April 3, 2009
I have never before felt such a strong connection to the Earth as I did visiting our CIFI program at GAKO farm in Kabunga, about a 30 minute drive from Kigali. Everything about GAKO vibrates—the clean air, green, fresh and alive with the hum and churn of organic processes and people. Our women learn so many amazing skills, from sack and kitchen gardens to animal husbandry and crop management. Mr. Richard, our technical partner and the founder/managing director of GAKO, his wife, Francine, a trained agriculturalist, and their lovely children were our gracious tour guides, showing us the incredible capabilities, power, and true worth of sustainable, organic farming.
Since land in Rwanda is so scarce (.6 HA for each family), skills such as sack and kitchen gardens are vital for our women to learn.
Small groups of our women train intensely at GAKO for six days at a time, living in dormitories and applying what they learn in the classroom to the demonstration gardens and fields that are GAKO. The result is stunningly beautiful—women, working as a unit, reusing and recycling all materials produced on the farm to feed themselves, the workers, and sell at market. The effect is so true and resonates so loudly, one realizes that the very worth of an education and training in organic farming and agriculture is infinite. These women are learning the very art of survival—food production and management—and, in turn, bringing those skills back to support their families and communities.
One women in our program explained that after returning to her home with her newly acquired skills, her neighbor said, “I want to know how to do that! Can you teach me?”
After showing us one demonstration farm on .6 HA, Mr. Richard explained that the particular family living on that farm brings in $400 a month. The goal of the Rwandan government is for every family to be making $900 a year. For a moment we were all shocked into silence.
Our concept of circles at Women for Women is truly circuitous onto itself. The circle of women gathering, learning, and then sharing creates better communities, families and nations, circles forever linked. Our CIFI program deeply epitomizes this and looking out amongst the thousand hills, the women and men working side by side, the bean, carrot, cassava, and chard growing neatly, yet inhabiting a wild quality all the same, allowed me to feel a true connection, depth, and spiritual meaning to the work we do.
Perhaps this is my circle, or, just the beginning, in Rwanda.