What makes this possible? How we can we have fresh produce out of season? Did someone in Canada discover magic beans?
We have the benefit of greenhouses, which need electricity and irrigation to keep plants alive during winter. We also import a lot of fresh produce from countries with more temperate climates.
In Rwanda, farmers have the benefit of a much milder climate that doesn't swing into freezing cold winters, so they don't need electrically heated greenhouses. Instead, they have seasonal periods of rain and drought—a normal pattern in the annual weather cycle.
This requires irrigation or daily hand-watering if you want to grow anything in the dead of drought season. It also means you have to know how to build nutrients into your soil to ensure it stays rich and vibrant while everything around it dies off.
To help farmers achieve these two goals and grow fresh, nutritious veggies year-round, FH staff provide training on how to establish perennial kitchen gardens. These backyard plots enable community members to have vegetables throughout the dry season, improving their food security and health, as well as changing cultural habits to include more vegetables in their daily meals.
The model of kitchen garden introduced is inexpensive to start up, simple to maintain, and easy for neighbours to duplicate. Just this year, FH Rwanda conducted demonstration gardens with 133 community members (45 men, 88 women) across four villages. This resulted in the permanent establishment of 16 kitchen gardens. In addition, participants received free vegetable seeds including cabbage, carrots, amaranth, and beetroot. Through actively following up with workshop attendees, FH staff hope to see a kitchen gardens growing in each of the households who attended.
So far, 32 of the families have started gardens and they are thriving. The seeds have germinated and FH staff are projecting a healthy harvest —in the middle of the dry season!