business enterprise can repay the loan and meet all its other obligations based on a business plan agreed to by the farmers and TFH.  In Rwanda currently interest rates for such loans approach 20% annually, and the length of the loans is limited to one year.

Loan repayment funds are kept in our Rwandan bank account (in the name of our employee Frank Mutesa) to be used to help fund future projects.  Loan repayment following the established business plan serves to help train the Twisungane cooperative members in the skills needed to develop and run future profitable businesses.  The goal is for the cooperative to be able to succeed in their businesses without any help from TFH, one day soon.

Currently, Twisungane cooperative members have two income producing projects.  They have a motorcycle taxi business and a goat raising business.  We are in discussions with them to loan funds for another motorcycle for the taxi business and have extended the repayment time by one year for the goats’ loans.  We are also in discussions with them about developing a garment-making and tailoring business plan.

The motorcycle business is doing very well, and the loan is being repaid properly.  Current plans are to loan the funds for a second motorcycle when the group has repaid one-half of the present loan.  Half of those funds will come from our Rwandan bank account which the farmers paid into to repay their first loan.  We extended the time for the farmers to repay the loans for the goats because of the negative financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the farmers.  This will allow the goat populations to increase for another twelve months making repayment much easier for the farmers.

Seasonal Planting
February starts agriculture season B, which is characterized by moderate rainfalls.  Crops that do not need a lot of water are mostly cultivated.  Farmers were shown how to use effective systems of cultivation in case they meet demanding situations like heavy rainfalls or less than expected rainfall.  These systems included, mulching, intercropping, ridges, and furrows, digging water reservoirs, integrated soil fertility management, weeding techniques done on time, use of pesticides and small-scale irrigation methods. 
 Many of them are cultivating beans during this season.  They also have banana in their fields.  Frank discovered that they do not manage properly their banana plantings.  Frank visited their farms and give them technical support on how to work / manage their banana plantings and, to show them how to do proper intercropping as well.

Planning Clean Water Issues and Proposed Projects
Twisungane committee members and Frank concluded that as soon as the Madidrops are available we will at once start the clean water trials. 

We evaluated ongoing projects and discussed the way forward for other business ideas and projects that can be introduced in the future. 


The way forward
Life for Twisungane cooperative is now promising because they have reached the mutual understanding that, they must work together and joining their efforts in planning for the future without fear of starting something new.  They are waiting for the chance to expand their businesses. 

 




http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.






February 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter



Introduction

In January, at its quarterly meeting, the Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) Board of Directors decided to extend repayment of the loan for the twenty-two goats to eleven Twisungane families until March 2022.  This allows the farmers an added year in which to grow their goat population, making it less burdensome to repay the loans.  The Board also decided to loan funds for another motorcycle once repayment for the current loan reaches a satisfactory level and, to fund sewing machines for the Twisungane cooperative.  (All TFH loans have zero-interest.)
Trials of the ceramic water filtration systems have started.  Three volunteer families are evaluating the systems.  If the systems are acceptable, TFH will work to help provide each family in the Twisungane cooperative with their own filtration unit.
We have been considering digital innovations and how to introduce them to our farmers.  World-wide there are many innovations (e.g., ‘apps’) that have exciting potential in helping subsistence farmers.  Suitable innovations will help development of rural communities through digital technology and the ‘internet of things.’ 
During January, we reviewed the existing knowledge base and preferences of the farmers about food preservation.     
During January, the seasonal agricultural activities started as usual.  The no-till farming trials were successful.  Now the farmers are using the technique where workable.


Introducing Digital Technology to our Farmers

Digital technology in agriculture may be able to help in areas such as marketing, financial services, crop insurance services, data-driven targeted application of fertilizers and pesticides, securing weather forecast data, climate information, and soil moisture sensors, etc.  Digital technology is getting greater emphasis in African agriculture.  Use of digital technology may seem too sophisticated for smallholder farmers however, we believe that there are strategies we can implement to help the farmers take advantage of digital technology.  For example, we may be able to set up the equivalent of agricultural extension agents to help the farmers in understanding and using internet connected devices such as smartphones.

A first step may be for the Twisungane cooperative to obtain a few smartphones.  In Rwanda, such cellphones cost $100.00 each, plus service fees.  With the phones, smallholder farmers can access more useful information.  Such access can revolutionize how rural communities secure their livelihood.

In Rwanda, most rural communities can access the internet.  In our Twisungane cooperative homes we counted only two smartphones among twenty-two members.  Such smartphones are expensive for our farmers however, we need to show them the advantages in having smartphones for their development journey. 
Farmers need prompt and correct information in the same way any small enterprise does.  Smallholder farmers may get information through cell phones such as,

  1. weather and climate forecasting from national climatology/METEO agency.
  2. market information to buy inputs (seeds and fertilizers) and, to sell their products.
  3. irrigation and fertilizer advice for their crops.
  4. access crop protection advice and insurance.

Farmer Food Preservation Preferences
Food preservation is a valuable tool that our smallholder farmers can use to manage the small amount of crops they have.  A lot of their harvest is lost due to improper food preservation techniques.  TFH gathered information and made an analysis of the food preservation methods that are more preferred and useful to the farmers’ condition. 
Our farmers have their preferences and knowledge in some types of food preservation.  TFH met with them and saw some mismanagement caused by lack of knowledge about food preservation, and lack of proper tools.  Some of the crops which they cultivate can be preserved e.g., maize, beans, cassava, sorghum, Irish potato, and sweet potato.  They are reviving and using traditional preservation methods such as sun drying, salting, and cooling by digging a hole to store crops like cassava and potato, and changing some crops into flour to be used later.


Our Twisungane farmers are still having problems preserving some items such as fruits, and some vegetables.  Our farmers know they lack the knowledge and ability necessary in some of food preservation techniques such as canning, vacuum packing, sugaring, and chilling. 
Frank has been teaching farmers the benefits of food preservation such as,

  1. Save money - avoid buying more than they can use / preserve.
  2. Proper food preservation can help keep some of the food quality.
  3. Proper food preservation stops the growth of bacteria in food.

 
Agricultural Season B Preparations
The agricultural season B started, and farmers were busy preparing for what to plant.    TFH encourages smallholder farmers to incorporate in their planning the PICSA approach (the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture approach evaluates current and historical climate information to predict local rainfall for the upcoming agricultural season).  
At the beginning of each agricultural season Frank usually visits every one of our farmers to talk to them and to hear what they are planning and give them necessary advice that is tailored to their needs. 
TFH is also encouraging farmers to plan together starting within the family (husband, wife, and children), this makes their family bonds stronger and, in doing so they can prosper together.  After learning to plan as a team, they are better prepared to seek more advice from other farmers and, from local government agronomists where available.


Frank checked the possible agriculture inputs like fertilizers / manure, seeds if available and, field preparations.  This included checking their tools that might help them. 
The owner of the collective farm that Twisungane usually cultivate, at this time, has taken it back and Twisungane now are doing farming only on their individual farms (also rented).  Frank will follow up and see what TFH can do.

The way forward
Farmers need to be introduced to digital ways of getting information to help them in their agricultural and business activities and to improve their overall knowledge to cope with life better.  Smartphones can be especially important in their transition to more modern and productive ways of working.  Food preservation is still an issue and we will put more emphasis and find the best sustainable solution of their farm produce.    

 




http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.

 



 





January 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

 

I
Introduction
 
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 will continue into January 2021 because of different planting times and different crops.  Those who planted beans are now harvesting and those who planted corn/maize during this season will be harvesting 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 are 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.
 




http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.
 





December 2020 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

 

Introduction
Frank Mutesa (Tools for Hope mentor to the farmers) has been collaborating with the Twisungane cooperative farmers helping them to fight pests and diseases.   These problems arise during November as the temperatures favor the occurrence of many pests and diseases.

During November Frank had an opportunity to discuss with the Twisungane farmers issues involved with obtaining new loans from Tools for Hope in addition to those they have now.  (TFH loans are interest free)

The Twisungane community suffers from a lack of affordable, nearby, clean water.  Tools for Hope (TFH) is exploring solutions for this issue.  We have already bought ceramic water filters to evaluate the viability of ceramic filtration.  We need to find out if this technique will work in our farmer’s area.

Food preservation is one of the most critical problems that the farmers need to solve to combat hunger.  Most of their crop yields are lost or sold at minimum market prices because farmers have no suitable techniques for food preservation.
 
