Observations from Rwanda: March 28, 2020

Evening rainbow over Lake Kilimbi and the campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). February 16, 2020.

The past four weeks have been quite eventful in the life of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture. During the first week of March, RICA was preparing for the first visit of our founder, Howard Buffett, to the campus since construction began. Less than a week later, RICA students were sent home on Monday, March 16 as RICA and other educational institutions were closed due to COVID-19. Rwanda imposed a quarantine and travel ban on March 21, 2020, with staff remaining on campus quarantined for at least two weeks. Teresa and I decided it was best to return to Nebraska for a time, leaving Rwanda on March 19, the day before the Kigali airport closed. Student education continues for now via remote learning to finish Term 2, and I remain engaged in directing the Institute from a distance, anticipating the time when we can return to RICA physically.

Richard Ferguson

RICA students and staff with Howard Buffett, Muduha Hall, RICA campus. March 10, 2020.
RICA students line up for health checks prior to their departure from campus. March 16, 2020.
RICA students boarding buses to depart campus for home. March 16, 2020.
Confiscated goats at one of RICA’s entrance gates. Occasionally herdsmen bring cattle and goats onto campus to graze illegally. When caught, the animals are confiscated until the owners pay a fine to the District. March 17, 2020
Spur-winged lapwing. Akagera National Park. February 22, 2020.
Zebra and foal. Akagera National Park. February 22, 2020.
African wattled lapwing. Akagera National Park. February 22, 2020.
Akagera National Park. February 22, 2020.
Lilac-breasted roller. Akagera National Park. February 22, 2020.
African elephant. Akagera National Park. February 22, 2020.
African elephant. Akagera National Park. February 22, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: March 7, 2020

View across Lake Kilimbi, from the entrance roundabout on the campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). February 15, 2020.
African pied wagtail. This bird is common on the RICA campus. The name is descriptive, as their tail is constantly moving up and down while they look for insects on the ground. February 11, 2020.
A closer view of an African pied wagtail. February 15, 2020.
The RICA campus Spine Road under construction, which traverses the length of campus. February 25, 2020.
RICA students harvesting maize, with faculty direction. This crop was planted as part of RICA student’s Practical Farming course in Term 1, and fresh corn-on-the-cob was on the menu in the cafeteria from their labor. The remainder of the crop was left to dry on the stalk, then will be dried further on the cob before shelling. March 6, 2020.
Helmeted guineafowl, Akagera National Park, February 22, 2020.
Nile monitor, Akagera National Park, February 22, 2020. Approximately 2 m length.
Water thick-knee, Akagera National Park, February 22, 2020.
Hyena, Akagera National Park, February 22, 2020.
Lilac-breasted roller, Akagera National Park, February 22, 2020.
Sunrise along the Spine Road, RICA campus, February 20, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: February 9, 2020

View of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) campus under construction, across Lake Kilimbi. January 25, 2020.
Trees along the highway to RICA. This is a rare view, with no pedestrians, bicycles, vehicles or goats. January 25, 2020.
Casual laborers helping break up compaction near RICA’s First Year Farms. January 30, 2020.
Using a deep ripper to break up deep compaction near RICA First Year Farms. January 22, 2020.
Cover crop emerging through mulch, RICA First Year Farms, after deep tillage and spreading topsoil. February 7, 2020.
Navigation signs have started going up on the RICA campus. February 6, 2020.
Installing the roof on the RICA Mechanization and Irrigation shop building – Indonzi Hall (Cardinal Woodpecker). The village across Lake Kilimbi is in the background. January 30, 2020.
Vervet monkey enjoying a mango from RICA orchards. January 25, 2020.
Butterflies on moist soil after a rain. January 30, 2020.
Full moon from our patio. February 8, 2020.
Woodland Kingfisher in front of our house. February 9, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: January 17, 2020

Sunrise over Lake Kilimbi and the campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture. January 15, 2020.
Students arrived back from their holiday break on January 5, with Term 2 classes beginning January 6, 2020. These two students are walking to a meeting in Muduha Hall Friday evening, January 10.
RICA students now are able to begin using land around their First Year Farm houses for crop production in their Practical Farming course. Here students are delineating boundaries for what will become their drip-irrigated production area adjacent to Ihema House. January 10, 2020.
A Purple-Crested Turaco in a tree adjacent to our house. This is the national bird of the Kingdom of Swaziland. January 5, 2020.
A pair of Purple-Crested Turacos. January 11, 2020.
A Bronze Mannikin. January 11, 2020.
First use of our new microscopes, in RICA’s newly completed Biology Lab. January 14, 2020.
One of the advantages of having RICA’s campus under construction is that there are many areas of soil excavation, which are great for teaching soils. Here Dr. Ayuke, RICA’s Soil Management Instructor and Conservation Agriculture Thread Coordinator, describes soil horizons to students in a lab section of his Soil Management class. January 16, 2020.
My bicycle, alongside those of construction workers who have just arrived for work, after an early morning ride. January 15, 2020.
Colorful sunrises/sunsets seem to not be common, at least so far. This sunrise is from what will be the RICA campus center roundabout. January 10, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: December 16, 2019

