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”

The sausage tree

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a really nice blog about birds and ecology in Rwanda,  Rwanda on the Wing, by Jared Cole* of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.

By Jared Cole, via Bird on the Wing.

In an October post, Jared wrote about the sausage tree, one of the great trees of Africa, and about how few of them he has found during his time in Rwanda.  He speculated that they have been replaced by non-natives like jacarandas, eucalytus, and bananas.

Jared and the students at the Youth Village tried to germinate sausage tree seeds from a piece of rotting fruit.  However, out of about 100 seeds, only 4 seedlings sprouted, which they planted on their campus.

Last night, we attended the Christmas fête at the Belgian School of Kigali.   While I was taking a few pictures with my husband’s phone, I turned around to find that the school had a sausage tree, growing right there in the concrete-tiled playground.

I wonder if there was a temptation to paint the fruits red, gold, and green for the occasion.

Kigelia africana (aka sausage tree and Kigelia pinnata, abssinica, aethiopica, and Bignonia africana) is the only species in the genus Kigella, which is a member of the family Bignoniacese. It is native to sub-Saharan Africa and is most easily recognized by its large, sausage-shaped fruit. Its flowers are large and maroon-colored.

Via http://www.plantzafrica.com

The fruits are toxic to humans, but slices are sometimes added to beer to aid fermentation. They are also used in traditional medicines and in some commercially produced skin lotions.  They may have anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. According to Kew Garden’s website, the trees are sacred to some communities; the Luo and Lukaya peoples of Kenya bury a fruit “to symbolize the body of a lost person believed to be dead.”

All the websites I consulted warned against camping or parking under a Kigelia; the fruits can weigh up to 26 lbs. or 12 kgs.

Sausage tree seeds can have a poor germination rate, so Jared’s experience was not unusual. A few sites recommend planting the seeds in river sand.

To return to the Ecole Belge and its Christmas fête — we were lured there by the promise of imported goodies from Belgium, including oysters and foie gras.  There were also boudin blanc sausages, Liege waffles, and Belgian beer.

The seniors were holding a plant sale to support their class trip.

A plant sale to support the senior class trip.

I bought some dramatically blotched coleus. . .

Burgundy and lime Coleus.

Tree Tomato jam.
And some Tree Tomato (or Tamarillo) jam made by Afrique en Marche. They help the handicapped obtain prostheses.

*Jared is no longer in Rwanda, but you can read about his continuing adventures in birding at his blog, Earth on the Wing.