Crops Get Appropriate Care in the Fight Against Pests and Diseases
Rwanda has four seasons.  Their short dry season is from December to February, March through May is a long rainy season, June to August is known as the long dry season, and September to November is the short rainy season.  In November, at the end of the short rainy season farmers need to be careful and always ready to work on their farms.

During a rainy season, crops tend to be more affected with pests and diseases because of the favorable conditions for insects and other diseases on wet soil and cool temperatures.  Pests and diseases are difficult to fight when you do not have adequate skills and knowledge. 
The farmers had to be trained and shown the techniques to help them know which pesticides and insecticides that can be used and, to know which kinds of pests and diseases that are affecting their crops.  Frank showed them the various symptoms and, how to know the fungal signs. He is helping them to get rid of these pests and diseases.

Frank encouraged the farmers continually to visit their farms, especially during the rainy season to see what is happening to their farms.  If they detect any signs on the leaves and they do not know what it is, they call Frank at once and he gives them the prompt technical support they need.

Frank helped the farmers on their individual farms and on their cooperative farm.  Farmers managed to apply the required pesticides often enough.  We always recommended that they follow all the protocols that agro-dealers offer.
 
Loan Request Discussions with Twisungane Committee Members 
TFH is not just helping the Twisungane cooperative with sustainable agriculture development, but we also help with other economic development paths.  TFH has supplied loans to Twisungane farmers for off-farm income producing activities.  Developing these activities is essential because off-farm employment is difficult to find and pays little.  TFH is considering giving them more loans because, farmers are repaying their TFH loans very well.  They have now repaid more than a half Million Rwandan francs (> 500,000 Frw) towards the TFH loan they received for the purchase of their motorcycle transportation service.  They are also on schedule to repay the TFH loans they received in March to buy twenty-two goats.

Frank has been discussing with the committee members the possibility of requesting more loans from TFH to expand their businesses, to continue their journey of sustainable development.  They discussed the possibilities of paying them in the same way as they do to the earlier loans.  TFH is their foundation on the issue of getting loans and the loans are the roadmap for their success.

Usually, poor families in Africa are not considered for loans from banks because most of them are not well trained on loan issues, do not have steady employment, and have no assets to provide as loan security.  TFH has tackled these problems and trained the farmers on various techniques and ways to manage loans.   

Based on their discussions with Frank, the Twisungane group now would like to request loans for another motorcycle and for more livestock, especially goats.  This is a group request, however there are also individuals who may want TFH loans.  Frank is discussing with them the possibility of requesting helpful loans that they will be able to manage and to repay properly.  

Working on Clean Water Issues
Frank had also time to review the issues of water purification and how best to deal with their water problem.  The Twisungane community suffers from a lack of affordable, nearby, clean water (closest is ~ 3 miles away).  Tools for Hope (TFH) is exploring solutions for this issue.  We bought ceramic filters to evaluate the viability of ceramic filtration.  We need to find out if this technique will work in our farmer’s area.  To be acceptable the filters must supply clean water at a reasonable cost and be viewed by the farmers as safe, practical, and dependable.

Frank has received three ceramic water filters from a supplier in Tanzania.  These will be used in combination with Madidrop+ tablets to start treating water for domestic (potable) use.  These three first units will be used in evaluating the water cleaning efficacy of the filters.

Above are the ceramic filters that will be used for water treatment activity.
 

Training Farmers on Food Preservation Techniques
Food preservation is one of the most critical problems that the farmers need to solve because it is one of the best ways for them to combat hunger.  Most of their crop yields are lost, damaged, consumed at once, or sold at minimum market prices because farmers lack proper techniques of food / crop preservation. 

Food preservation presents difficult and daunting activities for our farmers, especially for some vegetables which may need canning techniques.  However, some of the crops which they can easily preserve such as maize, beans, cassava, sorghum, sweet potato, and Irish potatoes, are not very well known to the poor families.  We have managed to show them and are helping them with technical support on how to preserve these for future use, especially during dry seasons.

Farmers are starting to apply preservation techniques to their harvested beans and maize/corn.  They are using some old / traditional technologies as well as modern chemicals to fight pests and some insects that damage the harvested yields of beans, cassava, and maize.  We are now trying to develop canning methods.  We will start with some few members of the Twisungane.  Frank will seek advice from TFH staff in the USA.  These efforts will help us defeat hunger among the cooperative members.



 
At left is the old method of preserving maize/corn which is still used in Rwanda by many farmers.  This method is used when corn/maize is stored for later use by turning this to maize flour for the preparation of a local meal known as “Ugali” the maize local cake.  On the far right, is the canning technology which we are eager to learn and to be able to preserve vegetables and legumes for future use.

 
The way forward
Based on their progress the farmers should be able to manage added loans from Tools for Hope, in the next few months.  We do not want to get them into too much debt nor, do we want to slow their economic progress.  Presently, a typical Twisungane family may spend up to 50% of their annual income on food.  With good off-farm income producing activities they should be able to drive that percentage much lower. 
As mentioned, bank loans are unavailable to the farmers.  Because of their (previous) lack of money, savings, financial and organizational skills, they had no way to develop their own investment capital.  Your financial support for Tools for Hope helps us help the farmers help themselves.  Thank you for your faithful, continued support of their efforts.


 

http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.



November 2020 Tools for Hope Newsletter

NOVEMBER 17, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

Tools for Hope

 

Introduction

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.

Clean Water

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.

 

 

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

October 2020 Tools for Hope Newsletter

OCTOBER 13, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

Tools for Hope

Introduction

The Twisungane farmer cooperative has been doing great, all their projects have been successful.

Their goat project has been going very well, all their goats have given birth.  This has been a wonderful experience.  It shows how well the farmers can manage their own projects with the help of Tools for Hope (TFH) guidance.  Their goats are kept in good conditions.

The off-farm project of their motorcycle transportation business is doing very well.  Their revenue is good, and they continue to pay the loan as agreed upon.

During September, Frank Mutesa (TFH employee / mentor / consultant) worked on clean water issues.  Sufficient, clean water has been one of the critical issues because during this season of heavy rains, they tend to get too much dirty water.  Frank has been discussing this with their local leaders.

Frank and the farmers are still doing preparations for this planting season, 2020-2021 Season A. Frank teaches them how to calculate rainfall distribution data from METEO-RWANDA, and to plan what crops to cultivate and which agricultural system to use as regards the amount of rainfall predicted for this season.

Frank also tackled the food preservation techniques issues.  Frank reviewed the farmers current preservation techniques, what they lack, and what TFH can do to help them.

Motorcycle Taxi Business

When they get money from their motorcycle transport business, they deposit it at once to secure their loan and have some to their own account.  When they get the money from their motorcycle transport business, they deposit it at once to their loan repayment account and some to their own account.  TFH monitors their progress monthly via their bank account statements.

Continuing Goat Project Monitoring, Evaluations, and Training

September has been dominated by monitoring and by evaluations of the farmers’ goat project.  Frank did this by going door to door and looking at each goat.  Frank assessed their status and, recommended actions needed accordingly.  Frank is happy to say that all goats have given birth, and this is a good sign.  The goat project has been doing well.  This has been a wonderful experience and shows how well the farmers can manage their own projects with the help of TFH guidance.

TFH gave the lady in the picture above 2 goats and now she has 6 goats.  She is taking diligent care of them and she is getting all the benefits e.g., milk, and manure for her farming especially for her vegetable garden (known as a kitchen garden).  This is typical of the eleven families that each received two goats via one-year loans from TFH in March of this year.  Each family will repay their loans with the proceeds from the sale of two of their goats in March 2021.

 

The picture above is of an older gentleman who was given 2 goats.  He has 5 goats now.  He very much appreciates the program.  He told us he wants to start a business of selling meat.  Now he is looking for other 2 goats and after 6 months he will have lots of goats and can start his business.  Frank and TFH are helping him in shaping this idea to see if he may be able to succeed in his planned business.

All the goats from the Tools for Hope (TFH) loans have now multiplied.  Those families who got the fewest (baby goats or kids) now have 4 goats, while those having the most kids have 8 goats, from the 2 goats given to each farmer.  Their goats are kept in good conditions.  What they must improve is the goat houses, some of them are poor and uncomfortable barns.

Frank had an opportunity to show them how to successfully prepare compost using the goat manure.  Frank taught them to prepare a good pit for the manure and to make sure they used something to cover the pile to keep the nitrogen from volatilization (see for example http://cceonondaga.org/resources/nitrogen-basics-the-nitrogen-cycle), and to do a regular mix-up to ensure a proper decomposition. Doing so will result in an excellent quality and a well decomposed manure ready to be used.  Frank encourages them to keep doing better on both agriculture and other development activities outside farming.

