It is early morning on Wednesday July 17th 2019 as we are driving from Huye town to Nyamagabe District in Rwanda’s Southern Province. In Nyamagabe our partners from Caritas Gikongoro are joining us; Father Joseph Nayigiziki, the Director of Caritas Gikongoro as well as Aloysie Mukamana, Programme Coordinator of Caritas Gikongoro, are both ready to accompany us to one of their activities that are being carried out by their team of field officers for a project funded by the European Union and Trócaire.
Being very familiar with the project since its design and inception phase, it is the first time for me to participate in one of the field activities that are aiming to enhance the capacity and participation of small scale farmers and civil society organisations in decision making and governance processes related to sustainable agriculture and food security in Rwanda. Today a meeting will take place in which agricultural plans will be developed for Giseke and Gabiro cell. Rwanda has a very effective decentralization structure which starts at village level to cell, sector, district and provincial level after which the national level follows.
After a beautiful drive from Nyamagabe to Ruramba sector in Nyaruguru district, through a landscape dominated by wheat fields on the top of the many hills, we are reaching a small, yet very lively Ruramba sector office.
To my surprise today’s meeting is not held in a rented conference room, but it is actually being hosted at the Ruramba sector office. After a warm welcome from the sector authorities we are being led into a small conference room fully packed with men and women from the two cells. Looking around in the room I see in front of me the true meaning of team work; cell agriculture committee members, village agricultural committee member representatives, village chiefs, farmer promotors, cell executive secretaries, cell development officers (CEDO), sector agronomist as well as Caritas Gikongoro field and management staff all coming together for the same purpose.
Caritas Gikongoro’s Field Officer Stanislas Nsekanabo is facilitating the planning session by providing an overview of the planning template that can be used and by framing the overall objectives with inputs from the participants. After this short introduction both cells are going to work in their group on the details of their agricultural plans. Within no time flipcharts are being covered with priorities, intervention activities, timeframes, support needs and requests.
As part of the project, all agricultural committee members targeted in the project (with a total of 1,400 members) received training on their roles and responsibilities as agricultural committees. This knowledge and understanding is clearly steering the discussions as each element written down on paper has a responsible person attached to it.
Caritas Gikongoro’s programme coordinator, Aloysie Mukamana says that at the start of the project almost a year ago, many agricultural committees were dormant; they would exist on paper but often the members did not realize they were in the committee and would also not have a clear understanding of what their role would be. “Because of the support provided to the agricultural committees at each level, we can see a huge progress” says Aloysie; “If you look at this meeting you can see that the sector agricultural committee has done all the planning and organisation and they are providing support to the village agricultural committees that fall within their sector.”
One lady is striking my attention as she is taking a lead in the group discussions and is clearly passionate about the agricultural priorities. I find out that she is Alphonsine Uwizeyimana, the Executive Secretary of Giseke cell. My notion of team spirit is confirmed to me by her appreciation of this planning meeting as she mentions that this is the first time they are all meeting together in such a way. “We would normally meet with farmers just before the agricultural season and a lot of responsibility would fall with the farmer promotors in each village, but now all committee members have been trained and we can really combine our efforts now” says Alphonsine.
One such farmer promotor is joining the discussion; Donathilla Mukashyaka, who is a voluntary farmer promotor in Matyazo village. She feels the actual support from the committee members and feels finally sufficiently supported and empowered to push for a model farm in their village, something which is promoted and included in Rwanda’s agricultural policies, but which is not yet functioning in each village. When asking Donathilla what the biggest outcome of this joint planning and implementation of agricultural priorities is, she says without hesitation “it will support me to reach even more farmers and in doing so we can increase our agricultural production and improve our nutrition all together”.
By: Marleen Masclee, Trócaire Rwanda Business Development and Compliance Manager
July 17th 2019