While 90% of Rwandans work as subsistence farmers, Rwanda still imports 40% of their food supply. Either the remaining 10% must pay for the imported 40% or the yields of the subsistence farmers must increase. The obvious solution seems to be increasing the yields of these subsistence farmers. The Rwandan government has promoted mechanized farming as a way to increase productivity of its farmers throughout the country, providing an opportunity to walk alongside farmers in this process. Mechanized farming is, simply, using machines to increase productivity.
To address these issues and to match funding constraints, PROCOM created SyEAD (Sabbath Year Economic & Agriculture Development) to carry out agricultural activities. SyEAD is a for-profit agriculture business dedicated to all the values and the mission of PROCOM.
PROCOM through SyEAD has introduced a new production model that has two objectives: First, to make Rwanda more productive and second, to make Rwandans more productive. In order to make Rwandans more productive, they have to see Rwanda being productive. There are several ways that PROCOM currently engages in communities:
- Model Farms: PROCOM is dedicated to increasing yields by creating model farms in rural communities, working alongside farmers to demonstrate and communicate innovative farming techniques. Instead of visiting villages and setting up weekend training seminars, we are working alongside farmers and inviting them to project sites where they can see the tangible results. By setting up the model farm in Rwanda, even the smallest local farmers will be able to see what is happening and learn about ways to improve their own farms. In this way, model farms demonstrate best practices and are constructed to assist the Rwandan farmer, not compete with them.
We have started a model farm in Mpanga Sector of Kirehe District. The District gave us 40 hectares (100 acres), which we cleared and planted in January-February 2011. We are currently working on another site in Nyagatare and negotiating for establishing model farms in three other districts. We are currently farming corn and will be adding soybeans and wheat.
- Service Provision: In partnership with SyEAD, PROCOM has the potential to work with farmers to prepare the land and harvest their crops through mechanized farming techniques. Farmers can also receive training through extension services.
- Future Farmers of Rwanda (FFR): PROCOM is currently looking at opportunities to create secondary school agriculture education programs in Rwanda. Schools will be selected based on communities in which we are already farming. Reflecting the core values found in the Future Farmers of America program, FFR will facilitate American volunteers in working alongside Rwandan agriculturalists and educators for the purpose of establishing sustainable education programs in agriculture, entrepreneurship, communication and leadership skills in local secondary schools.
As an after school club, students will have the opportunity to learn innovative farming techniques both through lecture and practice. The on-site school farm will provide the laboratory for learning, offering students practical skills to incorporate in their families’ farming techniques. Another exciting aspect of this project will be the funding opportunities for students who submit their own business project ideas to initiate in their community, offering income generation and benefitting their communities.
- Vulnerable Populations: Though initially FFR will be school based for secondary school students, this project has the potential to expand to those who are most vulnerable. Widows and child-headed households can also be a part of a project using the school farm as the community example in improving agricultural techniques and responding to unique needs of vulnerable families.
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