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.

Observations from Rwanda: September 22, 2019

Lake Kilimbi, July 18, 2019. View is from the north bank, towards the area of the RICA campus.

It has been several weeks since my last post – a packed, eventful period with many ‘firsts’ in the life of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). In mid-August, we realized there was a decent chance that not all facilities needed for instruction during Term 1 of the first year would be ready in time to begin classes in September. This readiness included assessment for accreditation by the Higher Education Council (HEC) of the Ministry of Education of Rwanda. Consequently, RICA explored options for a temporary facility to house and instruct the first cohort of students. The Higher Education Council visited our proposed site, the La Palisse Hotel in Nyamata (between Kigali and the RICA campus) on Sept. 3, 2019. On Sept. 4, 2019, the Ministry of Education granted RICA permission to begin operations, and submitted the proposal for accreditation to the Cabinet.

Friday, September 13, was the first All-Hands Meeting for RICA faculty and staff – a review of RICA’s progress the past few months, a look forward to the first term, and in-service training sessions to familiarize staff on various software platforms and other resources RICA will use to run the Institute.

Saturday, September 14, was the first Matriculation Ceremony for RICA. Students and their families were transported to the La Palisse Hotel in Nyamata from bus stations in Kigali. The Matriculation Ceremony was a formal induction of the first cohort of RICA students. Students families were bused back to Kigali that evening, and students spent their first night on campus.

Monday, September 16 began the first week of classes for RICA. The first class was ‘Practical Mathematics for Agriculture’. The week included three days in which students were bused to the RICA campus for their Practical Farming class field work, spending three hours each day in the field. The proximity of Nyamata to the RICA campus makes this practical, and this will be the weekly pattern until students move onto campus later this year. The week ended with a visit by the Minister of Agriculture to the RICA campus on Friday, September 20, to observe students working in the field, and speaking to a convocation of the students and staff that afternoon in Nyamata.

Richard Ferguson

RICA’s temporary campus – Block B of the La Palisse Hotel in Nyamata.
RICA’s first class, Practical Mathematics for Agriculture, September 16, 2019.
Students laying out field plots during their Practical Farming fieldwork, September 17, 2019.
Students preparing soil for planting, September 20, 2019.
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, addressing RICA students, faculty and staff, September 20, 2019. (Ministry of Agriculture photo).
View from the faculty housing area towards the First Year Farm housing, with on-going construction. Lake Kilimbi is in the background. September 17, 2019.
Bird of Paradise bloom in our apartment gardens, Kigali, September 1, 2019.
During the day it is common to see these lizards along the walks around our apartment in Kigali. It is less common for them to find their way into our apartment, though it happens on occasion. September 1, 2019.
Ross’s Turacao, near our apartment in Kigali, July 6, 2019.
Kigali Convention Center, from the street behind our apartment, August 24, 2019.

Observations from Rwanda: August 12, 2019

These fourteen photographs come from three areas of Rwanda, including our first visit to the west, Lake Kivu. The RICA campus is south of Kigali, though in the Eastern Province, as is Akagera National Park. Lake Kivu is in the Western Province. These photographs date from June through August, 2019.

The first photograph is again of Lake Kilimbi, where the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) is located.

Richard Ferguson

Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) campus under construction. View across Lake Kilimbi from the north shore. July 18, 2019.
Mechanization and Irrigation facility under construction, RICA campus. July 18, 2019.
RICA faculty reviewing layout of First Year Farm operations. July 12, 2019.
RICA Year 2-3 Dorm beginning construction. July 29, 2019.
Baboons, Akagera National Park. June 17, 2019.
Anhinga, Akagera National Park, June 16, 2019.
Lion, Akagera National Park, June 17, 2019.
Topi, Akagera National Park, June 16, 2019.
Hippos, Lake Ihema, Akagera National Park, June 16, 2019.
Zebra and giraffe, Akagera National Park, June 16, 2019.
Teresa and Ben Ferguson, Akagera National Park, June 16, 2019.
Lake Kivu near Kibuye, August 3, 2019.
Lake Kivu near Kibuye, August 3, 2019.
RICA Cohort 1, Academic Training Program completion in Kigali, University of Rwanda campus, August 9, 2019.