Clean Water issues Involving the Farmers and their Local Leaders

TFH is now working on getting better access to clean(er) water for our farmers.  We see a possibility of getting ceramic water filters from a manufacturing company in Tanzania.  A trial set (3) of Madidrop+ tablets is on order to be shipped from the USA to Frank.  We are now in talks with the ceramic filter company to buy three filters.  In days ahead we will evaluate these systems i.e., filtered water will get added treatment from the Madidrop tablets.

Meanwhile we are talking with the farmers to understand what they are willing to try to have clean water.  All proposed TFH solutions must meet the approval of the farmers.  Problem solution must be a team effort for the solutions to be practical and sustainable for the long-term.

During this rainy season, farmers tend to get too much dirty water.  We have been discussing this with their local leaders.  The leaders see the possibility of boiling drinking water to minimize the diseases that coming from the dirty water.  They are looking for ways of filtering water prior to getting the ceramic water filters.  We are in discussions with the local leaders in charge of social welfare about any source(s) of clean water nearer their area.

We have checked available water sources.  Most of the farmers get their water from the river.  That river water is dirty water, but it is the only water that is near their village.  Tap (well) water is far from where the Twisungane farmers live.  They walk for ~3.7 miles to get that tap water.  They pay ~$0.35, for 5.3 gal. of water, which weighs 45 Lb. with container.

Preparation for Agriculture 2020-2021 Season A

The PICSA (Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture) approach is being used until in the middle of the season.  Farmers are encouraged to listen to the information broadcast on the radio about the predicted rainfall for this season.  When they have this predicted rain fall information, they can decide what to do if they use the PICSA approach.  PICSA helps the farmer to know the right crop to cultivate, the agriculture system to use, the right variety to be used, and the right input(s) to prepare.  Applying the knowledge from the PICSA approach will help them to make good investments in their time, labor, and finances.  Moreover, soon they will be able to calculate their cost-benefit ratio(s) (Frank is going to teach them this soon).

Food Preservation

We have been encouraging the farmers to be careful to secure their food needs.  Improved food preservation is one of our 2020 goals.  The food preservation methods that we have been discussing with our farmers involve ways of keeping their crop yields safe for longer-term storage and to be able to use them efficiently.

Some of the local techniques used for crops include

  • maize – preserve in form of flour,
  • cassava – preserved in form of flour, or kept in the pits as cassava roots,
  • beans – are kept in a sack with pesticide to prevents insect attack which helps beans keep from being spoiled.

The Way forward

Farmers and their local leaders are really working hard to secure a better tomorrow and they are glad TFH is doing all it can to push our rural people and to equip them with the right knowledge and mentality to achieve their sustainable development. They have now understood that they can also make it to a good life.  And this was done by doing.  (from Frank “TFH is a “do program” if I may say”).  We focus on activities/works rather than words, and that’s why farmers can see it with their own eyes.

Frank encourages them to keep doing better on both agriculture and other development activities outside farming.

Thanks to the TFH USA for the support, the Twisungane farmers are very much humbled and they are sending their warm greetings to all TFH staff and supporters in the USA.  God bless you all.

 

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

September 2020 Tools for Hope Newsletter

SEPTEMBER 16, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN 2 COMMENTS (EDIT)

September 2020 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

 

Introduction
August was a great time for farmers all over Rwanda to prepare for their next agricultural season, known as season A (starting in late September).  August was the proper time for Tools for Hope (TFH) employee Frank Mutesa to go from farm to farm to give encouragement to the farmers and to show them the best way to prepare for good agriculture production.  Frank collaborated with the farmers to show and to explain soil testing.

Frank also had time to discuss management plans for the Twisungane group’s businesses and projects.  During this time of coronavirus pandemic, all Twisungane projects must be managed well, and all the members must be aware of each and everyone’s responsibilities.

Frank also focused on livestock keeping.  This is another issue that our farmers were not doing well, and Frank is focusing on effective training to aid the farmers in resolving their identified problems.

TFH is working on all aspects of life for these farmers.  TFH, and Frank, really want the farmers to have better lives and this, we believe, starts with changing their mindsets about certain issues.  They just need the right coaching and encouragement and, the right people in their lives.  TFH is giving farmers the inputs and right principles needed in agriculture, helping the farmers to start their own businesses, and giving the proper knowledge for everyday life (e.g. hygiene, financial planning, food security).

Soil Fertility Management and Testing Improves Food Production
As the Rwandan agricultural planting season approaches (Season A), farmers need to be ready with all the necessary first activities prepared and done.  Last month Frank began helping the farmers use the PICSA (Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture) approach. PICSA evaluates historical climate information and uses straight-forward tools to help farmers choose crop, livestock, and livelihood options best suited to individual farmers’ circumstances.  Making the right choice can be critical to the survival of subsistence farm families.

Frank did a tour to determine how well our farmers are prepared with soil fertility issues. With help from some technicians from the Rwandan Agricultural Board, Frank and the technicians walked around the village where our farmers reside making the farmers aware of how to manage soils, improve soil fertility, encouraging them to test their soil, and to know the nutrients/ essential elements needed. Soil testing is not expensive, and the results can help improve the crop yield by using the necessary inputs at the right rates.

Many farmers were not aware of the importance of soil fertility and the importance of knowing the status of it.  Some think this is entirely some job of the big and rich farmers.  However, this is a mind-set Frank looks to change.  He is explaining to them that this is a ‘must do’ job and it does not require a lot of money.  For example, the cost for testing and analysis for the essential elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) for one sample is 5000 Rwandan francs, equivalent to ~$5.00.

On-going Projects and Plans for Others
During this COVID-19 pandemic, many folks’ businesses have been shrinking and are in bleak condition.  For the small businesses to thrive during this time, they need proper monitoring and planning.

It is in this regard that Frank has been watching and helping our farmers to perform the essential and important monitoring and evaluation of their business activities.  There are two types of businesses /projects our farmers are engaged in; one is the motorcycle transportation / taxi business, and second is the rearing of goats for multiple purposes.

Now in Rwanda due to the social distancing issues, all means of transporting people and goods have been increased and their motorcycle business is booming with lots of customers. So Frank is now closely monitoring them and helping them to follow best business practices.  For example, making sure they have sanitizers, and effective metering for taxi charges to avoid fees for not following such required measures.

Frank has also been observing the goat project, house by house, seeing how they are managing the goats.  Frank has been checking on the feeding, health, and shelter for the goats.  Many of the farmers were not maintaining proper shelter for their goats, therefore Frank has been teaching them how to make and manage proper barns.

Frank has been emphasizing regular cleaning to help fight diseases and protect the goats’ health.  Frank has been checking the feeding materials and where they get the grass and which types.  Frank found their feeding sites and types of grass are all right, but they need more, and Frank will check whether he can get good grass types that help in goats’ welfare.  Frank knows of some good types of fodder grass that can be grown in their field strips.


Frank found two goats that were not in good health.  After monitoring, proper discussions, and advice from Frank, they found proper medication and began looking for proper feeding materials.  Frank believes these goats will recover soon.  The other goats are all looking good and Frank is always there to help our farmers in whatever technical advice they need.

Livestock Care and Feeding Plans
After seeing that some of our farmers were not keeping their goats in a proper surroundings, Frank started a campaign of looking in all the livestock our Twisungane have and encouraging them to change and have good barns for their livestock and do regular cleaning for their livestock’s health. Some of them have cattle which are not kept in a good condition at all.  This campaign is raising their awareness and encouraging them to think positively.  There is a mindset that poor people cannot have clean things.  Frank is working at changing that mindset and replacing it with “cleanness is the choice.”  Frank emphasizes that they have a choice of making things right.

The tropics, where Rwanda is, have climates which support a lot of bacteria and other microorganisms some of which can be harmful to human and animal health.   Therefore, regular cleanings and proper barns for livestock shelter help reduced health risks that might lead to the death of livestock and increase the risks to human health.

Take as an example the conditions of the above cow.  This is what Frank is concerned about.  Farmers need to take health and hygiene issues seriously and to make sure they take good care of their livestock.  Frank can help them find some trees to make a simple barn, and to make sure they do proper cleaning and collection of the manure and to keep it in a compost bin for agricultural use. This is what Frank is encouraging our farmers to do.  These maintenance activities need proper planning.  Being poor is not an excuse for dirtiness.

