Aleixandre Mahirwe stands proudly on his terraced land.
In the district of Nyamagabe, Southern Rwanda, WFP and the Republic of Korea are combining their knowledge to help over 1,600 people from the most poor and food insecure households to create assets through land terracing and increasing their standards of living by constructing houses, class rooms and clean water channels to the communities.
NYAMAGABE, Rwanda: Aleixandre Mahirwe, 56, has spent many years living on the slopes of Birambo village, on barren land from which he struggled to harvest any crops and could not provide enough food to feed his seven children. But thanks to a new project, supported by WFP and the Republic of Korea, his future is bright. Aleixandre’s land was terraced, he was given fertiliser and high quality seeds to improve his production.
“Before this land was terraced, I could not harvest even ten kilograms of Irish potatoes or beans, I had lost hope and my family suffered by not having enough food for many years” said Aleixandre. “I am now very happy because I have harvested 450 kilograms of Irish potatoes on a very small plot of land which I had lost hope on. I now have enough food for my family and can even send some to the market” he added.
The Saemaul Zero Hunger Community Project is a hybrid combination of the WFP’s asset creation model and the Republic of Korea’s Saemaul Undong approach, aimed at devising durable hunger solutions. The project started in 2011 in the three villages of Birambo, Munyinya and Gasharu where the majority of people live on small plots of land on hilly areas, where the soil is poor and prone to erosion. Before the project started, the area was characterised by constant high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition rates measured at 55 percent.
Improving standards of living
The project has also supported the construction of classrooms, water facilities and houses for the most vulnerable in the community.
“Before the construction of six new classrooms, each class at my school was very congested with 50 students. With the new classrooms we now only have 35 in each class which has made the children learn better and improve our school performance in 2013. I am very proud”. Said Cecile Mukankusi, head teacher at Rugogwe primary school, which is now one of the best performing schools in Nyamagabe district.
The construction of a water supply system in all three villages, including communal water taps near homes, has meant that women and children no longer have to walk long distances down the hills to fetch water. Dominah Munganyinka, a 46 year old mother of five children explained
“I used to spend most of my working days in hospitals and health centers taking my children to be dewormed due to poor water. Since I received clean water tap nearby my house, my children are in good health and they are able to attend classes regularly. Life is now good”.
John Paul Sesonga is from Rwanda. He has a law degree and a diploma in journalism from the Uganda Management Institute. He wrote various articles on economic and legal issues for Rwandan media outlets before joining WFP.