TOOLS for HOPE MONTHLY REPORTS
November 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter
Diane Uwamahirwe is in the preliminary stages of mentoring the Twisungane group on business plan development. In October she emphasized that an idea is the first milestone in building a successful business. Business ideas create a reason to invest, and it also imagines sales and profit. A business idea is the first step and the beginning of a business. Characteristics of a good business idea are: Innovative, Unique, Problem Solving, Profitable and Understandable.
Tuzamurane farmers (mentored by Frank Mutesa) are smallholder farmers in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. Where their soils are acidic having a pH of about 5.5 or less which reduces their crop yields. Soil erosion also negatively affects these subsistence farmers.
Twisungane Group Business Plan Development
Choosing the Right Business Idea
In October Diane met with the Twisungane Group on several occasions, the group shared different business ideas they think will be possible to implement in their village. Diane helped them to analyze each business according to market and demand, capital and finance, start-up costs, competitions, etc. This is the list of business ideas they proposed.Ø Flour mill machine business
Ø Butchery business
Ø Buying and selling grains business (beans, maize, sorghum)
Ø Poultry farming for eggs and meat
Ø Buying and selling plots business
They discussed on each business according to market and demand, capital and finance, start-up costs, competitions to choose the right one.
From left to right: Samuel (Twisungane leader), Phildaus, Epiphanie, Jean de la Croix (in white shoes), Claude, Venuste, and Diane.
Flour mill machine business: This business is good in their village because it will supply a profit to them and there is one competitor but market size, and demand is low, and their customers used traditional ways to grind grain and it is not easy to find help in case of machine maintenance.
Butchery business This business is good, but it requires electricity however there is no electricity in their area and materials used in butchery are expensive and the market and demand are low. The price of meat, fish, and chickens is not affordable for their customers most of them are used to eating beans instead of eating meat. The business will need government certificates and regular monthly taxes, this business is therefore disqualified on the above grounds.
Poultry farming for eggs and meats business: It is a good business in their village of farmers because it will be a solution for them in terms of getting manure to fertilize their land and to fight against malnutrition in their families but there are many competitors, market and demand are low and also this business has more challenges including high rate of disease and pest attack, high rate of mortality, high cost of poultry feed, supply of poor-quality chicks, inadequate poultry extension services, and inadequate access to and high cost of veterinary services. It is difficult for them to find the best farm location, farm facilities and, transport for feed, eggs, and chickens; therefore, distribution would be an issue.
Buying and selling grains (beans, maize, sorghum, Soja): It is a good business because it will be a solution for them and their customers during dry season. In this season there is a scarcity of beans, maize, soja (soybean) and sorghum. Also, there are no competitors, but it will require transport and it is an issue in their village to find the right house to for long time storage to avoid grain wastage and it will require regular monthly taxes. In addition, a start-up cost is between 2000,000-4000,000 frw.
Buying and selling plots business: This business is good because land or plots have shown higher returns in their village. It is an excellent money-saving investment which will guarantee higher returns in the future.
Investing in a plot of land is undoubtedly one of the best options for group looking to gain high returns with minimal risk in their area. Also, it will offer greater flexibility, Initial investment is low and is estimated to be from 500,000-2000,000 frw, no gap between purchase and possession, and low property taxes. The property tax tends to be much lower than it is for other businesses. With a plot of land, there is no maintenance needed. One of the biggest advantages of investing in land is that it will be a solution to them after returning the loans, the land will remain theirs and it will be easy for them to manager it easily because it will not require full time supervision.
After discussions we selected the Buying and Selling plots business as the right one for them for the reasons, mentioned above.
At the end of the class, they took a picture, a man in a red jacket called Samuel, (as a team leader) next to him is Phildaus and Epiphanie, next to Diane is Jean de la Croix in white shoes, next to him is Claude in black boots, followed by Venuste in black shoes.
In the next report we will discuss its market analysis, financial aspects, and income projection.
Biomass and Green Manure for Soil Fertility Improvement
Some of the plants or crop varieties can be grown and turned into soil to improve its quality. These plants and crops (their biomass) can be incorporated into the soils. These plants can be cut and then plowed into the soil or left in the ground before planting. The purpose is to add organic matter to the soil for its benefits.
Tools for Hope managed to supply a plant known as Tithonia diversifola (Mexican sunflower), this plant is commonly grown everywhere in the country. However few farmers had the information about its benefits to the soil. This is a plant that can help in soil improvement through its ability to fix nutrients for crops (maize, beans, tomato, and many other vegetables). We supplied Tithonia cuttings to be planted on the edge of their farms. The plants can be cut often and incorporated in the soil before planting and function as green manure.
