by: Rina Hisamatsu
As soon as I booked my flight to Kigali to intern with The Women’s Bakery, I began experiencing a wide range of emotions. Mostly, I had a feeling of euphoria and disbelief that I had the opportunity to work with an organization whose core values and objectives align so closely with my own. Educating, inspiring, and empowering women through a sustainable business of bread power? Not to mention their breads are chock full of nutrients, local vegetables and absolutely delicious? Heck yes! I was so eager to immerse myself in the field of global public health/non-profit work and hopefully make a little dent in the organization with a bit of my own contribution.
My time in Rwanda was spent working on two main projects.
One revolved around researching and building the nutritional landscape of Rwanda. As it’s such a broad theme, I decided to tackle this by delving into various national databases and reading up on research articles and nutrition books based in Rwanda and the greater East Africa. I wanted to understand what the current situation is around health and nutrition here and whether we could incorporate culturally relevant ingredients into our breads to attract local customers and make it more accessible to the general public. In addition to this, I created several nutritional documents for their curriculum and marketing materials.
Part two of my project was so much fun and gave me the chance to get down and dirty with Rwandan soil! At TWB, we are hoping to implement bakery gardens at all sites where fresh vegetables can be the harvested and used directly for their baked goods. The two pilot gardens I worked on were the Ndera and Remera bakeries, which I was very happy about because the two locations have very different landscapes. Due to the lack of space in the Remera bakery, we settled on using planters to grow beets and carrots, which will be used for their muffin bread recipes. On the other hand, Ndera’s vast acreage allowed us to build direct beds on the plot and practice succession planting by sowing a bunch of different seeds such as carrots, beets, cabbage, and dodo.
Some of the biggest challenges I faced was to overcome the language barrier and earn the women’s trust and buy-in by describing the project’s purpose and long-term benefits of having a garden for the bakery and the individual. I feel that this experience has definitely developed my patience and I have come to realize that communication and trust builds the foundation to any good relationship.
Although the first harvest will begin long after I leave Rwanda, I am keeping my hopes up that these women can have fun in the garden and continue what I’ve started!