Sustainability

Fighting hunger

On behalf of BMZ, GIZ has supported Rwanda in strengthening its agriculture.

PRECIOUS WATER

Project: Intensifying food production in Rwanda
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for economic cooperation and development
Term: 1985 to 1994

THEN: Rwanda – the ‘land of a thousand hills’ – is very densely populated. The country faces food shortages because 90 per cent of farmers have only very small plots of land (less than 1 hectare) and farm on a subsistence basis. They grow mostly potatoes, maize, sweet potatoes, beans and peas, and also earn low ­incomes on tea plantations. The slopes on which their fields are sited are ­actually too steep for agriculture and are damaged by erosion. Soil fertility is declining.
 
NOW: GIZ developed the concept of ‘self-sustaining agriculture’. Farmers learn how to terrace the slopes to prevent rain washing the soil away. Using hand tools, they level the ground to allow rainwater to penetrate, and plant grasses, bushes and trees grown in nurseries on the embankments. The roots stabilise the terraces, while the plants themselves are used as fodder, fertiliser and construction material. The project oversaw the terracing of a minimum of 200 hectares in each of the then 11 districts in Rwanda – an area equivalent to around 100 football pitches in each district. The Rwandan genocide brought the project to an end in 1994. The then national coordinator had studied for his PhD in Germany and later became Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture. In this role, he continued ­terracing under a government financing programme. Terrace agriculture is currently feeding several million people.

 

published in akzente 3/17

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