The villagers from Mpaza village, Kirambi, Nyanza, Rwanda have planted over 10,000 trees and they haven’t finished yet.
Alphonsine Musabyimana from the village water committee explains the project; ‘'our water committee action plan identified lack of trees and soil erosion as a key problem in the village." Eighty per cent of Rwanda’s farm land is on slopes and hilly terrain exposing the country to soil erosion causing the loss of 1.4 million tonnes of soil per year. With that lost soil Rwanda could feed 40,000 more people a year.
Many communities fear they will not be able to provide for themselves with the tiny plots of land they own and often poor soil quality. But Trócaire partner Caritas Gikongoro have made a crucial difference in this village; taking over the work of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) in this region.
Aloysie Rukamana, Coordinator for Caritas Gikongoro says, "we have been working with Trocaire since the beginning. Key areas for us are water for agriculture production, education on climate change, mapping vulnerability to climate change and implementing adaptation processes such as rainwater harvesting."
When Caritas start a water village committee, first they help animate a discussion in the community about the water resources challenges they face, they then discuss how climate change is impacting on those strains. The next step is to facilitate the community to come up with their own action plan to address the problems.
One of the key actions in Mpaza was the creation of this very impressive tree nursery. It's a powerful indicator of how well this community is working together to address their challenges.
Alphonsine says, "we decided to start the tree nursery with a combination of fruit and agroforestry trees. People cutting trees has been a problem here. We will use the trees for income and also for timber to build houses. We are growing papaya, avocado, tomatoes. It is hard work but the benefits are enormous. We enjoy it because we know we will benefit a lot from it. We started the project eleven months ago. We have planted over 10,000 trees to date. That just includes the ones that have grown, because with climate change, we have planted many that failed to grow."
Traditionally in Rwandan society, men have been the key decision makers at a domestic and community level. Trócaire and its partners in Rwanda are committed to challenging this injustice by encouraging a climate where women like Alphonsine feel able to take up positions at a community level where they have an active role in decision making and planning.
The community here has created shaded areas for the newly planted trees to protect them from the dry season heat. Alphonsine Musabyimana says ‘as you can see, we are still planting, as I sit here seeds are waiting to be planted. We think we can achieve a lot in the next two years to help with soil erosion here.' Looking at what they have achieved already, it is clear that with continued support they can indeed.
Photos: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.
* The Irish founded MMM were in Gikongoro from 1988 and completed their mission in 2017.