TFH is working on all aspects of life for these farmers, Frank really wants these farmers to have better lives, and this, Frank believe starts with changing their mindset.  Frank and we believe they can.  They just need the right instruction and encouragement and the right people in their lives.  TFH is a right organization for this purpose, giving farmers the ideas and right principles needed in agriculture, helping farmers to start their own businesses, and giving the right knowledge for everyday life.  Frank and we are seeing good changes, some of them are also helping us to help the larger community.
The Way Forward
Frank and the farmers are preparing the next agriculture season, which is the cornerstone of many of our group members.   Frank and the farmers are managing very well all the Twisungane businesses.  Frank ensures their TFH loan payments are made regularly.  Usually they deposit the agreed amount in two weeks’ time.

And for the goat project, Frank is encouraging the farmers to take meticulous care of the goats so that they will be able to start paying their loan next year.

Frank would like to pass the greetings from Twisungane members, they are more than grateful for all you have done to them.  And they are in this with courage, the goal is to have better future and healthier life.

Tools For Hope, Inc.
1540 Robinson Road
Knoxville, TN 37923
http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.

Tools for Hope

 

August 2020 Tools for Hope Newsletter

AUGUST 12, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

Introduction

During June 2020, the farmers harvested their no-till farming trials and, in July Frank prepared the analysis of the trials.  The analysis showed the no-till farming method had a higher yield than the tilling method (~ 8%).  The no-till required much lower labor and much less time for plot preparation than the tilling.  Additionally, no-till farming is better overall for soil condition.

Frank has been introducing the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach.  PICSA evaluates historical climate information and uses hands-on tools to develop and choose crop, livestock, and livelihood options best suited to individual farmers’ circumstances. (see http://www.walker.ac.uk/research/projects/participatory-integrated-climate-services-for-agriculture-picsa/)

During July, the farmers began preparations for the next growing season.

So far for repayment of their motorbike loan, every two weeks they deposit 42,000 Rwanda Francs (~$43.85), making the total of 341,000 RWF (~$356.00).  For their goats, they will repay the loan after one year.

The Twisungane farmers are grateful.  They showed this by inviting Frank to share food and drink with them.  They told Frank to thank Tools for Hope (TFH) for what you have been doing to help them especially during the lockdown when TFH supplied food.  Some of them they still eating some of those supplies even now.

 

Our No-Till Experiment Results

The picture below shows an example of the placement of the treatments and plots.

We had two methods (No-till and tilling methods, which have been replicated three times as shown in the table below.  All methods received the same Inputs (seed variety and fertilizers).  No-till performed better than tilling.  Our experiment was for only one season and Frank could not determine the best method in a scientific way but, all in all this season shows that the no-till method has a slightly higher yield than the tilling method. And in terms of labor, the no-till has lower labor requirements for preparation than the tilling method which needs more labor and many days of preparation.

Treatment ID Method Yields in kilograms for plot size 10 m X 10 m Yields in pounds for plot size 32’ 9.7’’ x 32’ 9.7”
T-1 No-till 25 kg 55 lb., 1.8 oz               
T-2 Till 22.5 kg 49 lb., 9.7 oz
T-3 No-till 23.7 kg 52 lb., 4 oz
T-4 Till 21.2 kg 46 lb., 11.8 oz
T-5 No-till 22.7 kg 50 lb., 0.7 oz
T-6 Till 22.3 kg 49 lb., 2.6 oz

Totals: No-till farming = 157 lb., 6.5 oz.; till farming = 145 lb., 8.1 oz.

As the data Table above shows, no-till plots had better results than the tilling method.  The highest yield was seen in T-1 (no-till plot) while the lowest was seen in T-4 (tilling).

These results have shown that, no-till is a good method for this area.  Minimum tillage helps maintain soil fertility without weakening its original structure or the beneficial microorganisms which contributed to the crop growth and yield.

Benefits of No-Till Farming

  • Prevention of soil erosion
  • Prevention of soil compaction
  • Preservation of soil structure, soil aggregates and macro-pores
  • Improvement of soil moisture and water use efficiency through mulching
  • Promotion of beneficial organisms such as earthworms
  • No-till mulching enhances soil microbial activity, transfers organic matter to the soil improving its nutrient status
  • Less inputs of fuel, energy, and labor

 

Training Twisungane Farmers on PICSA

The University of Reading (England) developed Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) as a part of a research program on climate change, agriculture, and food security.

Historical climate data are combined with location-specific crop and livestock information so farmers can assess risks.  Farmers use planning tools to consider crop, livestock, and or livelihood options and make decisions that are right for them.  Farmers update their plans based on seasonal and short-term forecasts.  METRO RWANDA provides weather information (https://www.meteorwanda.gov.rw/) for the farmers use.

Well-timed farm operation is easily achieved through no-till because land preparation is much more quickly done.  Studies have shown that timely planting contributes up to 40% of the yield.

This is one of the best ways of defeating crop losses.  Because Rwandan agriculture depends on rainfall doing the proper analysis of the weather and climate information will help farmers to know which crop to plant as far as the amount of rainfall is concerned.  Different crops need different amounts of water for growth.

PICSA helps them to know which off farm activity to do in case the rainfall information shows that there are going to be minimal rains.  This helps them to change the crop or, use other ways of irrigation to support the crops, or not to engage in agriculture for the season.

This has been a good approach for our farmers and has been helping them to minimize their risks and to manage their capital better.  PICSA also teaches them how to calculate their profits and benefits before engaging to any activity.

It took Frank days of discussions with the farmers to get each farmer to understand the approach and then to get their commitment to the approach.

As an example of PICSA:  Using the PICSA climate services approach, Selina Sellas, a farmer and mother from the village of Makoja, Tanzania, calculated that she could lose her maize harvest 7 out of 10 times because of insufficient rainfall. She now plants less maize and has introduced more drought resistant pearl millet.

Frank was one of many researchers who took part in learning this approach and training many farmers in Rwanda.  PICSA gives them the opportunity to choose whether to plan for agriculture activities or for off-farm activities.

Field Visits, Crop Preparation, Fruit Tree Management and Providing Technical Support

July is the primary time when preparations for agriculture activities for the next season are done.  It is also a time to review other activities that are always in the field, e.g., banana and other fruit trees.  They are now using maize straws and bean residues on their banana field for mulching, to cover the soil from direct sunshine and keep the soil under the banana field moist.  Some of the residues are being used for livestock feed.

Farmers are serious about their agriculture activities.  The crisis of the coronavirus pandemic crisis impressed on them the importance of preserving their crops.  Now farmers are eager to know more, they ask more about crop and fruit diseases and how to combat them.


The above picture shows a barn which is not kept in good order.  Frank persuaded the farmer to always have a clean building for their livestock and to keep the manure in proper holes and to cover the compost to prevent loss of nutrients, such as nitrogen, from disappearing into the atmosphere.

 

Motorcycle Taxi Business and the Goats Project

The Twisungane group now has two ongoing projects i.e., the motorcycle taxi business and the goat project.  TFH funded both projects with loans to the group.

The weekly loan repayment for the motorcycle is going well as they have resumed paying after the three months of COVID-19 required lockdown.  On their account now we have 341,000 RWF, equivalent to $356.00.  They have been repaying this loan without any problem and they know that Frank is always checking and encouraging them to make regular loan payments.  Doing so will help them to further their learning about how to manage larger projects.

In case of the goats, the agreement is to repay the loan after one year when the goats have increased in number after they reproduced.

Frank and the farmers have discussed and talked about challenges associated with the two projects.  All the challenges are minor ones and normal.  They are getting more manure for their crops and also using the goat milk for their children. As it was discovered that goat milk is the best for children’s health.

Meeting and sharing together few of the harvested yield

One evening when Frank and the farmers were done with their discussion on PICSA, the Twisungane committee members were organizing another meeting and they wanted Frank’s advice on a group member who wasn’t abiding by the group’s regulations.  At the same time, they wanted to thank Frank and the TFH for what they did during the lockdown by providing food to the group.

Frank managed to calm the situation and solve the issue peacefully.

They appreciate our efforts for making their life better and all the teachings and support from TFH and they are committed to do better and change their mindset and be able to excel in the future.

Frank and they planned for their future together and had a wonderful moment, while discussing many aspects of life.  They talked more about values and how best to have good values which is the key to development.  We agreed that good values / character can help everybody accomplish much and open the doors of success.

