A group of Rwandan students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln kicked off their tour of the Panhandle Monday, June 4, at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff.
“We had a lot of good questions for the specialists at the (UNL) extension,” said Lex Larsen, applied agriculture instructor at WNCC. “They are interested in everything from mechanized systems management to business all throughout agriculture, these students are very interested in learning all that they can while here.”
Larsen is assisting the extension center with orientation sessions and tours.
On Tuesday, June 5, the students toured the North Platte Natural Resources District in Scottsbluff. Where they learned more about how the Panhandle uses irrigation, surface water, groundwater, reservoirs, how it is monitored and saved.
The 13 students, are all scholarship students, who are studying agriculture techniques to take back to Rwanda.
In Rwanda about 77 percent of all cultivated land is on slopes and has ‘moderate to high erosion risk soils’, according to the 2004 Strategic Plan for Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda. The Plan also shows that an estimated 40,000 people go hungry each year because of soil erosion.
The scholarships will allow the students, which include 37 more students for a total of 50 to major in Integrated Science and Agriculture at UNL.
In Rwanda Agriculture provides employment to 90 percent of its population, but accounts for less than 40 percent of its GDP, according to the Rwanda Irrigation Master Plan report.
It is understandable, the students are all very interested in irrigation.
“I live in the eastern part of Rwanda, where we do a lot of irrigation. So, I want to focus on irrigation so when I go back I can make irrigation system more developed and profitable for the people,” said Pascal Izere a sophomore at UNL.
Farmers in Rwanda, like those in the rest of rural sub-Saharan Africa, depend largely on rainfed agriculture.
One irrigation system the students learned about at the extension center had to do with drip irrigation.
“I was really impressed to see the underground irrigation,” said Zacharie Ntambarie. “You don’t get any problems with people breaking pipes or tubes, so it was really amazing.”
Ntambarie added the system would also be very adaptable to his country, where it can be very hilly and pivots would not be the best solution for those areas.
The students are enrolled in UNL’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in what is known as CUSP, an undergraduate Scholars Program.
Rwanda is planning on building a college called the Rwandan Institute of Conservation Agriculture in Rwanda. In the future some of the visiting students may one day be faculty at the institute.