Prince Charles visitsed an agroforestry site in Rwanda, where he discussed his interest in organic farming and agriculture in the region
The Prince of Wales joked after being set up for a photograph among bamboo trees, saying: “I feel slightly bamboozled.”
Posing for the image at the request of The Sun’s royal photographer Arthur Edwards, the heir to the throne leaned against one of the trees, saying, “I feel I need to hold onto something.”
Charles was visiting an agroforestry site run by the Albertine Rift Conservation Society, which has transformed local farmland in the Bugesera district of Rwanda by planting crops among trees.
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He was shown around the three-acre plot by Dr Sam Kanyamibwa, Executive Director of ARCOS and the organisation’s Director of Community Engagement Brigitte Kanyamugenge.
He also met Jean Bosco Murenzi, President of the Koimizanya cooperative – a group of 100 local farmers including 45 women – who are working with ARCOS to restore land on the edge of the wetland of Busegera Lake.
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The partnership, which is supported by Rwanda’s government, has boosted income, yield and biodiversity in just six years since the project began in 2016.
The Prince, a keen gardener and farmer himself, was fascinated by their work and stopped to admire saplings being grown in the centre’s tree nursery, including avocado, orange and lemon trees.
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He was told how the cooperative had been very disorganised at the start, but was now much better organised and had a vision. “And a lot more soil!” said Charles. “I’m fascinated by all these species, do they all have different properties? You have to protect them with shade.”
He was then shown before and after photographs of the landscape before the project began and now, showing the stark difference.
In 2016, the land was very dry and the soil was of poor quality as a result of farmers planting maize, beans and other crops in the wetland.
Charles and Camilla are on their first royal tour of Rwanda
Now the natural vegetation and wildlife of the wetland has been completely restored as the farmers instead use land alongside it which has better soil as a result of their new techniques and a solar-powered irrigation system.
“We learned about managing the environment in a better way,” Jean Bosco told him. “I’m so glad I got to see what you are doing,” replied the Prince.
Charles ran a handful of soil through his fingers to compare the degraded version from before to the nutrient-rich soil produced by the cooperative by adding organic matter and avoiding artificial fertiliser. “That’s why I went organic nearly 40 years ago,” he said. “It (the soil) was degraded.”
He was joined for the visit by Juliette Kabera, Director General of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority and Rwanda’s Minister of Environment Mujawamariya Jeanne d’Arc, who told the future king: “The restoration you are advocating for, your Royal Highness, you can see how it is being implemented. It’s wonderful.”
The couple also paid their respects at the Kigali Genocide Memorial
Charles also met some of the farmers working the land and heard from them how they have seen more fertile soil, more wildlife and vegetation and more rainfall as the water table has risen since the partnership with ARCOS began.
The Prince then spoke to Stephane Hallaire, President of Reforest’Action to discuss the launch of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance’s Living Lab in Rwanda.
They were joined by Barbara Nel from Astra Zeneca, which supports the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, although she told Charles the company was “still working on the vaccine”. “It’s very important as I get older,” joked the Prince, who has had Covid twice.
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Dr Sam Kanyabimwa said afterwards: “It was so inspiring to talk to the Prince. They (the farmers) were telling him they have seen the change, particularly in the environment. They have more food, fresh air and feel so encouraged.”
Rwanda is the second-most densely populated country in sub-Saharan Africa and has steeply sloping agricultural land, with a high risk of soil erosion.
The royals arrived in Rwanda on Tuesday
About 30 per cent of the country is forested, but there is limited land to expand forest plantations with a growing population that depends on wood for cooking. But more than 45 percent of Rwanda’s 2.4million hectares of land is potentially suitable for agroforestry, which would improve land for farming while boosting the forest.
Rwanda was the first African country to declare a target for land restoration in 2011 and has an Agroforestry Strategy in place, but needs investment in research and training to implement techniques on a large scale.
Founded in 1995, ARCOS Network works to improve biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its motto is Collaborative Action for Nature and People.
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