Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cassava, what?

On Tuesday, Janvier traveled with Mariana, Justin W., Rob and I to meet representatives from and farmer groups participating in the Great Lakes Cassava Initiative (GLCI). Cassava is a plant grown in the Great Lakes region and is widely used by farmers for household consumption and sold at market. Some years back cassava was very vulnerable to disease, which devastated the farmers and their families. Father Anatole, Panfilo and Jean Paul welcomed us at Caritas Kabgayi and explained GLCI’s work to partner with organizations such as CRS, and local civic and government groups to identify farmers who would benefit most from participating in the initiative.

The GLCI organizes farmers into groups, provides several varieties of disease-resistant cassava seed to famers, as well as agricultural training related to planting the crop, crop rotation, and monitoring for signs of disease. Through GLCI, those farmer groups who receive seed and successfully grow healthy, quality cassava provide root cuttings to other farmer groups. This multiplication effect has helped the most poor and vulnerable farmers to achieve food stability. Laptops help facilitate trainings to the farmers related to more effective agriculture techniques and savings and internal lending communities (SILC), as well as to record and report project progress throughout the region.

In addition to the cassava multiplication efforts, CRS’ SILC project has been implemented across several farmer groups. SILC provides a means for the farmers to save small amounts of money with fellow groups members and then to borrow funds from the group for household needs or new business ideas. The SILC group, as a whole, agrees to lend funds to members with agreed upon repayment terms. With the help of field agents from CRS, the group makes its own rules and keeps its own records. At the end of a year, a group share-out returns funds to the members with accrued interest.

We had the opportunity to meet with over 30 farmer group members and SILC group members in their fields. We learned a lot about cassava farming and the hopes that the farmers have for their futures. The good planting materials and training provided through the initiative have helped the farmers achieve food stability, as well as to have enough cassava to sell at the market. Members were happy to share their stories from participating in the initiative and in SILC. Many women spoke to the positive impact SILC had on their ability to improve the livelihood of their households and to empower them within their communities.

Muracoze to Janvier, Caritas Kabgayi and all of the farmers who took the time to speak with us today!

Oh, and Mariana tried the cassava…only after was she told the bark is poisonous. So far, so good.

-- Amy, Justin W., Mariana and Rob

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