FFA GO: Africa – July 27, 2011

Q & A with Farmers

By Team A (Brett, Jamie, Victoria and Jeff) 

As we pulled up to the CRS headquarters today, staffers greeted us all with warm smiles as we made our way up the stairs to the second floor balcony of the cream-colored building.  Joslyn, an intern for CRS, had constructed a presentation for us about her research and recommendations on Gender Equality in Rwanda in the agriculture sector.  Numerous intriguing thoughts were brought forth including the equality of labor in the fields, farmer schools and also the households.  Conclusions were that many spouse relationships are very balanced with some tendencies of different work for different genders in the Rwandan countryside. 

As the clock struck 11, we waved goodbye to Team B as they sped out to the Northern Province of Rwanda, while we took off eastward.  A chicken coop was the destination of our trip, where we were exposed to knowledge about the poultry industry and what role chickens play in the typical Rwandan lifestyle.  The coop consisted of 800 female and 100 male chicks to be given to farmers for meat, eggs and breeding.  Surprisingly, there are not many family farms that raise chickens, even though they are smaller animals that produce eggs every day and require minimal space.  The reasons uncovered for their low popularity included high prices for expensive chicken feed as well as the large need of veterinarians to administer various medications to them.

After eating a traditional Rwandan lunch of boiled meat and vegetables, we jetted off to a petite village community. We entered into an older pale-white building to find a group of 28 farmers (mostly female) in a room discussing what varieties of cassava they have had success with in production.  Our favorite part of the day then came after we looked at a test site of cassava with the farmers and proceeded to engage in a question and answer session. The farmers were as ecstatic to ask us questions about the United States, and we were equally excited to question them about their country.   

As it turns out, most of the families are able to produce enough personal food, but they struggle to have enough extra to sell at the market.  Other challenges that they face include seed availability, fertilizer (organic and chemical) availability, a lack of additional trainings for more farmers to take part in, climate changes, and a need for agriculture tools such as hoes, sprayers, and shoes/boots for the field.  With the need to compete with other countries and markets that are using improved techniques, addressing these challenges will be vital.  Other topics covered were their potential interest in looking into crop insurance programs if available, the role of elderly individuals in the household after they are too weak for the fields and how to combat diseases. 

The session ended with their questions about where we were from, what our role was in Rwanda, what agriculture is like in our country and what ideas we had for pass along.  Taking a picture of us with the farmers really tied the knot because even though we couldn’t speak to them without a translator, sometimes people can feel a deep connection without words.

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