President's visit to Rwanda - Chronicle of day 2

19 July 2010

Breakfast at sunrise, and off to the Centre for Agricultural Information and Communication, still in Kigali, that was inserted into the programme just before we did the plan-by-the-minute during the dry run on Thursday last week. We know that at 13h30 we have to be back in town to meet the UNDP ResRep, who was kind enough to delay a retreat of the UN country team to make this possible. Dense traffic, we arrive with 10 min delay. The delay keeps growing, and my worries with it.

An impressive display of internet interactivity and a functioning radio studio give us an idea of the reference centre for the community innovation centre (CCI) that features a little later on the programme. When we’re ready to go, our most faithful 10-year old IFAD car is the only one not to start, and luckily the 3 of us remaining can join Aimable, our CPO, in the FAO vehicle. In the marshland, rice farmers explain cultivation and water retention technologies, and these explanations satisfy the President's research heart and put a smile on his face. At the CCI, he cut the inaugural ribbon so that farmers could demonstrate the applied research results and their watershed plans. Even microenterprise clients get their stage. The whole CCI was bustling with activity, it was a real pleasure to see this centre come to life. Remember the community competitions we looked at with a few Rwandans in Peru? Well, it's at the CCIs that these are now planned to be happening. Unfortunately we need to cut a few farmer presentations short, in order to make good some of our ever looming delays.

On the way back, a sericulture cooperative is still waiting, I know that enormous preparations must be waiting for us there, so we decide to at least give it a quick stop. But then, before we get there, the cars swerve to the right onto another dirt road. The Minister of Agriculture had decided that we absolutely needed to see the One Cow per Poor Family programme. That almost saw me faint.

In the end, we did it relatively quickly, and I couldn’t but admit that it was a perfect complement to the agricultural programme. Even a presidential TV interview fitted in, and at the sericulture cooperative, which had the smallest silkworms you’ve ever seen on display, we sped through the production room, on plastic sandals to make sure we didn’t contaminate the place. With some forceful driving on the way back, we made it to the UN lunch with no more than 30 min delay. I almost couldn’t believe it.

The rest of the day was very quiet in comparison. Meetings with private sector representatives and the Minister of Finance went smoothly, and by 6pm I started oscillating between the hotel pool and sauna to catch my breath. And then I had to get dressed again for the official reception and dinner.

by Claus Reiner