The Nyaruguru Integrated Rural Development Project (NIRDP) aims to minimize the soil erosion and improve soil fertility through development of marshlands and hillsides.
In Rwanda, ‘the land of a thousand hills’, most farmland located on hillsides accelerates land degradation through the surface soil loss and leaching of soil nutrients during the rainy season. The Nyaruguru Integrated Rural Development Project (NIRDP) aims to minimize the soil erosion and improve soil fertility through development of marshlands and hillsides. NIRDP is a three-year launched in December 2014 covering five villages in the district of Nyaruguru, including 1,260 households or nearly 6,000 people in the Mubuga cell in the Kibeho sector, to achieve the following objectives:
· Poverty reduction and improvement of living conditions through income generation, and betterment of living environment; and
· Capacity building of project participants to develop their ownership and sustain the programme intervention beyond the project period.
Associated interventions for the first objective include marshland and hillside rehabilitation and development, livestock support through the One Cow per Poor Family Programme (Girinika), supply of agricultural inputs and development of post-harvest infrastructure. Associated interventions for the second objective include development of community structures such as cooperatives, Village Development Committees and village development funds. The project also aims to introduce the SMU approach for change in the community mindset to strive for self-reliance.
The project is financially supported by the Republic of Korea. Agencies involved in executing the project include KOICA, MINAGRI and the Nyaruguru District Office. The KOICA Project Team based at Nyaruguru and the Nyaruguru District Office jointly manage the programme. The ‘hard’ components of the programme such as marshland and hillside development and interventions for One Cow per Poor Family are managed by the district government through agronomists and veterinarians. The ‘soft’ components (e.g. trainings, research demonstration plots, improved agricultural practices, etc.) are managed by the KOICA Project Team. KOICA has involved experts in the research field to develop a better crop cultivation package of practices for Rwandan conditions.
The project’s work in marshland and hillside development is initiated through HIMO. Each participant opens an account in the SACCO for deposit of wage payments and other work payments. All land owners at each site are organized in the form of cooperatives.
· The HIMO approach created productive assets in a short time by involving the community: Within less than one year, communities involved in the project accomplished a large task: they developed 40 hectares (ha) of marsh land and 170 ha of hillside using the HIMO approach (Box 5). The work not only provided immediate employment and revenue to hundreds of people but also created a productive asset on which cultivation of paddy, potato, beans and maize has begun. From the start, the work has set the pace of NIRDP.
· Inclusive approach for development initiatives: The project follows an inclusive approach not only in the development of assets (marshland and hillside) but also in their distribution. The marshland and hillside development work provides local employment opportunity for all types of people in the community, including the young, aged, women and physically challenged, and from locations within and outside the project area. Every person is provided work according to their capacity. Before work starts on the site, people are organized into groups of 30 with a mix of men, women, elderly, etc. Each group is supported by youth team leaders with at least a higher secondary education who had been trained in providing demarcation services (measuring and drawing dividing lines on the soil) to each group and/or individual, taking measurements of work, maintaining an attendance register and other tasks.
The developed marshland (belonging to the government) was then equally distributed by the district authorities among all participants of the village. The land distribution process prioritized specialized groups such as very poor, widows and youth to ensure they were covered. With support from the NIDRP project, cows are given to families under Ubudehe category I and II (very poor and poor).
· The initiative is well-linked with government programmes: As soon as the marshland and hillside development work is completed, it is linked with the Government of Rwanda’s land consolidation programme. The distribution of one cow per family taken up in the project is linked with the One Cow per Poor Family (Girinka) programme, and the government veterinarian provides services to the farmers.
· Lack of community contribution and direct engagement may lead to dependency: The project provides full support for many marshland and hillside development initiatives, community centre development, post-harvest infrastructure development as well as provision of cows, cowshed, seeds and subsidized fertilizer. According to community members, the contribution of community is meager, such as sowing of grass seeds or tree plantation. The project does not proactively promote community participation in the planning and implementation of the activities. Factoring a clear role for the community in execution of the activities as well as their management is essential to help the community understand the importance of the resources that they are using and to ‘own’ the interventions. With the progress of the programme (especially when it has more resources in the beginning), it is important to inculcate the habit of savings and of an active role in contributing to and maintaining the created infrastructure. This will improve the sustainability of the efforts and impart self-reliance and other principles of the SMU approach.
· Inadequate indicators for programme monitoring: The project has specific indicators related to physical targets. However, it has not always taken into account the processes that must be followed in order to achieve them, which include capacity building of the community to make decisions and to be motivated and independent. Thus, the monitoring and evaluation framework lacks aspects related to sustainability, scaling up and self-reliance; this is despite such elements being mentioned in the project objective. While a project could manage certain interventions, the core idea is for the project to become a trigger to generate community demands and enable the community to manage its own initiatives. The introduction of the SMU approach would help in this regard, helping the community to look beyond the project itself.
· Need for creative financial services to match demand: The project has been providing good wage support (Rwf 1,000 per day) and most of the participants have been working regularly working for more than 20 days every month. However, wage work is higher in the beginning of the project that towards the end, and the initial euphoria may die down as the wage component reduces. Therefore, it is essential to channel part of the wage income into productive activities rather than spending mostly for purposes of consumption. Some of community members have already made productive investments by purchasing small animals and improving agriculture. Better access to finance could support more such investment. All community members have SACCO accounts but very few have accessed loans and many are withdrawing most of their wages from the account (thus keeping a very low balance). Some of the challenges associated with SACCO are lack of staff, long distances to be travelled to reach the facility and the limited capacity provide loans. Exploring better institutions and financial products will help to sustain the development efforts in which so much has been invested.
· Making farmers as partners in research motivates them: Finding good quality potato seed during the season of cultivation was a big problem for farmers. The KOICA team engaged a potato cultivation expert to work with the farmers to understand the issue and find solutions. The expert, after meeting with farmers and analyzing the cultivation practices, suggested an easy practice followed in other parts of world to reduce the seed requirement. The farmers did not believe in the new method as they had never practiced it. However, after selected farmers developed their own demonstration plots under the guidance of the expert, they started not only believing in it but became promoters of the new method. One of the farmers in the demonstration described his new role: “When we were to sow the potato seeds, it was almost a joint exercise (of the KOICA team and farmers). Many nearby farmers also came to watch the experiment with curiosity. Since I have learned the technique now, I am personally going to call the farmers around, tell them that it works and show them practically in the next cultivation season,” he said.
· Strength-based partnership is good but there needs to be a shared approach: The Nyaruguru District Office directly implements the programme and the KOICA team provides technical support. Both agencies made excellent progress in terms of planned activities in the first year of the project. This is helping to achieve the immediate outcome of increasing income through wage employment and increasing farm production. However, there needs to be further deliberations on how the process of implementation can enhance community ownership, build their capacities and sustain the development initiatives. At this juncture, the SMU approach could become a common thread for the community, KOICA and the Nyaruguru District Office. It is important for the agencies to explore the way forward, and to practice the SMU approach in its routine activities and not treat it as an additional activity.
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