 

The way forward

The farmers request TFH to add one more motorbike and more goats to the group.   The Tools for Hope Board of Directors is actively considering their request for more loans.

They are still learning more about loans and how to get good quality ones. They are looking for different projects to engage in.

The issue of water treatment is still a priority and Frank has been contacting people from Tanzania to obtain ceramic water filters and is still waiting for their response.

 

 

 

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

July 2020 Tools for Hope Newsletter

JULY 17, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

 

Introduction

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 Issues

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.

Way Forward

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.”

Tools for Hope

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

June 2020 Tools for Hope Newsletter

JUNE 9, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

 

 

 

Introduction

As we started May, the lockdown in Rwanda ended but with some restrictions still in place.  Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) activities were still taking place.  With the end of the lockdown TFH employee, Frank Mutesa, was able to verify the farmer’s activities, to hold meetings, and to give technical support as usual.   The farmer’s motorbike taxi transportation business is coming back, now with a strong emphasize on showing people how to use the cashless ways in paying for services.  This is a challenge with our farmers, but we are obliged to show them its importance.

We have started to emphasize the necessity of growing vegetables and fruit trees in their back yards (kitchen gardens) to ensure they get the proper foods and thus improve their immune systems as one of the measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have been also monitoring our research trials, the no-till research trial, and the individual farms to see how they have been affected by the heavy rains that occurred in Rwanda during the April-May period.

We have been doing surveys, observations, and talking with various people about securing clean water and how they see the various technologies working in their community.

Also, we have been searching for other vulnerable farmer groups that we may be able to mentor as this is one of the goals for TFH.

Emphasizing and Training Farmers to Focus on Growing Vegetables and Fruits in Their Backyards

Vegetables and fruits high in vitamins C and E are particularly important in boosting the immune system, and they are rich in antioxidants.  TFH has been stressing to the farmers to cultivate these in their gardens.  Frank has been trying to make and grow his own fruits seeds for the farmers to use.  For example, Frank has tried to make orange tree seeds sprout from a ‘store bought’ orange.  Using his knowledge of agricultural science Frank produced good orange seed sprouts ready to be planted.  Frank planted them in a pot and soon he will be transporting them to the farmers backyards for transplanting after they have shown a good germination rate.

This is Frank’s own trial and he is going to plant the seeds and help the farmers to try to grow their own oranges.  If all goes well, after four years the farmers will not need to buy oranges in the market.  They will be selling their oranges in the market and eating fruit more often 

They also have personal vegetable farms.  Below are two photographs of one such kitchen garden.  It is of Samuel’s (Twisungane group leader / president) vegetable plot which we are using as the farmer field school for our group and for other farmers around the community.

 

During the time that we have collaborated with them, the farmers have understood the logic of working together and of planting vegetables in their personal kitchen gardens.  In the picture above, Samuel is holding the beetroots that were planted in his backyard.  Our program emphasizes cultivating nutritious vegetables in their kitchen gardens.  This has been a strong message also from the government which is emphasizing people to eat a balanced diet as one of the ways to fight the negative impact of corona virus. (see https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/277432 for information about the benefits of beets)

Monitoring our No-till Research Trials and Other Individual Farms Affected by Heavy Rainfalls.

Usually in Rwanda, during April-May, we have rains, and sometimes heavy ones.  During this recent period, we had heavy rainfalls which resulted in flooding farming activities and even deaths in parts of the country.  In our no-till research farms we experienced slight flooding especially the plots that are near the river, but this hasn’t destroyed our data because we had replicated our treatments and therefore in the analysis we will use the remaining plots.

The picture above shows the small part of our no-till research that was destroyed by flooding of the river due to heavy rainfalls and the fullness of the aquifer in our lands.  Therefore, we have emphasized to our farmers to always accept the environmental awareness advice of not practicing any cultivation within 10-20 meters of the river, depending on their soil type.

Frank has been teaching them how to practice soil and water management measures.  For example, the ‘ridge and furrow’ method is a highly effective soil and water conservation method that can help in catching water, helps slow down runoff, and helps in infiltration rate (water into soil).  This is one of the best soil and water management practices.  Frank has encouraged the farmers to always think about this whenever they are going to prepare their lands.  Because most of the time the agricultural season starts few weeks before the start of the rainy season.

There are also other government infrastructures that were badly destroyed by the heavy rainfalls.  More than 10,000 acres of rice were destroyed.

Clean Water Issues

The lack of clean water is a major hazard in our farmer communities and, has been for years now.  They are full in accordance with any decision and strategy that will bring clean water to them.  We have been discussing this with farmers and now Frank is planning to discuss this with the local leaders to see how we can best help them.   We hope soon we will get the proper strategy for this issue and be able to deliver clean water to our poor families.

Possibility to Adopt Another Group of Poor Farmers for Mentor-ship Program

TFH has also surveyed different areas to look for other poor families who are vulnerable, need significant help and to mentor and to help them to help themselves.  Frank has been talking to them and assessing their lifestyles and he has performed analysis of the potential groups.

The groups Frank has seen are extremely poor and vulnerable.  We are still assessing our next steps.  Our decision will be based in large part by what they think it is best for themselves.

Our Way Forward

We are happy that we can now continue our work and that life has started to be normal as before.  Frank is planning to teach farmers about the use of the ‘cashless’ business model which is often now the only option for doing business, and thus will require the mobile money training (providing / using financial services on mobile devices) and how they can connect their banking accounts and their phones.

 

Tools For Hope, Inc.
1540 Robinson Road
Knoxville, TN 37923
http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.

 

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

May 2020 Tools for Hope Newsletter

MAY 19, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

 

 

Weeding the Non-Till Farming Plot


Transporting Emergency Twisungane Cooperative Food Supplies 

Introduction

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.


Frank in the No-Till Plot Prior to Planting


The No-Till Plot After Germination of the Seeds 

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 the No-Till Plot 

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.


Sacks of Food and Containers of Cooking Oil at the Market

 


Getting Food Ready to Take to their Community 

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.

 Way forward

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.

 

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

April 2020 Tools for Hope Newsletter

APRIL 15, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

The Twisungane smallholder farmers group did great work together with Frank Mutesa and Tools For Hope (TFH) in March.  Among the activities that we engaged in was the preparation and launch of our no-till farming research trial.  The launch process was a successful and we welcomed the fact that the farmers did exactly what Frank had been training them to do.

We also completed the process of buying and distributing goats to eleven farmer families, as planned.  This was the most important activity that the farmers had been waiting for.

No-Till Farming Research Trials Launched
In February, the farmers and Frank began preparing the land and doing all the important preliminary work.  On the 21st of March we launched the research trial.  The results of this trial will help answer questions regarding soil fertility and the proper techniques that should be used to produce good crop yields on small pieces of land without disturbing the soil.  It may also provide information regarding protecting the environment as well.

After showing farmers the differences between the no-till plots and tilling plots, they started doing the land preparations for themselves and they continued with the preparations.

Frank showed them how to apply inputs (fertilizers and seeds) properly in all the plots while respecting crop spacing.  After finishing the preparation for the two treatments (no-till and tilling treatments), the next activity was to apply the inputs i.e., fertilizers, both organic farmyard manure (FYM) and inorganic diammonium phosphate (DAP).  The first thing they did was to apply the FYM, this took two days, because the farm is located at a distance from the homestead where we obtained our FYM.

Then followed the DAP.  The application of inorganic DAP was applied in parallel with the seeds.  Because they planted during a sunny day the seeds and the DAP were mixed with a little bit of soil to make sure the seeds were not burnt when they encountered the DAP.  The application of inputs was done successfully following all the best science of soil management and crop production practices. The planting day was followed with rainfall in the evening, so we hope everything will be OK and our crop will germinate and grow well.

The Twisungane farmers are the caretakers of this research, however Frank will be monitoring their progress daily to make sure we get good data for the analysis at the end of the trials.  This is the first such research trial that we have conducted with our farmers.

The farmers were cooperative and showed interest in learning innovative technologies.  They will provide us with valuable feedback and lessons learned about no-till farming in Rwanda.  The farmers are eager to learn; therefore, we believe that from here, our research work will be straightforward and easy.  We can direct all the farming technologies and be sure that the farmers will do their best to help make their projects work.

