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Report Date: June 30, 2018

Report on FfF Training Undertaken by John Vlaming and Jerry Field in Rwanda June 2018


Project name: Rwanda Eglise INKURU_NZIZA au Rwanda

Key person: Alfred Kagumya

John and I visited Rwanda to establish how the farmers were doing who were trained in Foundations for Farming in 2017. The trainees were from three different areas so we visited each area. 

Recent Events

Churches Closing

churches closingA massive issue facing all churches in Rwanda is the government demands on what now is allowed for a church building to be open. Many of these requirements are currently not met by churches, hence somewhere around 7,600 churches have been closed in the country. For the organization we deal with they have had 189 churches closed with just six remaining open.

It is also not allowed for groups to meet in homes or in open air places so currently people are either having to travel long distances or just not go to church which is having a very negative impact on the word of God in the country.

Some of the requirements are:

• A place for car parking (even in rural areas where there are no cars the Government has decreed this because they say if a government official visits where will they park their car?!)
• Steel / iron windows and doors
• Ceiling that is high enough
• Concrete plaster on the inside of the building and floors
• Gardens surrounding the church
• A minimum sized area of church grounds

This is a massive issue for our brothers here. They showed us many churches that are closed as we travelled to see farmers. 


noticeable differenceLeonadas had planted about 1 ha of maize using the new methods and he says you could see the difference. They have two seasons for planting in Rwanda, the first they plant in August and the second in February. We saw the crop that had been planted in February.

From the 1 ha planted in August, the yield from the hectare was about 3 ton. This is well above the normal 500kg that he used to get. 

In discussions about the method we found:
- His spacing was very wide, which he put down to not remembering what he was taught, plus it seems he was inter-planting beans that had already been harvested when we saw the field.
- He used compost, made mostly out of animal manure that he sourced from his own animals
- Wood ash from cooking fires was collected and used to help with the PH of the soil
- Mulching was difficult as the left over maize stove was often taken by people to use in cooking fires for fuel
- Many neighbors were very interested in the method and some tried to implement.

An agricultural officer, Richard Habimana, came to visit us as well. He is most interested in this method and wants to help more in setting up a demo plot that people can come and see. He is promising to visit each day next planting season to try and help all the parts of the method to be implemented. He says if something can be set up and the community can see what potential the land has they will want to change their farming methods.

Ramba Area, Western Province
This area is in the highland mountain region, an amazing place with pretty much all of the steep land used for farming or firewood plantings - a lot of work! The rains are constant throughout the year other than July so they can virtually plant anything all year round.

Land ownership is a bit different here. Due to generational land being constantly split up as families get bigger the size of land owned has gotten smaller and smaller. Many people end up with too small a piece of land so they are selling to bigger farmers and moving away. It means some have large plots of land and they hire many of the others in the area who have small plots to work in the fields.

Generally the farming is good in this area and people are eating well but poverty still exists for small land owners who struggle to have enough income for other living requirements. Often they are paid US$1 for 6 hours work a day.

Crops can struggle to sell so it is hard to make money for other things because of market and transportation issues. 

The government has made four categories of economic status which depends on housing, land ownership, and food security. The lowest category can receive some government help.

Pastor Uzziel
well respectedHe is the pastor of the local parish church which covers 10 other churches. The local people have done well to keep the church open to meet government requirements. He has five children, three of which are still living at home.

He owns about 300 ha, mainly planting potatoes, wheat and seed maize.  He is a well-respected member of the community and supplies local farmers with potato seed. He uses a cow mattress made out of wheat straw, where the cows add manure, and then this is used in the potato fields.

He planted maize and tried to follow the methods but did not get a good harvest as there was too much rain and cold re lack of sunshine because they are so high up in the mountains.