Soil Erosion Control and Soil Fertility
In Rwanda soil erosion is a common threat. There are measures that farmers can apply to combat this issue. TFH will show these techniques to our farmers and help them to put in action some of these techniques. If soil erosion is not taken care of, can destroy everything and make our poor farmers poorer than ever.
The practices we are encouraging our farmers to follow are the practices that can reduce soil erosion and increase organic carbon stock e.g., rotating crops, cover crops, no-till, integrated soil fertility management (using farmyard manure, and green manure).
Thank you for your kind support!
Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.
October 2021 Tools for Hope, Inc. Newsletter
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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:
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.
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!
Thank you for your continued support for Rwandan subsistence farmers.
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.
July 2021 Tools for Hope Newsletter
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
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.)
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.
Farmer Food Preservation Preferences
Land preparation and planting / sowing dominated the Twisungane farmer cooperative’s October agricultural activities. As usual Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) employee Frank Mutesa helped them during these times and gave them the necessary technical support for them to apply effective methodologies to bring about sufficient yields.
The farmers were met with heavy rains which came right after sowing. This tends to destroy some of the fields due to their topographical condition. Frank was busy showing them how to combat this issue of erosion and be able to save some crops from the heavy rainfalls.
We continued to work on the Twisungane projects and worked on the future projects as well. All the projects we have are doing great. We want to give them more business management training so that they can be able to manage these projects themselves in the future.
We still working on the clean water issues. We which have met some difficulties, but we hope that soon we will begin trials on the best ways to purify our farmer’s dirty water.
We are still working on the issues of food preservation. We are looking at which types of food preservation we can promote and that can be adapted by farmers easily.
Preparation and Planting Activities for 2020-2021 Season A
Seasonal preparation was done by preparing the inputs (e.g., fertilizers) and working the land to make sure that at planting time farmers will have good land with which to start their season. The PICSA (Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture) approach was used up until planting time. This important strategy helps the farmers individually and on their collective field, to plan and to decide which crops to plant and which agriculture system to use. We helped them with selecting good seed and showed them how to use the fertilizers in the best combinations i.e., combining organic and inorganic fertilizers.
Helping Farmers with Soil Erosion Strategies and Water Catchment
This October was dominated by heavy rainfalls and this tends to be a disaster for farmers if they are not well prepared. We have been training them to use PICSA. PICSA is all about combining weather and climate information from METEO-Rwanda. That service gives us updated weather forecast information. We and the farmers use this information to plan accordingly.
The METEO-Rwanda information showed that during mid and late October there would be heavy rainfalls. After hearing this we reasoned with the farmers to use all necessary means to use best practices to help to catch water in the soil and to fight against erosion and runoff. Frank showed them how to use furrows and ridges as the better system to catch and store water in the field and to reduce the velocity of runoff from washing away their crops.
Frank also showed them how they can divert the runoff using drainage channels dug in the field and by doing this, they can direct runoff water to an excavated pit and store it for irrigation purposes during drought time.
This is an example of furrows and ridges in the maize field. The crop is planted in the upper ridge while the furrow acts as the water collection and drain water and use them to infiltrate slowly to be used by the crop roots.
Twisungane Group’s Non-Farm, Income Producing Projects
Twisungane cooperative is not only involved in agriculture, but they are also undertaking other businesses. Because of the small sizes of their farms they must find income producing activities to support themselves. The usual way has been for them to try to find ‘day-labor’ jobs when they are not occupied on their farms. TFH is helping them develop their own businesses.
Their motorcycle is working as a transport facility (taxi). They are repaying their TFH supplied loan on a weekly basis (Frank reviews and sends TFH a monthly bank statement showing that the cooperative is repaying the loan as agreed). Soon their loan will be repaid, and they will have full and clear ownership of their motorcycle.
They are also engaged in goat rearing and this is also going very well. The farmers are asking for another TFH supplied loan so that they can expand their goat business. As their supervisor / mentor, Frank believes they are ready to have another loan because they have understood the TFH concept i.e., helping them to help themselves.
The photographs above show the current condition of their motorcycle. It is in good condition. The farmers are taking good care of it. It has been a year now and the motorcycle is well kept. Twisungane farmers are now mature in-terms of monitoring their assets and they are well prepared to receive other loans.