View of RICA faculty housing, and a bit of Lake Kilimbi, from the front porch of our house. December 11, 2019.
We spent three weeks in the US in November, returning to the RICA campus November 28. That evening, and a couple of subsequent nights, we were greeted by bats in our house. This photo is our house being fumigated for bats on Saturday, November 30, 2019, followed by sealing of cracks and small openings in the roof. Fortunately we have been bat-free for a couple of weeks.
As part of their Practical Farming course, students in their first year spend several hours a week in the field. This first term students have been growing amaranth, watermelon, maize and French beans. Here students are weeding, fertilizing and mulching watermelon vines. December 6, 2019.
One interesting aspect of Rwanda is that decorative annual plants in much of the US are perennials in a tropical climate. Here Lantana camara becomes an invasive woody plant, with large Lantana bushes taking over areas of the RICA campus if left alone. November 2, 2019.
The second academic facility on the RICA campus is nearing completion. This is a complex of two buildings, both related to the mechanization and irrigation enterprise on campus. The building in the foreground, named Ifundi Hall (after the Fawn-breasted Waxbill) houses a classroom, the soils lab, offices, storage and workrooms. The second building is behind and not visible in this photo – Indonzi Hall (Cardinal Woodpecker), and is the farm shop. These buildings will be occupied and in use for Term 2, at the start of 2020. December 10, 2019.
Some aspects of construction continue around buildings that are occupied. This construction is walkways, terraces and bench seats adjacent to Muduha Hall (named after the Candelabra Tree, which is found across the RICA campus), our current home to RICA offices, a classroom, and the current location of the biology lab. December 6, 2019.
Currently without screens on windows, Muduha Hall has various occasional visitors. The classroom in Muduha was home for a time to this African Grey Hornbill. December 4, 2019.
This yellow-mantled weaver is on a papyrus stalk on the shore of Lake Kilimbi. December 14, 2019.
RICA is home to several hectares of mango orchards. December and January are mango harvest season. December 14, 2019.
RICA-grown mangos are used in the cafeteria for fruit and juice, as well as being sold to RICA staff. December 10, 2019.
Land is being converted from a construction zone to farmland around the four First Year Farm houses. Here deep ripping is loosening soil, prior to topsoil being returned to the site. Each First Year Farm will have around 2.5 ha of land for students to farm, including some in existing orange and mango groves. A portion of each farm will be drip irrigated. December 16, 2019.
The first ever final exam conducted at RICA, in Leadership 101, the morning of December 16, 2019. Finals for Term 1 finish December 18, with students leaving campus during the Holiday break. The first day of Term 2 classes is January 6, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: November 3, 2019

Cattle and goats on the banks of Lake Kilimibi, October 26, 2019.
Construction workers arriving early on a foggy morning to work on the campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture – November 2, 2019.
Bananas in the market, October 27, 2019.
Fish eagle on a tree on the campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA), October 26, 2019.
Common bulbul on the RICA campus, October 26, 2019.
These buildings under construction on October 23, 2019, will be the first academic buildings used by RICA. Collectively these have been referred to as the Vegetable and Tree Fruit complex during construction. The three buildings in the complex have been given Kinyarwanda names after local flora and fauna: Inuma (Ring-necked Dove), Muduha (Candelabra Tree), and Rufunzo (Papyrus).
These two moths, found on the spine path through the RICA campus, each have wingspans of around 12 cm. October 30, 2019.
November 1, 2019, was the day students moved onto campus – a significant day in RICA’s history. These students are checking into their rooms in Ihema House (named after a lake in Akagera National Park), one of the First Year Farms.
Student government leaders were recognized during a swearing-in ceremony in the RICA cafeteria on November 2, 2019.
Sunflower near the RICA solar plant, early morning, November 2, 2019.
Fishermen on Lake Kilimbi early in the morning, October 6, 2019.

Observations from Rwanda: October 12, 2019

Fishermen working on Lake Kilimibi early in the morning, October 4, 2019.

Teresa and I moved onto the campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) on Sunday, September 29, 2019. Our home is in Burera House, named after a lake in northern Rwanda, east of Musanze. The current plan is for students and all instruction activities to move to the RICA campus the first of November.

These ten photographs document life on campus in the two weeks we’ve lived here.

Burera House, early evening, October 9, 2019.
Vervet monkeys, October 5, 2019. A troop of monkeys is often seen around campus, and they are not inhibited by our presence. These are looking at Teresa inside the house – an inverted zoo.
Black-headed bush shrikes, October 5, 2019.
Blue-breasted kingfisher, October 5, 2019.
In the orchard, October 5, 2019. Still working on identifying this bird.
Near the lake edge, bird on papyrus, October 5, 2019.
Dr. Fritz Elango, RICA Integrated Pest Management Lecturer, instructing students on scouting for cutworms. October 11, 2019.
RICA students inspecting maize plant stands after emergence, October 11, 2019. The RICA gatehouse at the main entrance is in the background.