I have been in Rwanda for one week already…only five more weeks before Namibia! So far, it has been absolutely wonderful – the people, climate, scenery, everything. I was really unsure of what I was getting myself into with this trip and these projects, but so far so good.
Originally, I was only coming to Rwanda for two weeks to collect data for my thesis project. Of course, this spiraled into six weeks and another project. I’ll explain the new project first.
SC Johnson has a large emphasis on being a sustainable company, from their products, supply chain, and offices. With this, they have been involved with using pyrethrum as a home goods insecticide. (I won’t bore you with more details on py, SCJ etc right now!) The Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University has also been involved with the py projects in Rwanda, hence how I got involved with this.
Getting back on track now…. SCJ and Borlaug came here to hold a conference on how to incorporate sustainable practices into businesses and agriculture. This conference was designed for people working in pyrethrum, coffee, tea, cassava etc. Most of them were at the manager level or higher and well-educated. (Note: I did not design the conference, just observing, writing a case study and handling the follow-up.) It was a great group of people, from the trainers, coordinators and participants.
I spent my first week in Rwanda with this project. We flew into the capital city of Kigali, worked for two days there and then traveled to Gisenyi for the rest of the conference. So just under a week for the whole conference.
The conference was definitely successful! Everyone participated, learned something and had a good time. We even had a party where we learned how to do some African dancing (very Caribbean-style music and everyone dances in a big circle). But one of my favorite parts was our visit to a working coffee mill.
We learned the entire process. Just a quick overview: pick the coffee cherries, sorting the good cherries from the bad (bad cherries = Folgers! lol), wet milling involving lots of water, dry milling etc. It is a very interesting and intensive process. I’ll probably write more about coffee later… But have a greater appreciation for your morning cup of coffee!
I’m very thankful for the opportunity I had to be a part of this event. I was awed by how passionate the participants were about their businesses and the best practices necessary. They were engaged, critical thinkers and had the desire to learn more.
It was a fantastic first week and I am even more excited for the rest of my stay in Rwanda now.