TFH Helps Eleven Twisungane Group Families Obtain Goats
It wasn’t easy to complete this task because the receiving families and Frank required a lot of discussion about loan repayment agreements for the goats.  They discussed the loan issues and came to a mutual understanding on how to repay the loan.  They also discussed how to take care of their goats before buying them.  Once everything was agreed to, we proceeded with buying the goats.

Frank and the farmers also had to do a survey to look for a marketplace where they could get good goats which can cope with the climate (micro climate) conditions in their area, to avoid difficulties in rearing the goats. They also had to look for female goats which can mate successfully with the male goats that are already in the area.

After discovering a good market in Nyamata Town*, they proceeded with purchasing the goats, another challenging task.  Selecting 22 goats of good health takes time.  They evaluated the goats one by one.  The process of selecting and purchasing the goats took seven hours. The distance from the market to where our farmers village is located is several miles so they had to hire a vehicle that could carry the goats, and a vehicle which could manage the rough roads leading to their village.

Goat purchase and transport was followed by distributing the goats to the 11 families.  The distribution process needed to be fair to all.  The distribution process agreed upon had each family pick their goats by chance.  Frank prepared 22 small pieces of paper, each with a number from 1 to 22.  He folded them so that no one could see the number written on each paper.  He also wrote similar numbered slips of paper and put one on each goat.  Then each family picked 2 folded pieces of paper.  They opened their pieces and found the number corresponding to the number tagged on a goat.  This was a quick and fair process, and everybody was happy.  Each family got 2 goats and the process was done peacefully.

The goat project has brought happiness to our farmers.  They are now waiting for the goats to multiply.  We believe this will happen soon and farmers will be able to repay their loans.

Their gratitude goes to Tools For Hope for making this possible.  This will help farmers in many ways and help them to continue their journey of achieving better lives.  The next steps of taking good care of these goats are theirs.  And we are also with them day by day and continue mentoring them in numerous ways.
*The town is also the location of Nyamata Genocide Memorial.  Located at the site where Nyamata Parish Catholic Church once stood, the memorial contains the remains of over 45,000 genocide victims, almost all of whom were Tutsi, including over 10,000 who were massacred inside the church itself.

The Way Forward
Farmers are grateful for the projects that were in pipeline and are now operating.  They are eager to continue working with TFH and they are committed.  They will succeed in conquering their abysmal former life and to prosper.

We hope that after this problem of COVID-19 ends, we will have many more projects (e.g., improved crop / food preservation techniques).  While the farming activities are on-going, the farmers are using precautions to fight the spreading of this virus, like washing their hands regularly and making social distancing of 1.5 meters.

We thank you once again for your support.  God bless you and your entire family, and we pray that God will protect you in these dangerous times our world is passing through.

Tools For Hope, Inc.
1540 Robinson Road
Knoxville, TN 37923
http://www.toolsforhope.org/

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.



March 2020 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

MARCH 18, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

Introduction

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.

Clean Water

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.

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

February 2020 Tools For Hope Newsletter

FEBRUARY 8, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

Introduction

January 2020 Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) activities focused on searching for places to establish our research on no-till farming practices and, on planning for a proposed goat project. TFH also began assessing water purification technologies, and potential solar power systems for the farmers.

 

No-till Research Preparation

The no-till farming practice we will initially research is one of the solutions that has been evaluated in many parts of Africa and has shown its potential in improving soil fertility and boosting crop productivity.

Frank Mutesa and the farmers started looking for land with which to start our research. Frank talked with the farmers and they agreed on the terms of the research.   A little later in January Frank was able to identify suitable land and farmers who were willing to collaborate with us and have our trials on their plots. They have also decided to abide by the conditions of the research work.

Eight farmers will participate in the research. Four will use the no-till system and four will use their normal way of farming by ploughing the land. We will use the same inputs (same seeds, fertilizers), the same land size and all the agronomic parameters will be performed on both plots equally. Frank will assess the yields and other relevant parameters.

The farmers will be custodians of these activities and will monitor the plots as usual. TFH will provide the inputs (e.g., to ensure necessary consistency in seed quality) and take data where necessary.

As part of our agreement with the participating farmers, TFH agreed for those who are testing the no-till farming techniques, because this will be their first time to do so, that if their yields are less than those who practice the normal way of farming TFH will compensate their loses.

 

Goat Project and Selection of Participating Farmers

Frank also discussed with the farmers the issue of the proposed goat project. He discussed with them issues such as how to repay the Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) loans for the goats. He identified the farmers willing to sign the loan agreements. Frank emphasized that the farmers need to be conscientious and to participate in their own development (i.e., care for the goats and repay the loans).

We decided that each farmer will get two goats and after one year, they will pay back those two goats to TFH to loan to future farmers. Eleven farmers expressed willingness to participate and accepted the conditions of the agreement. After surveillance of the local markets Frank found good goats that can reproduce twice a year. These goats cost 65,000 frw ($69) each. Therefore, for the 22 goats the price will be $1,518.00.

Frank explained that TFH’s job is to provide the tools and they do the work. The farmers fully understand the terms of our contract with them and they are willing to do all they can to continue having projects that correspond to their need for off-farm income producing enterprises.

Goats produce manure which helps in reducing fertilizer or compost costs for the farmers. In addition, goat manure is 2 times richer in nitrogen and phosphorous as compared to cow manure. This was the primary reason that Frank recommended rearing goats to the farmers.

Both small scale and commercial goat farming businesses play key roles in meeting the increasing food demands in Rwanda. Goats are raised for various products such as milk, meat, skin, and fiber, while goat meat and milk are tasty, nutritious, and considered good for human health. The demand for goat meat is growing in Rwanda, as it is popular in making brochettes in many restaurants and hotels all over the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clean Water – Rwandan Standards Bureau

Our subsistence farmers need clean water. Accessing clean water is a challenge to most Rwandan rural populations. It is an issue that the government is working hard to resolve.

TFH has been investigating utilizing a technology represented by MadiDrop (https://www.madidrop.com/). The MadiDrop+ tablets work alone or in conjunction with colloidal silver impregnated ceramic filters to clean and purify unsafe water. See for example the US Center for Disease Control web page (https://www.cdc.gov/safewater/ceramic-filtration.html).

We are working through the Rwandan Standards Bureau (RSB) to ensure the safety and efficacy of the technology before presenting it to the farmers for their use. Frank consulted with the Quality Assurance office of the RSB to determine our obligations.

Renewable Energy

Frank also started talks with a solar energy company known as BBOXX (https://www.bboxx.co.uk/) to see if they can provide our farmers with renewable energy for their domestic use. These talks are ongoing. Below is some information about BBOXX.

BBOXX customers in Kenya and Rwanda usually earn around (USA) $100 per month and spend $6-$12 on energy expenditures such as purchasing candles, kerosene, or batteries for flashlights, and charging their cell phones. BBOXX prices its solar home systems to match these existing energy costs, spreading payments over time to widen its customer base, enabling various segments of the population to purchase clean renewable solar energy.

Their flagship smart solar home system, the bPower50, is designed for rural off-grid customers. Once connected, the bPower50 can power lights, radios, TVs, and charge phones for household and micro-business customers. The bPower50 comes with a 50W roof mounted solar panel and can be purchased on a three-year payment plan. Each unit connects remotely to the BBOXX remote management system to give customer support, predict repairs, and assist upgrades.

 

Our Way Forward

Preparations for the no-till farming research activities are in progress. We believe we will be able to start farming at the end of February.

We also plan to double-check the food preservation techniques that our farmers are using. Frank will document and take pictures of all preservation techniques they have as we approach harvest time. We want to ensure that as much of the harvested crops are preserved as practical.

Frank has verified that the farmers are still repaying their Motorbike project loan as agreed. We believe they will continue to do so without any difficulties. This is a key factor in deciding to loan the funds for their goat project.

They are now waiting for the goat project loans and are discussing other projects that may be able to produce off-farm incomes for them.Tools for Hope

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

January 2020 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter

JANUARY 23, 2020 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

After Frank’s return to Rwanda from consultations with the Tools For Hope, Inc. (TFH) Board of Directors, there were goals to be achieved. Frank started working on them immediately upon his return. He was pleased that the farmers are also willing to do their part. Frank discussed with the farmers the issues and related to TFH goals for food preservation, no-till agricultural farming techniques, off-farm income from small business activities e.g., their motorbike transportation business.

Frank managed to visit additional farms and provide them with some technical advice. He also solved issues related to the motorbike with the transportation authority in the country and now the farmers are back in the motorbike transportation business.

