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Signs of Success: Trees’ First Fruits in Environmental Conservation Projects by JUC, Rwanda

Promotion of environment conservation through improved land utilization project was initiated for two main purposes; one was to plant trees in order to address Pope Francis’ concern for our “common house” as he put it in his encyclical Laudato Si’.

The second purpose was contributing to the school feeding program for vulnerable children at 15 partner schools. The objective was that once the trees started producing fruit, some of the product would be added to students’ meals and some would be sold. Income generated from those fruits would also be used to pay for meals for students whose parents struggle to raise the money for the school feeding program at schools.

Towards the end of 2022 the Centre had already prepared a nursery of fruit trees consisting papaya, orange, passion fruit and avocado. Following printing of the project manual, JUC facilitated a training of teachers who would implement the program at schools. The week-long training was held at JUC premises after which teachers were sent back to schools with copies of the manual and to form environment clubs for students.

Following that, JUC transported fruit trees to the school farms and together with environment club members planted them. The Centre had allocated 400 fruit trees for each school. Recently JUC staff visited the farms and were gratified to see that for the most part, trees are growing well and some have started to produce fruit.

On one such visit, JUC programs manager had the opportunity to speak during a parents’ meeting. He encouraged the parents to support their children in taking care of the fruit trees as these fruit trees will benefit not only current students but even their younger siblings to come.

Despite the challenges of long periods of drought that the schools faced, many managed to keep almost all their trees alive and all schools currently have running environment clubs with an average of 50 members in each club. Two schools have stood out to JUC staff for having taken excellent care of the trees. Groupe Scolaire Batima Nyinawajambo is run by Sr Virginie Mukarurinda and like many schools faced prolonged dry periods but the director did everything she could to source water even getting to the extent of buying it. The second school is Ecole Scolaire Bumbogo which is run by Fr Noel Nsengimana and employs an agronomist who has made sure there is a great irrigation system at the school farm and has sourced enough manure such that trees are truly thriving. JUC’s agronomist was even able to harvest and taste some of the passion fruit.

Reactions from beneficiaries of this project have been pleasing and encouraging;

“This project has played a crucial role in climatic modification: this is because our region Eastern province has a big problem of insufficient rainfall , the presence of different trees in our school it will help us to gain rain through transpiration. Adding on to that this project gave us tress which produce fruits for eating for our children, and consequently even manure. The project will support the educational government program, school feeding. We are truly grateful.”

-Jean Claude Niyonshuti,

mentor, GS Batima Nyinawajambo.

“I am one of the students in our environment club that is in charge of watering our fruit trees and making sure they are growing well. Joining the environment club made me realize the importance of trees in general and the means with which to protect them. Such as watering, putting fertilizer and weeding. The outcome of all this is that we get oxygen from the trees most importantly. But our trees will also give us fruits and then protect our land from erosion.”

-Egide Niyomwungeri,

student, GS Batima Nyinawajambo.

“As you are all aware, the school feeding program introduced by the government has been very helpful in keeping our children energetic and alert when they are at school. The environment project is not only protecting the environment but will provide much needed fruit to add to our students’ meals. This will definitely end stunted growth, which is a challenge we have faced for years.”

-Aurelie Bagwaneza,

mentor, GS Janjagiro.

The next steps for JUC in this project is to continue visiting environment clubs while talking to members about the importance of playing a role in conserving the environment, as well support the successful growing of trees.

Par, Henriette Mushimiyimana

JUC Communications Officer.

Ismael Matambura

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