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Positive outcomes from Farmers' Dialogue training in Rwanda
Monday, May 2, 2011

Thirty-one members of Farmers’ Dialogue from fourteen countries (East Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia) met in Kigali (Rwanda) in an informal and stimulating setting to consider the various missions of the programme and the team's commitments as a result of their missions. This diverse group of people took time to think about the roots of their programme and the impact it could have on their way of thinking and their commitment.

(Photo: Claude Bourdin) The training was lead by the Ukrainian team of Foundations for Freedom. The participants benefited from the experience and the skill of the two trainers who focused the week on the needs of the world, the specific nature of Farmers' Dialogue and the dynamic of change as advocated by Initiatives of Change.

All expectations were surpassed. The East Africa branch (with seven countries represented) was strengthened and boosted: better mutual understanding between the participants - creation of a project for an international meeting in Rwanda at the end of 2011 – a visit to Rwanda over the next few months by a group of farmers, both men and women, from Congo - initial contact with the first members of a Farmers' Dialogue newly created team in South Sudan - creation of a development plan for the next five years to mobilise more farmers and strengthen the rural world's understanding, experiences and commitments in the area of development - creation of a training module aimed at empowering farmers in development projects carried out on the ground - ...

Here are a few comments showing how the training sessions galvanised participants: "I now know that I need to listen more and talk less. I've really ignored my inner voice. It's time for me to follow it! I forgave during the workshop." - "Openness from the heart! Even with my family and friends I am not used to sharing such intimate thoughts" - "I have decided for example not to be discouraged in my development activities in the rural world. I’m going to stay in the countryside and persevere”, rather than move to the city (editor's note) – “I have decided to ask someone for forgiveness..."

Partnering in pairs established at the end of the session, and the list of five concrete steps to be implemented by the participants when they returned home, was designed to enable them to better assimilate what had been learnt and to strengthen the team spirit created during the week.

The choice of holding the meeting in Rwanda was with good reason and the team will have reaped its rewards. On the one hand many of the participants were able to discover this very beautiful, hilly and highly populated country, with a huge potential for farming and economic development. On the other, the visit to the Memorial commemorating the 1994 genocide, with the Rwandans taking part in the training week, together with the stories that some of them shared, were a painful revelation that shook the whole team. Such stories reinforced the unity of the group. The challenges of forgiveness (whether asked for or received), reconciliation and commitment to re-build the world were highlighted by this experience.

This course owes a great deal not only to the two trainers and the Rwandan team but also to the help of two young volunteer interpreters who ironed out any comprehension difficulties between the English and the French speakers. It also owes a great deal to Fiacre Sengati, a young Rwandan student who has been a trainee with Farmers' Dialogue since April 2010. He used his knowledge of the country to successfully lead this project. He now needs to pursue his PhD thesis that deals with the link between access to land, and social conflicts, using Rwanda as a basis for his research. He remains fully supportive of Farmers' Dialogue. Thank you to all the individuals and the various organisations that have helped fund this project. Thank you also to all those who are willing to help find the remaining 15% of the budget.

Didacienne Mukahabeshimana and Laurent Munyandilikirwa, the two heads of Initiatives of Change Rwanda expressed their sincere gratitude. This course, to which they hugely contributed, has raised the profile of Initiatives of Change and Farmers' Dialogue in Rwanda, (the opening ceremony was featured several times on television). It has also mobilised new volunteers, especially among young people, and boosted the local team giving it a vision and assurance that they can count on support from neighbouring countries for their projects. They are now organising the next international Farmers' Dialogue meeting for the end of 2011. This will be a chance to cultivate the commitment and the experience of the farmers, so that they can tackle the challenges of food production. It will also be an opportunity to reach out to the Francophone part of Africa and will contribute in its own way to developing the region.

May the two avocado trees and the three mango trees that were offered to the community of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of Africa that welcomed the session, bear fruits, feed and refresh those who eat them. Likewise may the seeds that were planted in the hearts of the participants during the session bear their fruits and help produce the food needed for the world.
Claude Bourdin - Farmers' Dialogue