A visit to GOFTC, part two

After we visited the demonstration small holding farm of Gako Organic Farming Training Centre (GOFTC), we continued down the road a short distance to its main campus.

The attractive facility includes a number of classrooms and an auditorium.  A local church group was holding a service on the grounds while we were there, and we enjoyed their singing as we looked around.

The path we followed from the buildings to the fields was lined with Caliandra trees, which are regularly cut to provide good animal fodder. (Also click here for more information.)

We came to a large field of various types of garden beds, including the above terraced mound garden of carrots, onions, and parsley . . .

and the above keyhole garden of cabbages. (Click any photo to enlarge it.  To scroll through all the enlarged images, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and on any thumbnail in the gallery.)

Above, cabbages were growing in sack towers, and old tires had been repurposed as containers for herbs.

Amaranth was growing in rows.  In Rwanda, it is valued more as a leaf vegetable than a grain. I was surprised to see the Cleome around it  (in the photo, but a little hard to see), but I learned from Managing Director Richard Munyerango that the leaves are edible after cooking.

The center teaches animal husbandry and keeps a number of dairy cows using the “zero grazing method,” which means fodder is brought to the penned animals (they do graze twice a week).

This calf was checking out my camera.

In addition to milk, the cows contribute to the center’s power through their manure, which is processed to produce gas for cooking.

The staff were cooking bananas that day. These bananas are not sweet and when boiled and mashed taste something like potatoes.

You may remember GOFTC’s pigs from my July 4 “Wordless Wednesday” post.  This baby was a little more shy.

The center has an even larger rabbit hutch at the main campus.

Of course, the urine is collected for the compost piles.

After we left the animals, we came to the compost shed.  The still-cooking pile on the left was beautifully squared off. Richard told us good dimensions for a pile are 1.5 meters wide by 1.5 meters high (and 7 meters long, but this one was about 3-4 meters long).

This is clever (above). A pole is placed in the middle of the pile so that it can slide in and out. If it is pulled out warm and damp, the pile is in good shape.

Next to the compost shed, different types of soil amendments (compost, compost tea, manure, etc.) were being tested on Amaranth.

There were macadamia trees planted next to the test plot.

From the shed, we could also see fields of pineapples — their drip irrigation buckets still hanging at the end of the rows.

The drip lines — needed when the plants were first set out — had been removed. But when they were in use, workers had filled the buckets by hand from a well below the field. Eventually, a pump system will be installed.

The pineapples are fertilized with a solid byproduct of the “cow gas” process.

As we left the fields by this gate, I noticed again the careful capture of rainwater runoff using trenches.

I thought I would end by sharing some of the text of GOFTC’s brochure, which is rather inspiring.

“Gako Organic Farming Training Centre is a Rwandan local NGO that trains farmers in sustainable agriculture for sustained livelihood.

We are a training and demonstration enterprise. The training is in sustainable agriculture using organic farming practices, which are environmentally friendly.

We emphasis the use of limited land (small plot technique), while improving yields, which are pollution free, hence safe and healthy to eat.

We do not encourage the application of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, but try to go back to nature, by taking care of our environment so that we may depend on it for our livelihood.

We embark on planning and design, while focusing our most attention on agro-forestry and the growing of fruits and vegetables, which are natural medicines.

Since inception, GOFTC has shared this information with hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers in Rwanda and the neighboring countries who come for training. . . .

[Our mission is] to empower the farming communities to improve their living standards through appropriate, affordable and productive organic farming practices that promote environmental conservation for a healthy, progressive and united people.”

You can read more about GOFTC in a January 2011 post by Jared in the blog Rwanda on the Wing.

You can contact GOFTC by writing to P.O. Box 3047, Kigali, Rwanda, or by e-mailing to goftc2008@yahoo.com.

Continue reading “A visit to GOFTC, part two”

Gako Organic Farming Training Centre

Soon-to-be Peace Corps volunteers before their swearing-in.

There’s a swearing-in ceremony for new Peace Corps Volunteers taking place in our garden right now, which has caused me to stop moving plants around long enough to write a new post.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend organized an outing to a wonderful place called the Gako Organic Farming Training Centre (GOFTC) — located just on the edge of the Kigali city limits.  Our host and guide there was Richard Munyerango, founder and Managing Director of the center and a tremendous source of knowledge on small farming techniques.

Since 2000, GOFTC has trained over 60,000 farmers from Rwanda, Burundi, and the D.R.Congo, among them demobilized soldiers, disabled persons, women’s groups, and many participants in the Send a Cow and OXFARM programs.

Our first stop of the morning was a small house surrounded by a fenced demonstration garden of about an acre, which Richard had created to show how a small holding could feed a family.

The first thing we noticed as we passed through the gate was the paved trench that directs the street’s rainwater runoff into the property.

The water passes through a series of screens (or would were this not the dry season). . .

and is saved in an underground tank.

To the right of the trench and filters are mounded rows of vegetable crops. (Click any photo to enlarge it. To scroll through all the enlarged images, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and on any thumbnail in the gallery.)

Just beyond the water tank and planting beds is a raised rabbit hutch, looking a bit like a an ark.

Behind the hutch are stalls for a cows or some goats, but neither were in residence when we visited. The center raised chickens until the Avian Flu scare of several years ago. Richard hopes to re-introduce them eventually.

The rabbit cages are raised so that droppings and urine can be captured.

The urine runs into a holding tank and is added to garden’s compost piles to help them break down faster.

The composting area, just beside the hutch, is covered to help retain moisture in the pile on the left. Compost material is collected in the pit on the right.

The compound holds two mushroom houses.

Above, Richard lifts the row cover to reveal mushrooms.

Behind the house are rows of pineapples and Pennisetum grass (animal fodder), as well as a small mango tree.

Behind the kitchen, another trench system reuses grey water.  The surrounding beds are planted with herbs and greens.

At the other side of the house are several mounded gardens. The one above is terraced, using old nylon rice sacks.

The mounded garden above is a “keyhole garden” — so called because of the opening that allows the gardener access to a center hole . . .

to which compost material is continually added.

(To watch a charming video about making a keyhole garden (by the organization Send a Cow), click here.)

There were also several sack towers, this one planted with parsley. The rocks at the top keeps water moving straight down into the dirt.

A variety of trees surround the garden. This one is a Moringa, which provides food for both humans and animals from its leaves.  (More about this highly nutritious tree here.)

In my next post, I’ll continue with our tour of the main GOFTC facility.

Continue reading “Gako Organic Farming Training Centre”

(Not very) Wordless Wednesday: head shots

A resident of Gako Organic Farming Training Centre, Kigali, Rwanda.

His best side.

His other best side.

Snapshot with a friend.

Happy Fourth of July!

Today is also Liberation Day in Rwanda.

A year ago today, my husband and I took a different way home from Georgetown and discovered Dumbarton Oaks Park, one of the country’s garden design treasures.  I took a lot of photos and blogged about it a couple of days later, here.

The 27-acre, Washington, D.C., park  was designed by Beatrix Farrand and given to the National Park Service in 1940.  It has been in a poor condition for  decades, but since 2010, the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy has been working to restore it.

On Saturday, July 7, the Conservancy will hold a Storm Clean-Up to remove debris from the June 29 derecho storm.  They are asking for volunteers to join them from 9:00 a.m. to noon, starting at the Lover’s Lane Entrance on R Street.

For more information, see here and contact Ann Aldrich, aaldrich@dopark.org.

(Sorry, I guess I’m not very ‘wordless’ today.)