One of the keys to achieving food security in Africa is ensuring that its millions of smallholder farmers are able to produce enough food for their families plus a surplus to sell in local markets.
To get a better idea of the challenge facing a typical African farm family, we’ve identified one through Farm Radio International, a Canadian organization that delivers information to farmers through 320 radio station partners in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re keeping track of her farm activities through the year.
The articles are written by Jean Paul Ntezimana, who works with Radio Salus, a station which reaches 90 per cent of Rwanda. Currently, he co-ordinates a radio program for farmers about land conflicts with Search for Common Ground in Rwanda, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to help communities deal with conflicts in a constructive way. If you have questions or comments for our African farm family, you can provide them in the Comments section at the end of this article.
In June, several farmers from different farmers unions in Rwanda visited France to share experience with their fellows in the Western world, especially in Lorraine region. This visit has been organized by Farmers in Collaboration with Farmers’ Union in France (Agriculteurs francais et developpement international (AFDI) en region de Lorraine).
Justine Uwingabire was one of three members from Imbaraga and they were with other Rwandan farmers to be invited on this round. Justine says she was overwhelmed by this occasion, and wants to share with others farmers what she experienced in France.
“We spent some three weeks in France. It was near Belgium and Luxembourg. It is in a flat region. No hills and mountains like in Rwanda.
“First of all, I realized that farmers are very developed. The agriculture is mechanized. They have machines, different machines to use during their activities. Because of these machines, they work on wide land. They have land! Hectares and hectares of land!
“What is very interesting is that their machines work as human beings. They prepare the farm before they grow seeds. They grow seeds and they remove bad grass. After, they harvest. It is amazing.
“They have worked with their government to protect their products. This is very appreciable. Here in Rwanda, it is not common that government works with farmers to protect their products against low and bad prices. It is done only with coffee, tea, rice (sometimes). It is almost exporting products which are watched by government.
“In fact, we learned many things in this union. This idea of working with government will help us.
“Before I visited France, I was thinking that no farmer in the West uses organic manure. I realized that this organic manure is very important. They use it, and much more than we use.
“We learned how to stock grass for cows. It is unusual for us to see a cow fed by dried grass. This technology will help us to fight the problem of feeding cattle during our summer time.
“I cannot talk about how they feed their cattle with dried grass without mentioning that I did not like the weather. I like sunlight. They do not have enough sunlight. They told me June is nice, it is their summer coming up. It was not warm as it is in our country.
“In addition, farmers live a lonely life in villages. Maybe, it is because they do not have many kids. This visit will change my working plans and I will try to share my experiences with my fellows here in Rwanda.”
This visit was in the cadre of exchange between Imbaraga Farmers’ Union and AFDI of Lorraine in France. After this visit, Imbaraga expects to receive around 10 members of AFDI in this November.