I had the pleasure of joining Ran, the other Kiva fellow here in Rwanda, for an outing to the country side to visit a women’s co-operative that provides a glimpse into the daily lives of rural Rwandan women.
The initiative empowers women by giving them an independent source of income as well as show off their skills to mazungus like us.
First, let me set the scene
We were invited into one of the lady’s homes – this consisted of two small buildings with a courtyard in between for the cow pen. The buildings consisted of a living room, two single bedrooms, a small kitchen and storage space.
The only room that had electricity was the living room and there was no running water.
The buildings were surrounded by land growing bananas, cassava, avocados, Irish potatoes. In addition there was enough space for a cow, a pig and a few goats.
Activity one – food prep
Our first task was to help with lunch prep – peeling the cassava roots and popping beans out of pods.
As there is no water in the house and we wanted to boil the cassava and beans, we trekked down the hilltop to fetch water with old oil canisters. The ladies make this 30 min return trek three times a day.
Rwandans are often surprised of how much water I drink. I guess it is a lot easier if all I have to do is turn on the tap; I doubt I’d be as lavish if I had to trek 30 min to fill my bottle!
Activity two – all the things you can do with bananas
I’ve mentioned before that Rwandan people are very resourceful – this is especially evident when it comes to the beloved banana tree
We learnt how to make rope out of dried banana tree leaves (to be used as a leash for the goat or to fix roof pillars together).
We also learnt how to make banana beer. Now I’m sure you cannot wait to make your own banana beer so here’s the recipe:
- Dig a hole in the ground and fill it with dried banana leaves
- Set the leaves on fire and wait for the leaves to burn completely
- Grab a bunch of raw bananas and place them in the hole
- Cover the bananas with soil and fresh banana tree leaves and let it do its magic for five days
- After five days, dig out the bananas and peel them
- Place the peeled bananas in some boiling water
- Go to the field and grab a good handful of hay
- Squish the bananas with the hay until all the banana flesh is in a big clump in the hay
- Leave the banana juice to ferment for two days
- Voila – you’ve got yourself some homemade banana beer!
Activity three – make your own bricks for the house
No more Homebase or Ikea for me – I am fully qualified to make my own bricks. Just mix water, earth and stones with your bare feet; grab a brick moulder; fill it with your ‘cement’ and let it dry in the sun
What did I take away from this experience?
It showed me how hard Rwandan women work to provide for their families, to make a home for their kids and to empower each other to be more independent.
It was an absolute honour to spend time with the joyful ladies and I thank Azizi Life Experience for creating this opportunity in the first place!