Meanwhile in Rwanda: This year’s sorghum harvest is disappointing

One of the keys to achieving food security in Africa is ensuring 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.

Summer is harvest time in Rwanda, and throughout the country, farmers are carrying bags and bundles of their harvest. It’s the same here in Kiramuruzi, where Evariste Niyonzima, Justine Uwingabire’s husband, had taken advantage of the weekend to help his wife harvest sorghum.

“As you have seen, my wife is weak these days because she is pregnant. I have to help her harvest this sorghum and transport it from this farm to home,” Evariste says.

Evariste has worked with three women and two men to help with the harvest. In the early morning of July 10, he and his male workers have cut the sorghum. Women coming up behind cut the heads of grain, while men carry the bagged sorghum home where the grain will be exposed to sunlight to reduce its moisture content. Because Evariste is the owner of the farm, he helps women to cut sorghum until they finish.

“When I leave for my job, Justine will be looking after to this sorghum until it is stocked,” says Evariste.

Earlier this year, Justine had confirmed that the sorghum crop looked good. However, Evariste says that in June, unusual rains affected the yield. The rains caused sorghum grains to stick to each other and not develop.

“We were expecting around seven sacks of sorghum but I think it will not go over four sacks,” Evariste says. One sack is around 100 kg.

At home, Justine has awakened late. However, she has to check how the cows fill. She works with her maid to feed and care for the cows.

“The summer is coming. I am sure we will have problems to feed these cows,” Justine says.

Because of this sunny season which is coming, Justine has reduced the number of the cows to two and reserved some grass to feed in August when the drought will be severe.

After checking the cattle, Justine will prepare food for her husband and others coming from sorghum farm. “I will prepare Irish potatoes from my farm,” she says. “As you remember, this season, beside sorghum I have grown Irish potatoes.”

The species of Irish potatoes in the east and low lands of Rwanda are smaller than in higher lands of the north and west of the country.

In general, the season has been nice even if in May there were three weeks warmer than normal. Some vulnerable crops were affected.

Justine is satisfied with the Irish potatoes she harvested. “It is not the quantity I was expecting, but they look well,” she says.

Justine says this Irish potato crop will be used to feed the family and to share with other relatives.

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