Perspectives on a GHI World Food Program Training
Post by 2018 Spring Intern Lila Gordon, Photos by Maggie Andresen
Two weeks into my internship with Gardens for Health International (GHI), I took an evening bus ride from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, to Nyamagabe in the country’s southern province. Four hours after leaving the station, we arrived in this small but vibrant district. Two staff members and I enjoyed a buffet, and after a short walk, we comfortably spent our night in a house provided by GHI for field staff. In the morning, we were to observe a School Garden Training Session, part of a recently implemented partnership project with the World Food Programme’s Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) initiative.
This trip was not my first to Nyamagabe. I traveled to the bucolic area with my colleagues from the School for International Training (SIT) a few months ago. Then, we visited a Genocide memorial commemorating the site where thousands of Tutsis were killed in April 1994. For the past several months, I have been in Rwanda studying Genocide and Post – Conflict Reconstruction with SIT. The SIT program includes an internship component where students have the opportunity to work side-by-side local organizations engaging directly with their communities. Having entered the internship portion of my semester abroad, I am now working with GHI, assisting with design work, researching grant opportunities, and observing program activities such as the work at EP Mugombwa Primary School in Nyamagabe. Again, this particular program activity was a School Garden Training Session, led by GHI Farm Manager Denyse Niyubahwe.
GHI has been training school leaders and head teachers from 104 primary schools across the Western and Southern provinces to create nutrition-sensitive gardens on school grounds as a way of providing students with nutritious food. These gardens also have potential as sources of income for the schools. In Nyamagabe, I was present for the second cluster of training sessions with head teachers, representatives of the schools who receive the training. At this point, the head teachers had already set up their gardens, and were reconvening to discuss garden care, work through practical challenges, and expand their knowledge on in-season care and managing pests and diseases. The discussion occurred in Kinyarwanda, a language in which I am not fluent. However, because I spent the previous week editing the HGSF Training Guide, I understood the themes of the lesson. Further, while the lesson’s exact words were lost on me, the reactions of the teachers showed how impactful Denyse’s words were.
I observed laughter and responsiveness from the audience. Denyse led such an enthusiastic lecture that the participants asked to continue their lesson straight through lunch rather than break early. Eventually, we did enjoy a delicious, catered lunch, after which Denyse led a hands-on practical. She created a natural pesticide from inexpensive, commonplace ingredients including pili pili peppers, African marigold, and black jack. Finally, we visited the school’s HGSF vegetable garden. This part was the most exciting because the garden was well maintained and productive. Land is a potential barrier for many schools involved with the School Garden project, but EP Mugombwa Primary School was able to produce an extensive garden on school grounds. This prolific garden was an example of the potential that collaboration between schools and an institution fighting hunger can reach
Overcoming malnutrition is an enterprise that would benefit any country in the world, but is particularly striking in Rwanda. “A hungry man is an angry man,” - this mantra has been repeated by speakers throughout my time in Rwanda, in reference to the Genocide Against the Tutsi. It means when a person is not economically stable, they are more likely to be envious and greedy, emotions that often breed violence. Given the role that poverty may have played in the Rwandan Genocide, it is promising to witness GHI and Epmugombwa’s progress, as well as all the progress Rwanda has made in improving their economy. If one is visiting the Nyamagabe Memorial, they need not look far to find this joint effort to separate Rwanda’s past from its present, ensuring a secure future.