In Rwanda, most farming is done by women on small plots of land, often on the steep slopes of the country’s many hills. Farming communities face many challenges, including land scarcity, low yields, and rampant malnutrition. To address these constraints, the U.S. Government, through Feed the Future, partnered with the Walmart Foundation to train 50,000 Rwandan farmers in bio-intensive agricultural techniques that increase the production of maize, beans and dairy, as well as nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits.
Bio-intensive gardening includes techniques that allow many varieties of nutritious plants to be raised on small plots of land, jointly addressing the issues of malnutrition and land scarcity in Rwanda. These techniques were taught to the farmers—60 percent of whom were women—through Farmer Field Schools, which offer community-based agricultural training on a demonstration plot.
This nearly two-year joint training project helped both the Walmart Foundation and Feed the Future advance their common goal of empowering women farmers. The Walmart Foundation’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, which was launched in 2011, seeks to provide agricultural value chain training to 500,000 women in emerging markets around the world. Similarly, Feed the Future aims to improve nutritional outcomes; in Rwanda, the initiative works to do this for rural populations by promoting dietary diversity through horticulture production and nutrition trainings.
By the time the joint training project ended in October 2015, the Walmart Foundation and Feed the Future had surpassed their target and had trained just under 56,230 farmers. Of these, about 30,050 were trained in milk production, over 17,050 in horticulture, and 9,130 in improved maize and bean cultivation techniques. Most importantly, local farmers are already reaping the benefits of the program. Using the techniques they have learned, farmers are now able to produce a higher-quality harvest: that means increased prices in the market and greater food security for them and their families.
Cresence Mukanyandwi, for example, used to sell her cabbages for about 60 Rwandan francs a head (approximately 8 U.S. cents). Through the training she received from the Feed the Future-Walmart Foundation partnership, Ms. Mukanyandwi applied new planting techniques, which improved her yield. “I used to plant traditionally,” she said, “but after learning from the Farmer Field School, now I leave 40 centimeters between plants and use a combination of organic manure and fertilizer instead of fertilizer alone. Now, my cabbages can sell for 250 francs because they are so much bigger.”