Nyarugeti village in rural Rwanda has been transformed by improved access to water, flourishing kitchen gardens, and above all, a renewed sense of community.
Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa.
With over 11 million people living in a country smaller than Munster, access to land is a big problem. Access to water is another major obstacle.
Many communities fear they will struggle to grow sufficient food from their small plots of land, usually half a hectare or less. But in the village of Nyarugeti, the community has implemented a strikingly effective solution.
Nyarugeti is teeming with 65 ‘kitchen gardens’, each with a corresponding water tank. The kitchen gardens, so-called because they are built directly outside houses and near the cooking area, are usually built with a mix of compost, rocks, bamboo, and wires or sticks.
With the help of Trócaire partner UNICOOPAGI, the community has built 23 water tanks. These tanks harvest rainwater from the roofs of houses. Each tank has capacity for 10 cubic metres of water. These water tanks make it possible for community members to water the kitchen gardens they have built outside their home. The gardens need 40 litres of water twice a day during the dry season.
While the country benefits from two rainy seasons each year, climate change has had a big impact with rainfall becoming erratic and the rainy seasons becoming shorter. Water harvesting and kitchen gardens like these help maximise the use of the water and soil that are available.
Francine Mukandamage is one of the villagers who has seen a big change since she got her kitchen garden going in January 2017.
Francine says she depends on the kitchen garden and working as a labourer on other people’s farms.
She has planted onions and cabbages, and sells surplus produce at the local market. She now has extra income for school fees, supplies and clothes for her nephew—who she has cared for since he was a baby. She also has money for a wider variety of foods so they both have improved diets.
“It used to be a lot more difficult to get water. There was a thirty minute walk to get to the water point and often when I got there, there were long queues and arguments and jockeying for position.”
The immense sense of community pride in this project is palpable, as villagers show off their gardens and the water conservation technology that makes them possible.
They are very happy about the health benefits of their new foods they are growing too. Cyprien Rwamdamga, Chairman of Nyarugeti's water village committee, says:
“We have seen an improvement in nutrition. Eating vegetables has made a big difference. I didn’t know myself before how important it was to eat things like carrots! We have got good education on that.”