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With its subtropical climate, steep mountainous landscape, deep valleys and numerous lakes, Rwanda, Africa, is beautiful country that is well suited for certain crops. Particularly, the pyrethrum plant, a natural insecticide, thrives at high altitudes and in volcanic soil.
In the 1970s, Rwanda began building its pyrethrum industry. Unfortunately, a series of events caused the infrastructure to collapse: the market suffered a downturn, and the region, plagued by pervasive violence, slipped dangerously into the chaos of the 1994 genocide. Farmers fled their lands, the pyrethrum factory was abandoned, and a new refinery was left unfinished.
Today, the global pyrethrum market has picked back up. Rwanda is now strategically positioned to play a major role in global supply, but they are in need of training, education and organization.
Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to visit Rwanda with representatives from the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. They are working in partnership with SC Johnson and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to benefit thousands of Rwandan pyrethrum farmers.
Their goal is to improve the standard of living for Rwandans, while also increasing the pyrethrum plant production and quality. The program fulfills more than one of our Grand Challenges as it helps feed the pyrethrum farmers’ families and grows the Rwandan economy.