Before I left Rwanda I got to visit the headquarters of an organization I have studied and admired since I was selected for this internship in February. Gardens for Health is a non-profit organization that has been operating in Rwanda since 2007. Their aim is to use agriculture to fight stunting and malnutrition, which plague many Rwandans. As Gardens for Health mentions on the website, it is remarkable that 80% of Rwandans grow food for a living, but 35% of Rwandan children are malnourished. The organization has trained over 16,000 Rwandan on the importance good nutrition and how one can still eat a healthy diet even with limited resources and money.
I became aware of this organization in February when I learned that the nutrition trainings that the TI projects does for its farmers follow the Gardens for Health curriculum. Gardens for Health actually led the nutrition trainings for the TI project last summer. Tracy Bucyana, the TI project nutrition-specialist, was trained to teach the GHI curriculum later last year.
The TI project’s nutrition trainings are unique in that we emphasize the importance of animal protein. Our farmers have about three chickens that they get to keep for consumption at the end of each 6 week cycle, so they have direct access to an complete source of protein. It is extremely important that our farmers know the benefits of consistent consumption of chicken meat, as well as the benefits of consuming a diet with variety.
I reached out to Gardens for Health, and told them I would love to visit and talk to them about my experience helping with the TI project nutrition trainings. They invited me to visit on July 12th, and I was lucky to be joined by my boss and TI project manager Katie McGehee. Their headquarters is just outside of Kigali, so it was about a 30 minute drive from the center of town.
They have their offices in a nice building beside their 5 acre farm. Katie and I met with the program director outside and we all got to share our experiences working with Rwandan farmers and our goals for the future.
I was able to help some of the farmers till the soil ready to plant cauliflower, and Katie taught me how to lay mulch in the garden beds. Midway through the visit the staff announced that they had just boiled bushels of corn, and they offered us some. Rwandan corn has become one of my new favorite foods, so obviously I accepted their kind offer.
I continued to visit with the staff there until there was a call for lunch. Every day Gardens for Health does a community lunch. Everyone working for their organization and everyone in the community is invited to come and eat their food. Their lunch always include the 4 colors of food that they teach in their curriculum. On this day we were served white rice, beans, cassava leaves, tomatoes, avocados, and pili pili (a delicious spice made from scotch bonnet peppers!) Dozens of school children came for lunch and I had so much fun playing with them. I thought it was really incredible how the even the executive director of Gardens for Health sat and ate with all of his staff and kids from the community. This was a really special visit for Katie and I, and I am so inspired by Gardens for Health and the work that they do!