During October we ordered materials to conduct three trials of a technique aimed at supplying clean drinking water, economically, to the Twisungane group. We plan to use ceramic water filters produced at a Tanzanian ‘Water to Wine’ facility (https://www.winetowater.org/our-work-eastafrica) to filter and clean the water, initially. We also plan to place a Madidrop+ water purification tablet (https://www.madidrop.com/) in the container of filtered water as an added safety measure. The MadiDrop+ is a micro porous, water permeable ceramic tablet infused with microscopic silver clusters.
We plan to begin our tests in November. Issues with shipping and communications delayed the project by several weeks.
Our Way Forward
The COVID-19 virus is still in the farmer’s vicinity. While they have resumed schooling and all other activities, there are challenges in every aspect of life. Apart from helping our farmers to regain their full strength, kids in school also need our attention for whatever we can do to help them, starting from uniform, books, clean water, chalks and all necessary tools like clothes, shoes and etc.
Recently Frank was touring the village to see how the children were doing. He found that they are healthy, but they lack proper clothing, shoes and other school materials.
FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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, Inc. Newsletter
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
During the COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda, our farmers are legitimately concerned about their financial health. Many businesses have closed, and people are focused on businesses essential to their community and which can help them survive. Tools for Hope (TFH) is similarly focused on its farmers and their community.
Frank Mutesa (TFH-Rwanda employee) taught and prepared the Twisungane committee members to work together and to develop a sense of helping one another with in the cooperative. By doing so they can elevate one another even those who are weak can be able to be resilient. For example, when they help to prepare one another’s field in one week they can finish all the agriculture activities in all their individual farms working as a group.
The farmers just completed harvesting our trials and soon we will present the data after the analysis.
We are addressing the issue(s) of clean water. Too often they are using water from the river which is dirty, and this has affected their health for so long.
Frank continues to look for and evaluate a new group to mentor. There are many of them, so we are still considering which group is more in need.
Training Committee Members to Work Together
Meetings and training these days are done with few people, following the rules for combating the coronavirus. Therefore, Frank usually only meets with committee members (coop group leaders). Frank usually finds other cooperative group farmers in their field /farms as they are doing farm work. There, they can have a little chat and discuss different issues.
During June, Frank put more emphasize on issues of working together, he has been encouraging them to work together to help one another so that the group can stay well and healthy, together. An example is the activities we conducted in our no-till research. That effort has been a collective effort and Frank used this example to ask them to do likewise on their individual farms. This can be done by working together on each family’s farm. For example, all of them may meet at one individual farm and work and, then the next day at another members’ farm and so on.
This concept has been well received and all farmers see the benefits. The purpose here is for them to share and to care for one another. Such sharing was not common in Rwanda before the Tutsi genocide in 1994. People used to hate one another based on their tribes (Tutsi, Hutu, Twa). TFH promotes the Rwandan government’s teachings on reconciliation and these strategies of working together is a proper path to sustainable development as well as sustainable peace and reconciliation.
The picture above was taken during a meeting and discussions with Twisungane committee members. As you can see some of the group members are wearing their masks to abide by the rules. Because Frank does not live in their community he has to talk to them when a wearing mask to show them that he cannot infect them with coronavirus in case he might have been infected in the city where he lives.
The extremely poor among the farmers live in mud houses, such as shown in the pictures above. However, we have a plan to use revenue from the motorcycle taxi business and goats’ projects to raise their lifestyle and be able to renovate their houses as well. This is not the type of house in which they want to raise their children (dirt floors, walls that cannot withstand heavy seasonal rains, no water, sanitation, or power). While some of them have been raised in such houses we do not want others to continue with such a life. This is what TFH is fighting for. We want to help raise the standard of living among the poor and, with a little help, get out extreme poverty.
Harvesting No Till Research Trials, Data Collection and Recording
During June, we harvested our no till trials. This was the most important activity related to the agricultural work our farmers are doing. Their farming activities are not an occupation that is supplying them a good living. Many factors have hindered and continue to hinder their farm’s productivity e.g., limited land size, lack of proper techniques / methods of cultivation, soil fertility issues, lack of proper inputs (poor variety of seeds, lack of fertilizers and manure). That why we conducted no till research i.e., to see what kind of cultivation method can best help them to have good yields and to understand their soil fertility issues. No till farming requires much less labor in the preparation of the farmland.
TFH has given our farmers goats for many purposes but among is to increase manure for their agriculture purposes.
The activity of harvesting our trial was well organized and every member was present, men and women working together. Every plot was harvested separately using all the agronomic parameters.