Dyonis Ndibandi 
recognisable differenceDyonis is a local church leader who was also trained last year and we went to his farm. His main crops are maize and wheat which is used to make porridge and bread as well as some potatoes.  Dyonis has a 4ha farm and planted 1/3 hectare of maize in March, the second season. He planted his maize in lines (40 cm x 40 cm because the agricultural officer told him too) but had no mulch as it was difficult to find. He did use lime compost and fertilizer. The difference with his neighbor’s field is recognizable and people are interested. Some issues with still digging heavily while weeding.

The yield from his first season planted in September increased from 20kg previously to 80kg with the new methods from same area of land. The main reason was planting properly rather than using the old “throw method”.

He thinks his production can increase but it requires a lot of things to change. Mulch is very hard to find because the weeds used in compost and crop residue are used as fire fuel as wood is hard to find.


Personal Stories

Farm Visits

Eastern Province - Pastor Nippo 
fantastic resultAfter training last year Pastor Nippo decided to plant a small portion of maize to test the methods. He planted a 40m x 20m plot. The most difficult thing he found with the methods was collecting mulch but he manage to buy some grass.

When he was measuring out his field with ropes and tape, and measuring the amount of fertilizer and compost, his neighbors were curious as they passed by and stopped to see what he was doing. After seeing they walked away shaking their heads and called him a mad man.

But he continued and at harvest these same neighbors couldn’t believe what they saw. Pastor Nippo harvested 600kg of shelled maize from this small plot, which is the equivalent of 7.5 tonnes per hectare. He says now the people are very keen to see what he has done!

He told us that there is a saying in Rwandan culture that goes “when you have nothing to do, you dig”. Meaning that if there is no other job available to you, then you have to farm. He is keen to change this mindset. The main issue that people in his church have is one of food security and having enough money to buy essentials such as the compulsory Rwandan health insurance of 3,000 francs (US$3) per person per year.

Nyajihinja area Eastern North Province - Leonadas Ntiyenabo
Leonadas' name means “to live amongst them”. He has seven children, his eldest is 24 years old and recently married. He is the local leader of the church and a well-respected member of the community. 

He has a brick business that is normally his main source of income, molding bricks out of mud on his farm and then firing them with wood fires to produce the red building bricks.

working hardWhen we visited, his local church had decided to start doing something about the issue of churches being closed in the country. Their church has been closed and is in fact condemned as it is too small so they have to start with a completely new building.

It was great to see that the church members were all giving up one day per week to go and work to help make bricks for the new building. They were singing as the worked, one song said “the job God has given we will do perfect with joy”. They said the effort of building the bricks had filled them with hope.


Ideas for the Future

With Pastor Nippo we discussed what could happen next. He has potential to be a trainer in his village and church so we talked about what he might need to run a training course there. He is to send through a budget to us of what this may look like. They would need to train them before the next planting season in September.

We are wondering if there is a better way to have more impact in some of these places where uptake of FfF has been slow. Thoughts are that training people for three days in a classroom may not be enough to change mind-sets, especially when the culture is more a hands on seeing and learning. 

One idea discussed would be for someone to go and stay in a location for a week or two and run a training course but also get the trainees to plant an area of land that would be a demo. That way many aspects of the method would be supervised and people would see what to do. There would then be something established where the people could continue with the method for that block, and have regular communication with them as to what is happening on the plot.

It is possible that this may also help in getting other people to become trainers, i.e. we could take a possible person with us to help and be involved.


Current Issues and Challenges

From our observations the following points could be made: 

1) Plant spacing needs to be more accurate as this causes issues of canopy coverage not being achieved so more weed pressure and moisture loss occurs

2) Inter-planting is common. Needs to be more emphasis on crop rotation instead of inter-planting in the same field. This causes issues of management and impacts on correct plant spacing.

3) Weeding pressure, even for them to be weeding in the season when nothing is planted in the field

4) Possible growing of cover crops to help with mulch material


We tried to think why some things had not been implemented as taught (other than Pastor Nepo):

1) Priority of the issue with church closures

2) Lack of understanding of the potential yields if all the method was followed.