 

Food Preservation Techniques Used by Our Farmers

Preserving food is not new to Rwandan farmers but many of them do not practice food preservation for several reasons. They only consume the food they grow for a few weeks after the harvest. After that they are left with no preserved crops.

All our farmers are smallholder farmers, so they do not harvest much food that needs to be preserved. Of the food that they cultivate, they either sell all or, they sell half and preserve a little for home consumption. They cannot buy an adequate amount of food because their food will rot as they do not have enough skills regarding food preservation. They live by buying their food almost every day.

The crops they usually preserve are maize/corn, beans, cassava, Irish potato, sweet potato, and onion. The most common method used is drying, after soaking in water sometimes they dry the crops on the ground. We are now looking at the possible food preservation methods that farmers can start using.

Our farmers encounter economic and nutritional difficulties when food prices go up in the market. For example, the price of beans is extremely high in December, because beans are very scarce and difficult to get, especially in the rural areas. Resolving this issue of food/crop preservation will be another step in helping our farmers.

By having proper food preservation, they can store enough and use them during those periods when the price is high, especially during drought season. They can also preserve their harvested crop and sell the product when the price is good at the market.

 

 

 

 

Above are some of the old crop preservation methods. At top left is the local and normal way of preserving cassava by making cassava flour and keeping it for a long time. The photo at top right shows how to preserve sweet potato in a pit for use during drought periods when they are scarce. Bottom left – they store beans in sacks and usually dry them during the day and keep them in sack. Bottom right – they store maize/corn normally in their homes on the floor but during the day they dry them by hanging them outside their house roofs or in a hangar. The above methods are used by some of our farmers.

 

No-Till Farming

The no till agriculture practice is a process of planting crops without disturbing the soil or with minimum soil disturbance, maintenance of soil cover and diversification of plant species. This is one of the best ways of recovering soil fertility. Because our farmers have small pieces of land, their land is being overworked and this has resulted in the decrease of soil fertility and hence poor production which produces hunger.

From a soil perspective, the benefits of no-till farming far outnumber those of tillage-based systems. No-till practices allow the soil structure to stay intact and protect the soil by leaving crop residue on the soil surface. Improved soil structure and soil cover increase the soil’s ability to absorb and infiltrate water, which in turn reduces soil erosion and runoff and prevents pollution from entering nearby water sources.

No-till practices also slow evaporation, which not only means better absorption of rainwater, but it also increases irrigation efficiency, leading to higher yields, especially during hot and dry weather.

Soil microorganisms, fungi, and bacteria, critical to soil health, also benefit from no-till practices. When soil is undisturbed, beneficial soil organisms can establish their communities and feed off the soil’s organic matter. A healthy soil biome (naturally occurring community of flora and fauna) is important for nutrient cycling and suppressing plant diseases. As soil organic matter improves, so does the soil’s internal structure—increasing the soil’s capacity to grow more nutrient-dense crops.

After productive discussions with professors from the University of Tennessee, TFH has decided to start a no-till farming campaign with our farmers. At first, we will do research trials, where we will have plots of land with no-till treatment and regular tilling by hand and we will monitor the growth and yield parameters. Based on the results we will help the farmers make determinations about future sustainable agriculture production techniques.

Frank talked with different farmers and they have agreed to that plan, and we will start with the 2020, February season.

 

These are fields that we have found so far that have been abandoned for one season, so we will use these and other lands that farmers can provide for our no-till program.

Issues with Motorbike Transportation Authority

For a long time, the motorbike transportation / taxi business has been a flourishing business for many people in Rwanda. This was due in part to Rwandan topography and its lack of proper roadway infrastructure. Many people to use motorbikes as their way of transporting people and goods. With high use comes increased legal and insurance issues. Consequently, there are many regulations and laws to follow.

While Frank was in the USA, officials in charge of transportation wanted to verify the owner of the motorbike and to register the motorbike with the names of those responsible for the motorbike i.e., TFH. The farmers had to wait for Frank’s return, because the Twisungane farmers are not the owner. Frank, as the Rwandan representative of TFH, was required to provide the government officials his identity to be kept on file in case they might need to contact him for more information regarding the motorbike.

The government is extremely strict about such regulations and did not allow the farmers to use the motorbike, until Frank’s return. After getting back in the country Frank resolved this issue and they are now back in business as usual.

 

Other Potential Projects

Previously proposed projects i.e., 2 goats per family, sewing machines for the women and men who are willing to use them, and buying more motorcycles will be funded as TFH is able.

Recently TFH asked about the issue of clean water. Frank showed us the picture he took of Rwandans using dirty water to wash themselves and wash their clothes (see picture below).

This is one of the many challenges that the country suffers.

Clean water is a critical issue and, 70% of the rural population have no access to clean water. TFH is investigating clean water technology utilizing locally (African) made ceramic filters in conjunction with ceramic tablets embedded with anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and germicidal materials. The combination appears viable, economical, and suitable to the Rwandan farmers way of life. TFH will update you on our progress in implementing the processes.

Frank took this picture while working in the field. He was very much concerned because these people were coming from work, found something like a pond because it was raining, and started cleaning themselves with that water. Frank asked them ‘why are you doing this, don’t you know that this water is dirty’? They responded that, they do not have any choice. They know it is not good for their health but that’s the life they live, and they can’t go home with mud all over their bodies, so they prefer using that water to reduce the mud.

Water scarcity can lead to a variety of water-borne tropical diseases, such as typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and diarrheal illnesses. Other conditions, such as plague, typhus, and trachoma (eye infection that can result in blindness), are also common. throughout the continent, water scarcity and pollution continue to get worse.

A lack of clean water also affects the Rwandan people in other ways. Many families must travel significant distances to gain access to clean drinking water. The women and girls in the family often take on this responsibility of having to carry heavy containers of water back to their homes. Younger girls often must drop out of school and miss getting an education to help their families. These journeys to collect water are also dangerous and sometimes result in physical or sexual abuse of girls and women.

 

 

 

 

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

December 2019 Tools For Hope Newsletter

DECEMBER 22, 2019 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

Tools for Hope


Clare Roop, Frank Mutesa, Richard Trevillian as Frank arrives in Knoxville, TN 11/4/19

Introduction

As a result of extensive meetings between the Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) Board of Directors and our Rwandan employee, Frank Mutesa, we developed three primary goals for 2020. The Rwandan subsistence farmers will benefit from improved food preservation techniques, implementing no-till farming techniques to improve agricultural efficacy, and generating more off-farm incomes.

Frank worked with TFH from the 4th through the 14th of November 2019. In the months leading up to his arrival, TFH Directors and Frank planned extensively for his visit. Both Frank and the Board needed first-hand information and, face-to-face communications about how best to guide the Rwandan subsistence farmers. Together, we had almost two weeks of intensive work, meetings, presentations, and dinners, as well as training on food preservation techniques, and farming techniques by University of Tennessee Agricultural school faculty.

 

Meetings with TFH Directors

Frank met with the TFH Board of Directors (Clare Roop, Rick Shipley, Father Laird Bryson, Father Doug Floyd, and Richard Trevillian) almost daily for several hours each day during his time in Knoxville. He concentrated on explaining the farmers progress, discussing where we are, where we are going, and our and their challenges. From there we started working on practical solutions. The Board of Directors helped Frank with solving some of the issues with farmers such as their organizational structures to help them recognize and improve on their strengths.

TFH Directors and Frank determined that the farmers are facing three primary problems i.e., food security, agricultural efficiency, and off-farm incomes. While their incomes, health, and overall welfare have radically improved over the past few years with help from TFH they still have intractable problems in climbing out of poverty.

Subsistence farmers in Rwanda discard more food than they consume because they lack proper methods of food preservation. Because of a nation-wide, general lack of food preservation in Rwanda, food is expensive once harvested crops have been consumed. This situation must be resolved because subsistence farmers often spend up 80% of their incomes buying food once the harvested crops are gone.

Land available to them for farming is limited because of governmental policies. They are not able, and will never be able, to generate a living wage only from farming. No-till farming technology will help them reduce the manual labor and costs that they now spend on farming activities and significantly improve yields. Consequently, Frank and the Board determined that the farmers will need TFH help in developing off-farm incomes e.g., raising livestock, running small businesses, etc. as well as developing food preservation and no-till farming methods.

University of Tennessee Faculty

We had several hours of productive discussions at the University of Tennessee (UT) on issues related to agriculture, natural resources, project management, no-till farming innovations, irrigation, and forage management. While at UT we had time to present our work in Rwanda.

