Jerome Rugabanje and Honoline Uwizeyimana weeding a garden of carrots at Gako organic farming training center. The New Times / D. Umutesi.

The youth especially from rural areas completed a six-months training course on how to benefit from the one- model-farm project in their respective home areas.

It is a Reach project where farms are established to benefit the youth from different districts in commercial and technological farming hence increasing productivity. Each model farm comprises of a group of 35 youth.

Most of these youth are school drop outs in the age bracket of 15-19 and have no means of attaining formal education because of limited resources. The project benefits both boys and girls especially those in rural areas since it’s where the highest number of child labor cases is.

In Rwanda, child labor has been caused by factors including poverty, HIV/AIDs and the social dislocations of the genocide.

The first group of the program completed their training at Gako Organic Farming training center on January 26th, 2012. The excited youth could not stop talking about the practical training they attained.

In an interview with The New Times, Honoline Uwizeyimana, a beneficiary of the program, said that she is also going to train other youth in her village.

“Before the project, we had traditional farming skills and cultivated every thing on the same piece of land with various fertilizers. But now we have been taught how to yield more with just a kitchen garden,” says Uwizeyimana.

She also requested for facilitation in terms of equipment for commercial farming.

“We are requesting for more land to cultivate in order to explore the skills we have attained because the land we have is so small. We would also like to rear animals so as to get organic manure which we can use as field fertilizers,” Uwizeyimana requests.

According to Emmanuel Ntaganda, an Educational specialist, Deputy Director of Reach and Reach, the project is aimed at combating child labor in Rwanda.

“We fight child labor through education. Besides the youth in the one-model farm school program, children within the age bracket of 10-16 who are dragged into child labor are taken back to school. Some of them are given a catch-up program in school,” Ntaganda explains.

He adds that the model farm program is an informal model of education.

“The main concept of this program benefits school drop-outs and helps them maintain agriculture as an income generating activity. They learn better unindustrialized skills involving farm managerial, entrepreneurship skills to avoid rural-urban migration of the youth,” says Ntaganda.

He added that when they graduate they are given a start up kit for future business and entrepreneurship.

“The output of what they get is an exit strategy. We encourage them to use the output of the production as a group and after trade they can save the money on a joint account to benefit them all.

In an interview with The New Times, 19-year-old Donatha Mukeshimana,  a resident of Central Mulindi in Gicumbi district said that before the one-model- farm school program most of the youth in her home area were hopeless.

“I had gone as far as Senior Three with formal education but from the training I have gained through the program, the benefits are tremendous.  With the agricultural skills I have attained, I hope to increase crop yields,” Mukeshimana expresses.

She also requested for more youth to be recruited into the program lest they make dangerous decisions because of circumstances.

“Most girls especially those who never got a chance to go to school go to places like Uganda and indulge in dangerous social vices such as prostitution because they failed to make ends meet in their villages,” she discloses.

According to Dr. Jean Claude Nkurikiyinka, Director of Reach Project, seven districts in Rwanda are benefiting from the project.

“This project is an association of three organizations which include; Winrock International, SNV Rwanda and FAWE Rwanda. We have 42 model farm schools in all the seven districts where the youth learn modern agricultural practice. When they complete the training, they can form cooperatives and its related benefits,” Nkurikiyinka discloses.

The one-model- farm school program is an initiative of Reach (Rwanda Education Alternatives for Children). The reach project’s overall goal is to reduce child labor in Rwanda by facilitating non-formal pre-schools, agricultural vocational programs and provide scholarships to increase access to education in remote areas on subsistence farms where over 80% of child labor is found. REACH is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor under Cooperative Agreement.

By Doreen Umutesi, The New Times

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