Rwanda Food Diary: Part 2

16/09/2011 10:25 BST | Updated 16/11/2011 10:12 GMT

Today we travelled to Kitare parish in the Northern Mousanze district, close to the border with Uganda. If possible, the scenery was even more spectacular than yesterday, treating us to the impressive vista of a trio of smouldering volcanoes. We stopped en route at a market, where me and Esther visited a toilet that seemed to be guarded by a particularly angsty goat, while our photographer Will bought a hunk of sugar cane that brought to mind something prehistoric man might have used to clobber a mastodon to death.

In Kitare, we visited another farming community that's benefited from the encouragement and training of Moucecore and Tearfund, this time through the introduction of a mushroom growing initiative. Although volcanic soil means the area is richly fertile, it's particularly densely populated, but mushrooms can prove a very productive crop even on the smallest land-holdings. Their growth is also unaffected by unpredictable weather, and they don't need any manure. The members of the Caeg Umugende cooperative tried their best to explain every stage of the mushrooms' growth to us through our translator, though I'm not sure I truly understood the full nature of what seemed a pretty complicated process, involving various stages of sterilisation.

Luckily, Will used to work in a bong shop, and was on hand to give me some handy heads up.

We met a woman called Angelina Uwimana, who, although I hate to come over all Oprah, couldn't be called anything other than an inspiration. Half a decade ago, she and her dependents survived on one meal a day, sometimes going without any food at all when times got truly grim. Today her impressive farm management means she produces enough mushrooms and other crops to have extra left-over to sell, and she's determined that her children will be educated to university level. It's been particularly great, in fact, to see how many women in Rwanda seem totally confident to talk to us and to show us around their homes, whether or not their husbands are present. Women make up 56% of Rwanda's parliamentarians, and the country's levels of female empowerment are often held up as an aspirational exemplar for Africa as a whole.

As with every country in the world, there's a long way to go before legislation is matched with true gender equality, but long may the process continue.