A lot of time in the last few weeks has been devoted to looking at potential projects and telling farmers about our idea for Agri Evolve. This has been very encouraging as the support from the local farmers and officials has been even greater that I had hoped for. It’s hard to know where to start as the demand for what we are doing is so high. The phone keeps ringing with groups of farmers wanting us to visit them. Our diary has become very full!
We have made a lot of progress with one particular group of farmers who are about ten minutes’ drive from where we are based. The area is called Nyabirongo and is situated at the bottom of a beautiful valley coming from the mountains. The land is perfect for growing crops and added to that, there are many streams and rivers flowing through the land providing water all year round. You would expect it to be a breadbasket for food, and that the markets would be full of fresh local produce. However as we walked around the markets talking about where the food was from we were told that most of it had been brought from towns in the North. As I looked at the land all I could see were large area of trees, with an occasional banana plantation. I struggled to understand how people here could be so poor and hungry in an area that could grow high yields of a wide variety of crops. I talked to one of the farmers, Benjamin, about why this was. He told me;
“Farmers used to grow crops here but we suffered many droughts and poor harvests. We have water here but our problem is we have never had the opportunity of building an irrigation system. We do not have enough capital or the knowledge of how to build one. For many years we have discussed the idea and once we even had an engineer come and give us a quote, but nothing has ever materialised. Farmers become demoralised and fed up of working hard for no return”
As an agriculturist with a passion for producing food, this was sad to see and it highlighted the problems that are here and the need for sustainable investment.
I met with around 30 farmers from the area as well as local leaders, and spoke to them about the idea behind Agri Evolve and how I thought we could help them. I proposed the idea of building a gravity flow irrigation system and after a productive meeting we had a plan for how we would turn this land into a more productive area for food crops. This will be one of our first projects as Agri Evolve and I posed the challenge to the farmers.
“This is your chance and by working with us you can be part of something special. In a year’s time we will hopefully have harvested our first crops and from there you will lead the way in showing how our business model works. One day I hope that, as you look at acres of productive crops, you will say, ‘I was part of the group that started this project’. It is up to you to make this happen.”
The people in the meeting thanked me for all that I had said, and I hope that they could see the passion that I have for this. Most importantly I want them to know that this is their project, and they have to make it work. I have a lot of faith in them as a group and I believe it will be the first of many very successful irrigation schemes.
If you would like to know more about our irrigation project at Nyabirongo, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org