Observations from Rwanda: December 6, 2020

Sunrise over Lake Kilimbi. September 11, 2020. From one of my last bike rides around the lake before entering the fenced-in bubble around the central campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). Students and staff of RICA have been restricted to campus for the duration of the 11 week term. Entry into the bubble required a week long quarantine period, with negative COVID tests entering and leaving quarantine. This approach has allowed RICA to continue an experiential approach to education, with minimal concern about COVID transmission on campus.
African Harrier Hawk. October 17, 2020. Note from bird guide: ” Raids on weaver nests and extracts nestlings with special adapted, very long flexible legs” (Collins Field Guide, Birds of Eastern Africa).
White-browed Coucal. November 1, 2020.
RICA students learning to collect soil samples. October 30, 2020.
Newborn calf and mom on one of the RICA First Year Farms. October 17, 2020.
Long-crested Eagle next to our house on the RICA campus. November 22, 2020.
African Pygmy Kingfisher, resting in front of our house during a rainstorm. Approximately 8 cm long (3.5 in). November 6, 2020.
RICA students loading manure and bedding from the dairy milking barn to transport to the compost site. October 23, 2020.
African Fish Eagles vocalizing in a tree on the RICA bank of Lake Kilimbi, with village across Lake Kilimbi in the background. October 11, 2020.
Moth on our patio the morning of November 14, 2020.
Teresa preparing to serve brunch for RICA staff. November 21, 2020. Note our ‘bubble’ fence in background. We have not left RICA for 2.5 months to maintain a COVID-free bubble on campus.
Young African Grey Hornbill in tree next to our house. November 19, 2020.
Dragonfly on the road to the RICA beach. November 22, 2020. Body is approximately 3 cm long.
Woodland Kingfisher, resting in a tree next to our house after eating its fill of termites found on our patio after a storm. October 20, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: November 8, 2020

Students and staff of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) play volleyball on the banks of Lake Kilimbi. Fields on the far bank are currently being planted to maize and soybean, with center pivot irrigation to be installed later this year. October 9, 2020.
Black-headed Weaver. October 24, 2020.
RICA students spreading compost in advance of planting on drip-irrigated fields. October 16, 2020.
Violet-backed Starling. October 20, 2020.
Young Vervet Monkey watching me. September 15, 2020.
Lion’s Ear (probably), growing on the banks of Lake Kilimbi. October 11, 2020.
Frog looking for insects in our garden. October 10, 2020.
Female Sunbird (uncertain species) on the banks of Lake Kilimbi. October 11, 2020.
Students walking along the Spine Road on a rainy Saturday morning in front of Ihema House. With the onset of the rainy season, umbrellas are a necessity most days. October 31, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: October 4, 2020

Deep ripping soil to break up compaction, ahead of planting corn on what will be a center-pivot irrigated field of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). Lake Kilimbi is in the background. September 13, 2020.
Bred heifers arrived on the RICA campus in late August, one for each student house. September 9, 2020.
The first calf born on RICA’s campus. September 12, 2020.
Weaver building a nest on the shore of Lake Kilimbi. September 6, 2020.
Landscaping activities along the RICA Spine Road. September 12, 2020.
A fire burned over 100 ha of brush in RICA’s conservation area. Local villagers joined RICA staff in controlling the blaze. September 20, 2020.
A vervet monkey enjoys breakfast near one of RICA’s student houses. September 15, 2020.
Students returned to the RICA campus September 25, 2020, after an absence of about 6 months. Students first had to have a negative COVID-19 test, then were quarantined after arrival on campus for five days, then were tested again. After a second negative COVID test, students were free to leave their houses on September 30, 2020. All RICA faculty and staff living inside the ‘campus bubble’ were tested in the same way.
A long-crested eagle carrying nesting material near Lake Kilimbi. September 15, 2020.
A foggy early morning walk along the Spine Road. September 1, 2020.
African firefinch feeding on the ground behind our house. August 18, 2020.
Bush fire at it’s peak. September 20, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: August 23, 2020

An African Fish Eagle, with freshly caught African Lungfish from Lake Kilimbi. July 26, 2020.
Zinga, or Spot – adopted mascot of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). July 30, 2020.
Construction progressing on the dormitory for second and third year students on the RICA campus. August 17, 2020.
Red-cheeked cordon-bleu. These are a type of finch, measuring 12-13 cm in length. The female does not have a red cheek. These are often seen feeding in flocks on the ground around our house. August 16, 2020.
Two girls walking across land recently cleared for installation of center pivot irrigation systems, looking east towards the center of the RICA campus. August 2, 2020.
Grasshopper along the peninsula trail east of the RICA campus. August 8, 2020.
RICA staff soil sampling a field newly cleared of brush, prior to planting the first crop later this year. July 29, 2020.
Bumblebee on blooming lablab cover crop, RICA campus. August 5, 2020.
Acacia trees along the RICA Spine Road at sunset. August 1, 2020.

Observations from Rwanda: July 12, 2020

Construction of the dormitory for 2nd and 3rd year students on the campus of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA), with Lake Kilimbi in the background. July 6, 2020.

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.

View of neighborhoods down the hill west from the Dove Hotel. June 28, 2020.
Watering and mulching crops along the Nyabarongo River. June 28, 2020.
Feeding cows, under the watchful eye of the owner. June 28, 2020.
Feeding cows. July 2, 2020.
Filling and carrying water jugs – a constant task. July 1, 2020.
Growing point of a conifer below my balcony at the Dove Hotel. June 29, 2020.
Two girls walking on the bank of the Nyabarongo River. June 28, 2020.
Trucks waiting to fill at a petroleum depot. July 1, 2020.
Grey-backed fiscal, perched on a RICA soccer net. July 11, 2020.
Preparing for dinner at the RICA cafeteria. In the background, trees with orange blossoms are in bloom during the dry season, which i believe are Erythrina abyssinica. July 11, 2020.
A closer view of Erythrina abyssinica blossoms. July 11, 2020.
Rueppell’s long-tailed starling (I think). July 11, 2020.
Sunset over Lake Kilimbi. July 6, 2020.

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.