The above pictures show what the farmers do to harvest their crops. Briefly these pictures show the harvesting process and all the activities. As you can see all the work is done by hand. You can see how they are working together in friendship, women, and men together. Beans require a lot of work during harvesting. Our farmers do not have modern equipment for harvesting beans. Lack of machinery is another constraint on productivity. The pictures show how tough agriculture can be especially for poor people.
Apart from the agriculture activities you can see that they are willing to help one another. This is what we are looking for, togetherness and get to where we want to be i.e., a good life with peace and harmony.
We are now recording data and soon Frank will supply the results and the analysis and the recommendations on the issue of no-till and till methods.
Water scarcity is a big problem in sub-Saharan African and in Rwanda. It is a huge problem that the government is working day and night to solve. However, in rural and remote areas it is not just the scarcity but the cleanliness of available water that has put the poor families at risk from diseases. People travel long distances to just get clean water. Sometimes they use water from sources near them which are not clean.
Frank took this picture when he was travelling by motorcycle around the community where our farmers live. The person in the picture is one of our farmers and he was returning from fetching clean water in a distant area where the small container (5 gallons) of clean water cost 100 frw (~16 US cents). So, the issue is not about the cost but the long distance. Frank and the farmers are suggesting that TFH supply them Madidrop+ ceramic tablets to help purify water. With those tablets they can try to clean (decontaminate) water they fetch from the nearby river. Someday the government will be able to bring pipes to this neighborhood and supply clean tap water.
So far farmers are happy with all TFH is doing and they are more than ready to show that they have been learning a lot. They know it is up to them to show progress in what they are doing. By looking at the pictures in this report you can see they are looking healthy. There is an issue with their kids, Frank is not always satisfied with how their kids look in terms of health and cleanness. However, this is the fight and Frank is determined to continue to fight along with TFH. We believe we will win and change these people’s lives for the better. Therefore, on behalf of the farmers Frank would like to express their appreciation for everything TFH is doing “God bless you abundantly.”
FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES
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.
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FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES
Weeding the Non-Till Farming Plot
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 pictures above show times before planting and after the germination (just one plot) and as you can see the germination rate is above 90%. This is exceptionally good in agriculture and we hope to have a good yield, if other agronomics parameters are done properly and on time.
When the rain started after 3 weeks of germination, we conducted another activity which is also very important, and that is the uprooting of all weeds that can compete for nutrient absorption with crops (Beans).
Weeding activity was done properly. Frank had trained our farmers to do it as it should be done. Frank also discussed with them the issue of social distancing while they were weeding.
The picture above shows farmers working on the field uprooting the unwanted plants (weeding). This activity helps to alter the microclimate below plant leaves, it helps also to reduce humidity as the sun and wind can penetrate deeper and easier in a weeded crop-plot and hence have a positive impact on pest and disease control.
Helping Twisungane Farmers during the COVID-19 Food Shortage
Tools for Hope (TFH) gave the twenty Twisungane families food (25 kgs Rice, 10 maize flour and 3 liters cooking oil per family) to help them during these demanding times where most of them have lost their jobs during this lockdown.
The farmers were incredibly happy to get the food supplies from TFH. Frank could not gather all of them together for a photograph because of the rules about not gathering more than 10 people.
Below is the Twisungane farmers committee with the post which says “ON BEHALF OF OTHERS WE THANK YOU TFH. GOD BLESS YOU ALL”
Although it was not easy to move from one area to another because of the official lockdown, Frank managed to convince the local leaders to allow our farmers to travel between a distant market and their community. The local leaders and government officials know TFH and the activities we do to help the farmers, therefore they granted farmers the permission to move from their village to the shopping centers located far from their village. The quantity and quality of food supplies we wanted were more than the local shops could provide. So, our farmers had to travel to the large shopping center. We thank the local leaders for their understanding.
Below are some pictures taken during the process of buying and delivering the food, which was done on Friday 24th April 2020. These Twisungane representatives distributed the food to each farmer that remained at home. The process went well. They thank you a lot and ask God to bless TFH.
They used bicycle and motorbikes to carry the food stuffs. Our own motorbike (TFH motorbike) was also used to carry the food stuff. Because it was not working for transporting people, but it can be allowed to carry food commodities.
This was the happiness moments, when you get food to eat during these times of lockdown, it is like a miracle. And this will sustain them for 2 months, because they have vegetables in their farms, therefore, because each family was given, 25 kgs of Rice, 10 kgs of Maize flour and 3 liters of cooking oil. Now, they will have a balanced diet for not less than 2 months.
