Blog by Jacco Sanderse, intern Agriterra
In the coming five months I will explore Rwanda while fulfilling my internship at Agriterra. I will focus on analyzing policy, its actors, institutions and strategies. Furthermore, I aim to evaluate policies and their social impact. At the end of the five months, I hope to have completed my master's: Sociology: Contemporary Social Problems. During this time I would like to keep everybody interested posted with this blog sharing some Rwanda with you.
My timing of arrival at Agriterra could not have been better. In the first few days, all my new colleagues from two locations in Rwanda were gathered to plan and present this year's events and strategies. A great way for me to get to know colleagues and the organization.
I would like to introduce you to the Youth Engagement Workshop. This workshop is a special project carried out by Agriterra and falls under the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDG). The name of the project is SDGP Maize. Its goal is to inspire young maize farmers to sustainable entrepreneurship. This workshop was organized and facilitated by four colleagues and supported by Peter Meedendorp and myself. Peter is an Dutch Agripooler and as NAJK, the organization he works for, founded and works together with Agriterra, he was invited to exchange experiences and try to inspire youth.
We started the week by visiting a farmer cooperative. This way Peter and I got familiar with how farming is done and what the main challenges are that the youth are experiencing. It was a beautiful one-and-a-half-hour drive through hills full of thriving vegetation. When we arrived, we were welcomed by a singing youth council and an opening word from the cooperative's chairman. After which, Peter and I introduced ourselves and told a few things about our farms and engagement in agricultural youth initiatives. All presents were eager to learn, and a lot of questions were asked about our farming methods and youth activities. After visiting the maize fields we drove back to Kigali to have lunch and discuss the programme for the coming three days.
Tuesday morning the workshop started. Twenty-five members of five different maize cooperatives from all over Rwanda joined the meeting room after their breakfast. Because the future of cooperatives depends on young and old working together, each cooperative brought two current board members and three youth members.
The overall goal of the program was that every cooperative would leave with a feasible action plan to increase youth engagement. It was an interactive program consisting of presentations, assignments and feedback sessions. Small games like an egg challenge, driver game and singing were integrated to ensure the concentration of the participants and to have some fun. The cooperatives had several ideas to engage youth, and increase their responsibility, income and farming opportunities.
It was impressive to see the progress of the action plans and in the coming five months I hope to share their progress! Next to the workshop I had the chance to show and explore some of Rwanda with Peter resulting in some fun experiences (we went to the market) and more serious and impressive experiences.
As my research and internship will mostly be focused on rice farming we planned a visit to rice farmers for me to get familiar with the rice-sector. While chatting and enjoying the views, the three-and-a-half-hour drive passed by very quickly. After picking up two board members of a rice union and a local cooperative we visited the rice fields.
Our next stop was at a SACCO. This is a cooperative banking organization providing credits and storing savings for smallholder entrepreneurs. Here we explored the possibilities for my research and data collection. To finalize the rice chain visits we went to the rice unions shop on our way back to Kigali. It was a short visit because we were already heavily supplied with rice. Nevertheless, it was nice to visit and complete the chain. When I came home, I felt like I had no choice but to cook some rice. The best quality rice did not let me down!
This insightful trip and some meetings have contributed to the clarity of my thesis subject. Although not fully finalized my current focus aims to be researching to what extent bonding social capital can explain improving financial habits/literacy among rice farmers. The idea is to see to what extent rice farmers teach each other how they handle their financial means. Now I have another week of office days ahead to work on my problem statement, analyze the literature and start drawing up a questionnaire. When I have some time and new experiences I will be glad to share them again!