The day began just as most of our days in Rwanda. A morning briefing followed by a site visit, this time to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources where we had the pleasure to meet and talk with the Honorable Geraldine Mukeshimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture. Agriculture is such an integral part of Rwanda’s economy so it was fascinating to learn about many of the policies and initiatives being implemented in Rwanda to boost such a vital economic sector. We also learned about the initiative to provide poor families with one cow, also called the Girinka Program, to boost economic livelihoods. (Side Note: We later visited a recipient of this program to see the program in action. As a result of receiving the cow, the family was able to send their children to school and bring in additional income). Much to our surprise, our session with the honorable agriculture minister was mentioned in the official website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI). A more detailed news is provided in the following link: http://www.minagri.gov.rw/index.php?id=469&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=1057&cHash=39d6da12426f738726159bda99b4e8fe
After leaving the Ministry, we packed up into the bus and drove to Hotel Bethany for a fantastic lunch (generously provided by the Ministry) on the stunningly beautiful Lake Kivu. Lake kivu is located on the border of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, in the town of Gisenyi. The sights we witnessed were nothing short of remarkable. The surrounding mountains provide a breathtaking backdrop that mere words can explain.
Next we visited an irrigation site for local farmers in the Karongi District of Rwanda. As you may know, Rwanda is commonly referred to as ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ – a fitting name given the landscape. Given the terrain, farming can be difficult but the Ministry has invested in terraced irrigation sites to help farmers, particularly in the dry season. What began as an innocent hike to the irrigation site quickly became one of our best experiences as a group. Due to our visit with the Ministry, we were all dressed in proper business attire. Without time to change, we proceeded to our afternoon visits, which included the hike. After observing the waterfall and stream from above, we proceeded to hike down the mountain – including me in my suit. The hike was quite steep and oftentimes muddy thus requiring a team effort to get down the side of the hill. Upon traversing the hill, we encountered the stream that we had to cross – again, in our professional attire – which required throwing large rocks into the water to use as stepping stones and a lot of support and assistance. Finally, as we reached the other side and walked to the irrigation site and reservoir (which is used to help farmers irrigate at night), we breathed a sigh of relief and piled back into the bus for the 3 hour drive back to Kigali. Despite being dirty, wet (and some minor injuries), we laughed and relished the group bonding experience that pushed us closer together and made for great stories.