Kayonza, Rwanda, June 15, 2010 || Women are 70% of the world’s farmers, produce 90% of the world’s staple food crops yet own less than 2% of land. Today we saw how Women for Women International is helping women take action to balance the scales and reclaim the land they are harvesting through our Commercial Integrated Farming Initiative.
The majority of the women who participate in our programs in Rwanda, and throughout our three other African country programs (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Sudan), are already doing agricultural work. Our large-scale, integrated farming initiative in Rwanda trains 3,000 of these women in the eastern part of the country in advanced organic farming techniques and provides the skills to earn a sustained income.
Following morning life-skills sessions, the first stop of the afternoon was at the GAKO Organic Farming Training Center in Rwamagana. This facility trains each of the women involved in our agribusiness initiatives on topics such as innovative irrigation techniques, organic pesticides, animal husbandry, soil health and maintenance, and other viable, inexpensive methods of agricultural production. The women come for one full week of intensive training and stay at a dormitory housed on the GAKO compound. Once they complete the instruction, they put their training into practice at the Women for Women International farm sites in Kayonza.
Mark, the chief trainer and project manager for the Commercial Integrated Farming Initiative, gave us a brief primer on the basics of organic farming techniques at the GAKO site and then accompanied the group to one of the three WfWI sites. The particular farm we visited is called Ngaruye, which employs 451 women farmers cultivating 24 hectares of land spanning over two kilometers, portioned off as small plots owned by the women who work it. The first harvest will start next week as the beans are just about dry enough to pick. One of the women who will be joining in the harvest is a trained participant named Claudine. She tours the farm with us, parasol in hand, shielding herself and the baby strapped to her back from the blazing sun. She will also join in the harvesting of the maize which will be ready next month and the chili peppers in October. The entire harvest has been purchased by the United Nations World Food Programme for 5,000,000 Rwandan Francs (approximately $10,000 USD). The co-op will reinvest the money to start irrigation for tomatoes – which, like beans, maize, and chili peppers, is a viable and profitable market in the community.
As Mark and Claudine showcase their lush crops, I am energized by seeing the first fruits (and vegetables) of their labor. No longer is the program just a few pictures and words on a report for me. I am talking with the farmers, jumping over irrigations ditches, muddying my boots, and holding in my hands the first beans of the harvest.
I hope that my words and pictures give you an understanding of the huge impact Women for Women International is making in the lives these 3000 women, and on individual farmers such as Claudine. I hope that one day soon, you, too, can walk these fields and see for yourself the innovative work these women farmers are performing on their own land.
Liam Dall is the Senior Major Gifts Officer at Women for Women International. He traveled to Rwanda and DR Congo in June 2010.