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Planting seeds of change in Rwanda

ADRA Canada supports and educates mothers so children can survive and thrive

When you hear the word “Rwanda” what comes to your mind? If you’re like many people, it’s the tragic genocide that happened in 1993. For others, it might be images of rolling, lush hills of various shades of green, a kind of African Ireland. Or maybe, you have memories of travels to this tiny but heartwarming country in east Africa.

You may be surprised to learn that there is a district in Rwanda where the hills are not lush, where crops do not eagerly spring from the ground, and where people eke out a living from the dry soil. Located behind a mountain range that acts as a rain shadow, this district hosts the driest climate in the entire country. This is Ndego.

Serafine, her husband, and their three young children live in Ndego now. They didn’t always. Serafine and her husband were originally from Kirehe, where they were farmers. As children, when hate and violence inflamed the country, they fled to Tanzania for safety. They met and married in Tanzania, and returned to their native Rwanda after the genocide. Picking up the pieces of their life in Kirehe, they struggled to feed their growing family through subsistence farming.

The Ndego district had once been part of the Akagera National Park, a wildlife reserve where giraffes, hippos, elephants, and other wild animals roamed freely. The Rwandan government opened the area for settlement to accommodate the returning residents after the end of the genocide, ensuring that no wildlife could stray into the newly populated land. Serafine’s family moved from Kirehe to Ndego hoping that life would be better.

For 16 years they farmed a tiny plot of land. They grew beans, sorghum (a drought-resistant crop) and maize. They were doing their best to keep their children healthy and well fed, but they needed help. Water is scarce in Ndego and had to be hauled great distances to nourish the garden, and without adequate tools and knowledge, they continued to struggle to feed their family of five. They could not always afford to buy vegetables, and on most days they ate only two meals.

ADRA Canada, a member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), was aware of the hardships faced by the families of Ndego. In partnership with CFGB, it began a project to assist families in overcoming malnutrition and poverty through drought-resistant farming techniques and nutrition training, and Serafine and her family were delighted to be included in the project.

The instructors showed Serafine how to balance the crops on her plot and maximize her yield, and she has been able to diversify to include more nourishing produce. The cassava (similar to yams), spinach, beets, carrots, and onions helped her children regain their health after years of malnutrition. She learned how to mix food types for a balanced diet, and by learning new dietary principles to build strength, boost energy, and prevent illness, her children were able to combat the effects of years of near starvation. The family now eats three meals each day.

One of ADRA Canada’s primary goals is to concentrate on the most vulnerable where the risk of death from preventable diseases is greatest. These include expectant mothers, new mothers, and children under the age of five, whose deaths are caused by inadequate nutrition, unclean water, poor sanitation, and lack of access to health care. ADRA Canada’s work seeks to bring solutions to these entirely conquerable challenges.

Serafine and her family are now enjoying the benefits of this partnership. Her children are attending school and doing well, and she and her husband are healthier and stronger since the ADRA Canada- and CFGB-sponsored project began.

ADRA Canada helps, supports, trains, and educates the mothers in need like Serafine. The goal is to help every child not only to survive, but thrive. To learn more, go to the Heart for Maternal Health website.

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