A Day on Dairy Farms in Rwanda

While my team spent much of their time going around the country and talking to farmers and institutions, I had a lot of meetings and events in Kigali and apart from the excursion  to the lake on Wednesday, I didn’t have time to get out of the capital more than on Saturday, when I met up with part of my team who were already out talking to dairy farmers. One of the areas that we are looking at is how to sustainably and viably balance the needs of a growing livestock sector with the needs of other crop sectors with limited land available. It’s a challenge that many countries are likely to face in the coming years given the increasing demand for livestock products that come with income increases. But it was inspiring to hear the stories from the farmers we met of how getting a cow changed their lives and how, as their little herd grew, they were able to improve their housing, purchase health insurance, and send their children to higher education. Knowing the hard work and determination it takes to keep livestock, I was really impressed with the achievements of these dairy farmers! 



         These last pics are from a dairy cooperative and several of the farmers we met were part of this cooperative. The top and the bottom picture demonstrate different types of ttansport used for milk collection – obviously the difference in efficiency is enormous.  The little sleeping calf was a new addition to one farmer’s herd, only seven days old. 

Lake Kivu

Today, I had a series of meeting out by Lake Kivu (about 3 hours drive west of Kigali, and partially in the Democratic Republic of Congo) and directly after I had to connect to a phone conference with Washington DC and New Delhi. So I ended up connecting to a hotel wifi so that I could call in to the conference via skype and then sat for 1.5 hours on the hotel terrace, overlooking the beautiful lake while discussing agribusiness in South Asia before heading back to Kigali. A fantastic work environment!  For anyone going to Rwanda, I can definitely recommend a stop at Lake Kivu – it’ amazingly beautiful! 

 Lake Kivu Rwanda  

Lake Kivu Rwanda  King Ndaba's rock   

On the way back, we stopped at King Ndaba’s rock (the folk tail about the rock is here) and these boys came up to entertain us with a song about the king. They sang really well in parts and had made a small instrument of a plastic bottle, a stick, and a string. Very impressive! There are clips with them on youtube, but they had improved a lot since. They even had appointed one of them as manager (their own word) to manage the money they got from singing. Very entrepreneurial! 

In Rwanda Again

I’m back in Rwanda. This time I’m here with a larger team and we are looking at different options to decrease volatilities and the impacts of risks in primarily agricultural production. I’m glad to be back because I really enjoy working in Rwanda. This time, I will get to see Lake Kivu, as I have meeting booked there. I also look forward to catching up with the two acquaintances from my Moldova days, who contacted me when I was here two weeks ago (the world feels really small sometimes). Admittedly, I also look forward to drinking lots and lots of Rwandan coffee, having tree tomato (tamarillo) juice, and visit African Bite – my favorite lunch place in Kigali.  Here is a pic of Kigali; the rolling hills in the background illustrate why Rwanda is called The Land of A Thousand Hills! 


For DCites (and DC visitors) who wishes to experience Rwandan coffee the way the Rwandans do, there is Bourbon Coffee on 21st and L Street NW – a Kigali cafe chain that has found its way all the way over to the U.S. capital and a few other American cities. 

Rwandan Souvenirs

I didn’t have much time for shopping in Rwanda but I got a few treats, namely coffee, tea, and books. For me, books and especially novels are the best way to get to know a country except for by living with local families or having really close local friends. All three books were recommended by my Rwandan colleagues: Un dimanche a la piscine a Kigali by Gil Courtemanche; Nous avons le plaisir de vous informer que, demain, nous serons tues avec nos familles by Philip Gourevitch, and; The Strategy of Antelopes: Rwanda after the Genocide, by Jean Hatzfeld. The mix of literature in English in French reflects the languages used in Rwanda today. Kinyarwanda is the local language which is spoken by almost everyone except for a small minority. Despite this, French used to be taught in schools and used in public offices etc. But a few years ago, Rwanda decided to switch to English instead, so most of my meetings there were in English. I did, however, have a few meetings in French in the rural areas and our drivers only spoke French. As for the university educated, younger professionals that I worked with, they were fluent in both French and English, and constantly switched between all three languages. So I thought I should hold myself to the same standard. I will try to read all three books before I to Rwanda again.



