Heifer's Work in Rwanda
State of the African FarmerThe State of the African Farmer report has been produced as a contribution to the great debate on agriculture and food security in Africa. It is a compilation of views and voices of farmers, practitioners, policymakers and academics across Africa and beyond, each speaking from the heart and sharing their experience.
In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the Hutus, the majority ethnic group, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 were driven into exile into neighboring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions culminating in April 1994 with the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees – many fearing Tutsi retribution – fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire).
Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms including Rwanda's first local elections in March 1999, the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output and to foster reconciliation.
Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms – including Rwanda’s first local elections in March 1999 – the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output and to foster reconciliation.
Historically, the primary economic activities in Rwanda have been agriculture and livestock management.
Heifer International Rwanda was established in 2000 with a grant from USAID working in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. Program implementation did not begin until May 2001 due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, suspending work with livestock until the outbreak was cleared. During this period, farmers were being trained in sustainable agricultural practices, which included the zero grazing system of farming, terracing of hillsides and planting of fodder trees for animal feeds and nitrogen fixation to improve soil fertility.
Currently, Heifer Rwanda is implementing International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and African Development Bank funded projects through collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. Heifer Rwanda is also working with Partners In Health (PIH) where Heifer Rwanda distributes goats and training, while PIH provides medical treatment for those suffering with HIV/AIDS and TB to project participant families.