The past few weeks have been eventful, and very busy. The 2021 academic year for the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) finished on August 12. Students left campus for a well-earned break of about a month before the next academic year started in September. During that time faculty and staff took short breaks, along with conducting a two-week orientation for new students before the start of the term. Teresa and I, along with some other RICA staff, had the opportunity to visit mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park during the break. We had a great visit!
The arrival of an additional 84 students to RICA has changed the atmosphere around campus. Having twice as many students, often with multiple classes occurring at the same time, along with relaxation of RICA’s COVID restrictions, makes the campus feel more like a fully functioning university. Classes for the academic year started September 13, 2021.
The past few weeks have seen significant increases in COVID-19 cases in Rwanda, presumably due to spread of the delta variant. Parts of Rwanda are in lockdown conditions, though the Bugesera district, where the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) is located, is not yet among the affected districts. Still, the increase of COVID cases nationally has impacted RICA. While the ‘campus bubble’ relaxed slightly mid-term, movement to and from campus is still very limited. These approaches have allowed experiential education to continue at RICA.
The third term of the academic year at the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) began May 10, 2021. This is the first full term that includes only courses from students’ second year of classes, due to curriculum adjustments due to COVID and construction delays.
Construction workers on the roof of the Campus Center, with Lake Kilimbi in the background. May 18, 2021.
RICA students perform a skit during a Bible Study presentation to campus. May 12, 2021.
RICA students enjoy a day on the beach during term break, complete with a food truck (outside the bubble). May 8, 2021.
Full attention during Enterprise:Marketing class. May 18, 2021.
The Lake Kilimbi commuter ferry making its way across the lake. May 15, 2021.
A Black-Headed Weaver on the shore of Lake Kilimbi. May 15, 2021.
RICA farm staff spraying citrus trees in the First Year Farm orchard. May 19, 2021.
A construction worker removes water from a trench after an overnight rain. This was the last significant rain before the dry season set in later in the month. May 15, 2021.
The second term of the 2021 academic year at the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) was completed last week. This marked the end of first-year classes for the first cohort of students at RICA; an academic year which stretched over 19 months due to COVID delays.
We returned to Rwanda from a Christmas break in Nebraska on January 8. International travel is certainly different and challenging in the era of COVID. We’ve now had around 15-16 COVID tests – we’re starting to lose track. We’ve been blessed to be relatively protected from COVID, living in Rwanda with, until recently, very low infection rates, and in the campus bubble at the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) last term and now this term. All who reside in the campus bubble are tested, quarantined, and re-tested before being released in the bubble. The tradeoff is that we don’t leave the bubble, for the most part. Thus we get to know the 130 or so students and staff in the bubble pretty well during the three month term.