Last Photos from Beautiful Rwanda

It seems like no matter how many pictures I post, I can’t really do Rwanda justice. Nevertheless, here are a few more:

Rwanda's hills

Rwanda's hills

Bicycle Rwanda

Rwandan students

Schoolchildren Rwanda

Rwanda tea plantation

Tea pickers Rwanda

Rwanda monkey

Climbing Rwanda's hills

The blankets of green bushes are tea: the closer the bushes, the better the product. Picking is, however, labor intensive so I try to buy fair trade to make sure that also the tea pickers have a somewhat decent salary regardless of where in the world the team comes from. The field in the picture is a cooperative, so hundreds of small farmers own the land together. Above is the most common mode of local transportation of agricultural products – bicycles! I’m often very impressed when I see how much a skilled bicyclist can balance on an unpaved road, but it is also for us to remember how much effort that goes in into the supply chains before some foods reach our tables. The youth dressed in blue are students, and the last picture is of me climbing the hill to meet the coffee farmers. 

Two Weeks in Rwanda, The Land of a Thousand Hills

I’m back after a two-week work trip in Rwanda. As always, I’ve been there for work in the agricultural sector, and I met with farmers, agro-processors public agricultural institutions, and other actors in the agricultural sector. I spent most of the two weeks in the capital Kigali, but I also went to Nyanza and Huye in the southwest of Rwanda, and to Gicumbi in the north. I met rice producers, a tea cooperative, an award winning coffee farmer, a potato seeds producer, visited a cassava processing factory, and much, much more. It was immensely interesting and, as always, I learned a lot!

The landscape is amazing and Rwanda rightly deserves the nickname the Land of a Thousand Hills. But this together with high population density in rural areas has meant soil erosion and Rwanda has struggled with landslides and soil losses, especially during rainy seasons. In order to revert this trend, intense work has been carried out to terrace the slopes and I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. One of the photos below shows how the entire landscape had been transformed into terraces to save the soils on the hills.

Rwanda is also very interesting for an agricultural development practitioner like me: Rwanda’s agricultural policy is very much rooted in the in broadly accepted theorem that for agricultural economies, poverty reduction and economic development is largely driven by growth in the agricultural sector. Significant focus is, thus, on increasing agricultural productivity and value added along the agricultural supply chains. To still ensure a diverse diet in rural areas (an objective that not rarely is compromised under ambitious agricultural growth programs), nutritional aspects are incorporated in agricultural policy. It will be interesting to see what these policies yield over the next decade, both in the fields and for the country as a whole.

So I really enjoyed my two weeks in Rwanda! The people that I met and worked with were very nice and shared so many interesting insights to Rwanda’s multifaceted history. We stayed at Hotel Des Mille Collines, which incidentally is the hotel depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda. (It can be noted that my colleague told me that the story and its main characters are less black and white than in the Hollywood version, but most stories are.) Since I was there for work and only did just that, I didn’t have a chance to see the gorillas this time, but fortunately, it’s not my last visit to this spectacular country.

Rwanda Land of a Thousand Hills

Rwanda students

Cassava Rwanda

Rwanda kids

Terrace landscape Rwanda

Terrace landscape Rwanda

Huye Rwanda

Monkey at hotel

Tea cooperative plantation Rwanda

Rwanda tea testing


Apologies for the quality of some of the photos, I took them through the window of a moving car… From the top: Rwanda – Land of a Thousand Hills // Students on their way from school // Cassava drying on the roadside // Curious kids // Amazing terraces // Huye // Sneaky monkey steeling breakfast from the guests at our hotel in Huye // Tea cooperative plantation in a valley // Tea processor testing every batch // Hotel Des Mille Collines.