Food Preservation

On Saturday, November 9th we visited with Peggy Adam on her farm. There we learned more about food preservation and food canning. We had an enjoyable and wonderful session with Peggy. We learned a great deal about food canning. We were fortunate to train with someone who has done this for years. Frank will try canning with his family in Rwanda and eventually will teach farmers about food preservation methods that can be easily adapted by them.

Presentations at Fund-Raising Dinners

We prepared fund-raiser presentation materials for a dinner held at Apostles Anglican church on November 7th.  After the dinner we had a fundraising presentation, and Frank was happy to meet with the attendees and to describe to them the work of TFH in Rwanda. They were very pleasantly surprised by the work of TFH.

At the presentation, Richard described the TFH plans. He presented the goals and objectives of TFH for 2020, how we are giving farmers hope and helping them with some tools that can help them to do for themselves and prosper in the future without our help. He reiterated that the purpose of TFH is to help poor farmers learn how to prosper and to be successful in their lives without the need for outside help.

On Sunday 11/10/19, after church at Apostles Anglican in Knoxville we had a ‘Meet and Greet’ session. This was another opportunity to introduce the activities of TFH and for Frank to explain some the issues that people in attendance wanted to know about and to explain the agenda for the upcoming projects.

During the Meet and Greet Richard supplied explanations of our upcoming efforts to address those three primary issues. Those in attendance were enthusiastic and committed to support the activities of Tools for Hope.

We had a wonderful time at the Meet and Greet as people were very much interested in TFH activities.

We also an enjoyable time in Farther Doug Floyd’s home for a fund-raiser dinner on November 12th. There we met with another group of people who were very much interested in TFH work in Rwanda. They were particularly interested to know about the life of farmers and all that the farmers are doing. We were able to explain in depth about the farmers and to show them how our farmers are making progress in their journey towards prosperity. We connected with many people who would like to support the work of TFH. Richard also explained to them the goals and aims of TFH.

Our Way Forward

Before he left to return home to Rwanda, the Board of Directors gave Frank some important assignments i.e., get needed data for the food preservation initiative, work on starting the research on no-till farming practices for soil fertility enhancement and to decrease labor and other costs, to continue working with the farmers to honor their motorbike payments, to continue teaching farmers in agricultural activities, and to help develop strategies for off-farm income producing activities.


Tools for Hope, Inc.

1540 Robinson Road

Knoxville, TN 37923

http://www.toolsforhope.org/

 

Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.

Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.

FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES

Tools for Hope November 2019 Newsletter

NOVEMBER 20, 2019 BY RICHARD TREVILLIAN LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

Tools for Hope

Introduction

During October 2019 Frank Mutesa (Tools for Hope’s Rwandan employee) was busy finishing a formal interviewing process to gather information needed for his USA visit with the TFH Board of Directors and many of our supporters, checking the farmer’s fields, and training the farmers on some of the agricultural techniques needed during the upcoming agriculture season (2019-2020 Season A).

Most farmers near the river (for irrigation) planted corn/maize, beans, and other vegetables. Frank trained them on the techniques needed to get their fields in shape to have good yields at harvest time. During this part of the cultivation season, farmers do most of their work on the field and, this is the time when some of them, if not advised well, can make mistakes in certain activities that later can destroy and or hinder their yields and drive their production down.

Utilizing the questionnaire interview to gather data

Frank interviewed the farmers using a formal questionnaire because we needed information on the issues that we are trying to solve. We needed to assess our Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) activities to ensure we are linking our efforts to the most important needs of the farmers. Frank conducts these interviews by approaching farmers in their homes and talking to them in a way that encourages the farmers to freely talk about their problems. Frank assured the farmers that this information was going to help TFH improve its efforts. We want to get to the core of their issues and to find concrete and effective solutions which will help all Twisungane farmers to be stronger economically and socially, implement sustainable development, and reach food security.

Frank conducted half of the interviews indoors. His purpose was to talk about social issues and to help them to change their mindset about such issues as household cleanliness and hygiene.

These farmers are extremely poor and, in the past, have had no hope for a better future. We have found that for many of them everything they do centers on their struggle to eat, and this hampers other activities that would enable them to live in more dignified conditions. TFH is trying to eradicate this mindset of hopelessness by helping them to imagine a brighter future for themselves and for their children. When Frank is talking to them in their homes, he teaches them basic aspects of cleanness, and discusses making plans and goals for their future. This helps them to dream and work to make their dreams come true.

Frank interviewed 17 of the 20 families making up the Twisungane group. The 3 remaining families were not present this month and, we will interview them later. However, we now have enough data to start our analysis. The data will help us to develop statistical and qualitative analyses to reach sound conclusions about how best to continue to provide the farmers with the necessary mentoring to help them in their fight against poverty.

Monitoring the farmers field and conducting agriculture system    

October is the start of the agriculture season 2019-2020 Season A, and they need to start well so that they can increase their productivity. They have planted maize/corn, beans, cabbage, cassava, sweet potato, banana (already planted), and sorghum. The inputs must be prepared and the seed varieties to be planted need to be in good condition. Frank guides the farmers to plant good seeds and apply good, well prepared manure. In some cases Frank has advised them to use good inorganic fertilizers and to use the recommended quantities.

In addition, Frank mentors them on necessary activities such as weeding on time. Frank tells them that modern agriculture is not just using modern mechanization but also making sure they do their farming activities on time. The picture above shows a maize/corn plot with weeds. The weeds compete with the corn for the nutrients in the soil. Frank explains to the farmers why and how this is problematic. He encourages them to make sure they uproot the weeds which will make it easier for the corn/maize to yield a good crop with less nutrient competition. The picture above is of a typical farm. Too many farmers do not perform weeding on time, and this can reduce their yields up to 40%.

Other issues were a barn for livestock especially cattle/cows, and manure and compost making. Frank discussed those issues with them. He showed them how to re-build their barn using in-expensive materials and techniques. Frank explained that the most important thing is to make sure the livestock are well kept, in clean conditions in a proper barn and, that this will eventually increase milk production.

The above is the pile of manure and compost that Frank is checking. Although the farmer is trying to collect manure to compost, this pile is not well kept, which decreases the quality of the manure.

When manure is exposed to the air as in the photo above, it loses its nutrient content. Its nitrogen escapes to the atmosphere because of heating of the manure by the sun rays. Because nitrogen is volatile can escape, and the farmer is left with manure that is not of decent quality for the crops. Frank trained the farmers on how to make a good compost pile and encouraged them to find something with which to cover their compost to help improve the quality of their manure. In the past they did not cover their manure piles because they did not know the importance of doing so and now, they understand.

Conducting meetings, working together on issues related to the motorbike taxi business, and hearing the farmer’s ideas

Frank and the farmers conducted meetings to talk about issues related with their motorbike project such as the importance of making their payments on time and saving the gross profits to apply to future expenses e.g., insurance, maintenance, etc. Frank and the farmers also set up rules for expanding the business and for governing the group.

We have other families that need to join our group, or we may need to start another group; therefore, we need systems and strategies to allow more people to receive TFH mentoring. Frank and the farmers also discussed how to start to think of more (non-farm) projects and every member has the assignment of producing some ideas and especially ideas that generate money. Such non-farm projects which produce cash-flows from off-farm work are vital to the well-being of the farmers. Because of land restrictions our group of farmers cannot rely solely on farming for their livelihoods they need ‘off-farm’ employment. Viable, local small-businesses owned and operated by the farmers can help solve that problem.

Frank and the Tools for Hope (TFH) Board of Directors will discuss these ideas while Frank is in the USA in November 2019.

The above photo is of the farmers’ committee. We meet with them to share and to talk about ideas. This helps us create a bond of trust with the farmers. Frank told them about his upcoming visit to the USA for discussions with the TFH board and our supporters, and they all prayed for Frank to arrive safely in the United States and told him to pass their warmest thoughts to Tools for Hope.

The way forward

The group is now doing great they are learning a great deal from their motorbike (taxi) business. Significantly their attitudes are now changing, and they can see a better future and they are able to train their minds to think in a positive way. This is what TFH is doing, changing their mindset. Their agriculture activities also are conducted better than the way they used to be. Therefore, we believe this will be a successful way to eradicate poverty. Because when they feel better and think positively then it is easier for them to focus their efforts and have hope for a better future.

Tools for Hope



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"Tools for Hope, Inc." is a 501(c) 3 non-profit Tennessee corporation.

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