Frank and the farmers discussed nutrition and now they know how to modify their diet to maintain their health. This is very important during these days as to boost their immune systems so that they can be able to resist so many diseases. Therefore, it was also a good opportunity for TFH to introduce this lesson of combating malnutrition among our farmers.
Smallholder farmers’ happiness is the most important thing that TFH is working on, because when farmers are happy, they can be able to secure their tomorrow with plenty of innovation and hardworking mood. They just need a little help and encouragement like this.
The No-till experimental trial is giving hope that we will have good and reliable data that will help us to come with good recommendation. Again, we believe this pandemic will soon be over and we continue our lives and even have better hope than ever. Farmers are calm even if they do not understand what is going on in this world, but we still believe in God and we will see this through.
FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES
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
Please send this newsletter along to anyone you feel may benefit from it.
In February, Rwanda had heavy rainfall that destroyed people’s houses with some loss of life. We thank God that our farmers are all OK. They had minor losses to their harvests.
During February, Frank and the farmers began a research activity to determine the efficacy of no-till farming and to compare it to the usual way of preparing soil for planting.
Additionally, Frank and the farmers held discussions on their up-coming goat purchases through loans from Tools For Hope (TFH). The goats were delivered the first of March 2020. We will be able to report more about the project next month.
Their discussions also included the issue of clean water. The farmers were very much concerned because obtaining clean water is among the difficult issues that they have experienced all their lives. They addressed deposit time-periods and, methods for depositing their loan payments to TFH for their motorbike.
They continued their discussions about food preservation techniques and about how to improve their food supply security through better food / crop preservation. They also discussed the potential of solar energy providing electrical power to their households.
Frank and the farmers also discussed the significant issue of the government closure of the community school. We have asked Frank to gather the details about this issue for us.
Preparation for No-Till Farming Research Trials
Land preparation came after Frank had trained the farmers on the meaning of no-till farming and, the objective of this research. This was their first time to hear about this system.
This is an innovation to our farmers, and we needed to train them on how to do it and on the purpose of this research. They are used to tilling their land in every season, and they haven’t tried any other ways of farming.
Frank explained the technique to them and told them no-till is a farming system that is beneficial to crops and soils. It increases soil fertility and thus increases crop production, it also reduces fuel, labor, and equipment costs and it improves soil structure.
This method can also reduce erosion, as it leaves more residues on the soil surface and thus reduces the velocity of rainwater run off which causes erosion. In Rwanda, the country of a thousand hills, farmers know the damage that erosion can do to their lands.
Looking at the picture above, you can see the differences between plots prepared by tilling the soil and those prepared for no-till farming. In the tilled plots you can see that soil was disturbed, was lifted, and how soil was taken away from its natural state. Looking at the no-till plots you can see the soil is in its natural state. What the farmers did on the no-till plot was just to remove the harvested maize and cut some shrubs without disturbing the soil.
Planting began the weekend of February 29, 2020. Frank put some signposts indicating plots with the different techniques for others to look at and to observe the differences in crop growth for these two different techniques. We have 6 plots for no-till farming and 6 plots for tillage farming. The till and the no-till plots will be used to grow the same crops using the same inputs (e.g., fertilizers, etc.) for comparison purposes.
Meetings with farmers on projects and on their livelihood problems
Farmers have income producing projects that are on-going. These projects increase their earning capacity and their knowledge in adapting to business thinking. An off-farm income producing project for our farmers is crucial because their farms are too small to produce the food and incomes that they need to survive. Off-farm income is often the only barrier between them and malnutrition or starvation.
Eleven Twisungane Group Families Receive Loans for Goats
The (11) families thanked TFH USA for accepting their requests and granting them loans with which to purchase two goats per family. TFH invested ~ $1,870.00 to purchase and deliver the 22 goats. These eleven families needed the goats and they each agreed to the TFH loan repayment terms (i.e., they will each repay TFH for their two goats after 12 months to allow them time to generate income from the goats).
We (Frank, Deo, and TFH USA) have discussed the issue of a pending goat project since the time of our original employee Deo, in 2016. Because of the time lag, the farmers were concerned that TFH might not carry through on its promise to loan them funds for the goats. The project was delayed because everyone involved needed to agree on loan repayment terms and, because the farmers needed their transportation issue addressed as their priority.
