Adam Kyamatare is an External Relations Associate who divides his time between Kigali and Rubengera, in rural western Rwanda. He is originally from Kigali, Rwanda. One Acre Fund is spending the month of June explaining why it’s great to work in rural areas. Follow #WhyRural on social media to find out more.
Had someone told me as I left university that I would work for a rural-based organization, I would have probably laughed them out of the room. To many seeking careers in development, it seems neither desirable nor necessary to live and work in a rural area. Having spent the last year and a half at One Acre Fund in Rwanda, I now beg to differ. There is so much to learn from the rural communities that we serve. Building close links to them is invaluable, both from a personal and professional perspective.
Honoring the Past
Each farmer’s field is the product of many past generations of people working hard to improve their lives. That’s why, for me, it isn’t a hardship to work closely with farmers – it’s an honor. These rural communities welcome us into their homes, tell us about their lives, and allow us to advise them on the most important decision they make – how best to feed their families. Farmers often provide critical and useful feedback about our work, allowing us to grow and become better professionally. I have also learned much more about my country’s past by working in the field than I probably ever would have working only in the capital.
Impacting the Present
Being in the field also lets you be in the moment – and to witness the progress being made in the present. A farmer told me once that he felt “proud of Rwanda for the first time in his life” when he compared his current life to previous years. You can see the clear development this country is making in rural villages – and this invigorates me to work harder every day. Being able to see a farmer’s smile when she shows you the biggest harvest she’s ever had, watching a new home light up with a solar home system, and witnessing a child rushing to school with a full belly – these things inspire all of our staff to keep working each day.
Impacting the Future
Lastly, rural work allows you to really see into the future. Anyone who passionately wants to see African countries develop should want to be on the front lines of that development. Laws may be made in capital cities, but they are played out in villages. Learning what works, what doesn’t, and how to bridge the disconnects is irreplaceable experience for any future policy maker or leader. In a continent where over 85 percent of the population lives in rural areas, understanding the perceptions, hopes, and dreams of people in farming communities is fundamental to building a better future.
There are many other simple benefits to rural work that I could mention; no long commutes to work, a healthier lifestyle, and daily amazing views among them. While these advantages are true, they resonate less with me than the more meaningful ability to feel and touch the past, present, and future of the countries we serve. Every field visit I have ever taken has reminded me that the solutions we aim to achieve are attainable. I probably wouldn’t have learned this simple fact by sitting in Kigali, I had to go out and see it for myself. For this experience I will always be grateful.