In November 2022, members of the SolarSPELL team traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, to spend time with our partners at Bridge2Rwanda Farms. Our time with B2R Farms included a two-day workshop featuring SolarSPELL’s Agriculture Library, meetings with government officials and academic leadership, and a follow-up meeting to train the team on demonstrating the library to others. In all, it was an extremely productive (and fun) week, and we can’t wait to return to Rwanda and continue working together.

The week launched with a two-day workshop where the SolarSPELL team gave an overview of the entire Initiative and our approach to building information literacy and digital skills via a localized, relevant solar-powered offline digital library; training and support; and monitoring and evaluation for continuous improvement.

The workshop’s highlight came when Rachel demonstrated the new Learning Lessons she has been creating, which are based upon Foundations for Farming’s Conservation Agriculture teaching materials. Rachel had worked to get one of these Lessons translated into Kinyarwanda (the local language universally spoken across Rwanda) in time for the workshop. The attendees’ were clearly happy to see the lesson in their local language, which is also the language that the Rwandan farmers will need, in order to understand the content.

Bruce was also able to give a “preview of coming attractions” by describing and giving an overview (as well as do some show-and-tell) of the SolarSENSE project—which is a solar-powered soil sensor project to monitor soil health (temperature, moisture level, salinity, phosphate levels) and then connect to the SolarSPELL agricultural library’s content, in order to give extension workers and farmers actionable advice, based upon the readings from the soil.

Later on in the week, the SolarSPELL team had the opportunity to share about the SolarSPELL initiative and the SolarSENSE initiative with both government officials and academic leadership, at one of B2R Farms’ model farms.

This week was a tremendous opportunity for the SolarSPELL team members to be able to spend so much time getting to know and to interact with Blaise, Rosine, Maurice, Jean Paul, Nina, Emmanuel, Emmi, Fabrice, the B2R Farms team members.        

The SolarSPELL team also made a visit to the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). After a lovely lunch, the SolarSPELL team was welcomed by RICA faculty, and received a tour of the university. We even learned that our very own ASU President Michael Crow had visited the campus just one month prior!

Dr. Hosman and Bruce gave a talk to RICA faculty and administration, on Project-based classes for real-world impact (with a focus on SolarSPELL and SolarSENSE). It was a great experience to be able to share how we lead project-based courses at ASU, and specifically in this case, how we applied it to conservation agriculture. We received many thoughtful questions on our process and model and it was a pleasure to be able to have such a dialog with RICA’s staff and faculty.