Obtaining clean water is one of the most distressing issues the farmers face. The water they use mostly comes from a river near their farms. That river water is dirty. When it rains, many of the farmers get water from small ponds that are in the neighborhood however, the ponds are very dirty.
Above is a photograph of the pond located in the farmer’s neighborhood. Some people are using that dirty water for home consumption. Frank spoke with them about buying some water tanks to be able to catch the rainwater during rainy seasons and use rainwater instead.
They had waited for the government to provide them with clean water taps (hand-pumped water wells) but up until now there has been no action. The government did provide their community with a tank and guttering to collect rainwater runoff from the roof of the local one room school building.
Frank and TFH USA are investigating low-cost, viable, simple, and socially acceptable methods for cleaning the water from their local water sources. Currently, two technologies look promising. One technology involves ceramic water filters impregnated with colloidal silver. Colloidal silver is a mineral. Colloidal silver can kill certain germs by binding to and destroying proteins. A second technology uses silver ions on the internal surfaces of a porous ceramic tablet. The two technologies may be used together or separately.
From the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/safewater/ceramic-filtration.html :
“Locally manufactured ceramic filters have traditionally been used throughout the world to treat household water. Currently, the most widely implemented ceramic filter is the Potters for Peace design. The filter is flowerpot shaped, holds about 8-10 liters of water, and sits inside a plastic or ceramic receptacle. To use the ceramic filters, families fill the top receptacle or the ceramic filter itself with water, which flows through the ceramic filter or filters into a storage receptacle. The treated water is then accessed via a spigot embedded within the water storage receptacle. The filters are produced locally at ceramics facilities, and then impregnated with colloidal silver to ensure complete removal of bacteria in treated water and to prevent growth of bacteria within the filter itself. Numerous other locally-made and commercial ceramic filters are widely available in developed and developing countries.”
The other technology is the Madidrop+. See https://www.madidrop.com/how-it-works.
“Silver ions delivered by nanoparticles to bacteria promote lysis, the process by which cells break down and ultimately die, which makes silver nanoparticles a superior and widely used antibacterial agent. New research by Rice University found that silver ions, not the particles themselves, are toxic to bacteria. They also found that ligands in the vicinity of a bacteria can bind silver ions and prevent them from reaching their target.” (Credit: Zongming Xiu/Rice University)
The Motorbike Taxi Project
Frank and the farmers discussed the best ways of paying the TFH loan for the motorbike. They agreed on modified terms and conditions that will help them with depositing their payments into our bank account. The motorbike project is doing well, and they are depositing money to the TFH account every two weeks to repay their loan. At the same time, they are also depositing money into their own account as well.
Food / Crop Preservation
The farmers and Frank continued their discussions about food preservation. Frank learned that they only utilize a technique of preserving beans where they store beans in a sack and put some product (pills) they buy at the Agropharm (local agricultural supply store) which prevents their beans from spoiling. Other crops such as cassava they just leave in the field and take what they can consume and leave the rest in the field.
There are other techniques for food / crop preservation that they may be able to take advantage of. The photograph above shows a traditional way of drying maize grains. The dried grains are ready to transform to maize flour. This technique is usually used when the farmers need to quickly have their grain turned into flour.
Government Closes the Community’s School
The classrooms are not in service anymore. The government closed the community’s only school. The children are now walking a long distance to attend school in another village. The distance is extremely far for the little children to walk every day. We are afraid the number of children attending school will drop. Frank still encourages parents to keep allowing their children to go school. We are also connecting with local government officials to see if they can influence the central government to reopen their school and to provide salaries to local teachers to come and teach at the school.
Solar Energy for Electrical Power
Last but not the least among what the farmers and Frank discussed, is the issue of electricity. They have shown their interest in having solar energy, and they wanted to start with electricity for lamp lighting. Many of the ladies in the group told Frank that they suffer during the night especially in food preparation and in helping their kids with their homework from school. Solar energy may become one of the next projects that TFH helps with. Frank is investigating the issue(s).
The Way Forward
The farmers were encouraged to make their activities more business-smart and to think of projects that can improve their standards of living. They can grow these ideas into something big in the future.
Next month we hope to have photographs and videos of the farmers with their new goats. The farmers are on the right track for development and what we need to do is to give a little push and help them achieve their goals.
FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES
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.
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.
FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES
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.
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
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.
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
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FILED UNDER: MONTHLIES
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.
copyright Tools for Hope, Inc. 2021
"Tools for Hope, Inc." is a 501(c) 3 non-profit Tennessee corporation.
1540 Robinson Road, Knoxville TN 37923