Walmart and USAID Partner to Change Lives of the Rural Poor in Rwanda

By Teri Blandon, Global Communities.

This article originally appeared on the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Corporate Citizen Center blog.

Rwanda farmer

In rural communities across the developing world, small farmers lack education on basic farming techniques, instead relying on traditional practices that hurt their income and put them at serious risk for malnutrition. But in Rwanda, a public-private partnership with the Walmart Foundation, USAID and Global Communities is leading the way to helping farmers learn new methods to improve their livelihoods.

The Ejo Heza (A Brighter Future) program, implemented by Global Communities, works to reduce malnutrition in Rwanda by improving adult literacy, expanding access to financial services, providing basic nutritional education, and improving agricultural production. The program is part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, led by USAID, which seeks to improve food security, nutrition, and sustainable economic development in vulnerable communities around the world. With a $1 million expansion provided by the Walmart Foundation and additional matching funds provided by USAID through a Global Development Alliance, Ejo Heza was able to expand its farmer field school programs and provide nutritional training to 50,000 additional farmers, 60% of them women. These schools, complete with skilled instructors, seeds, tools, fertilizer and equipment needed for demonstration plots, instruct students on improved agricultural techniques, helping them improve their crop yields and increase their income. With the additional support from USAID, the farmers also receive training in developing nutritionally balanced diets for their families.

Take Nukanyandwi Cresence, who lives in southern Rwanda. Prior to receiving training from Ejo Heza, she sold the cabbages she grew for about 60 Rwandan Francs, or approximately ten cents a head. After she received training on improved farming techniques such as crop spacing and the use of organic manure, the price of her cabbages has more than tripled, selling for between 200 and 250 Rwandan Francs (29 to 37 cents).

Nukanyandwi Cresence
"I used to plant traditionally, but after learning from the farmer field school, now I leave 40 centimeters between plants and use a combination of organic manure and fertilizer instead of fertilizer alone. Now my cabbages can sell for 250 Francs because they are so much bigger.” 
                  –Nukanyandwi Cresence, Rwandan farmer

Nujagajana Goretti also lives in southern Rwanda, and has been learning improved techniques for growing a variety of vegetables. She previously grew carrots in a small plot in her home garden, and she had concerns about having such a small area for growing. But with new techniques learned in the school, she has expanded to five carrot plots, using two for consumption and three to sell at the market, thus increasing her income considerably.

Although Goretti is over 60, she has been inspired by her learning experience and has become a “Be the Change Volunteer” the heart and soul of Ejo Heza. These volunteers take a leading role in facilitating change in their communities by sharing their knowledge with their neighbors so they too can improve their livelihoods.

Ejo Heza is a perfect example of the role public-private partnerships can play in the developing world. By building on the existing relationship between USAID and Global Communities, the Walmart Foundation was able to ensure that its support would have the largest impact on the lives of Rwandans. For Global Communities and USAID, the partnership represented an opportunity to expand on an already successful project and reach even more individuals like Nukanyandwi and Nujagajana. Across the globe, partnerships like these are leveraging the resources and experience of both the private and governmental sectors to find innovative solutions to the problems plaguing our most vulnerable communities.