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.
We returned to Rwanda at the end of June, 2020, after spending three months in Nebraska. On arrival in Kigali, we were taken to a government-designated location for a week-long quarantine for COVID-19. We were tested twice during that time, and allowed to leave after a week and two negative tests for another week of self-quarantine in our house on the RICA campus. Several of the following photographs were taken from my balcony at the Dove Hotel during the first quarantine week.
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.