This story came to me after I saw the pictures of William and Scovia looking so in love. Usually, story informs photo points, but this was the opposite. Interview conducted in Kinyarwanda through a translator at their home. This was for Vita Gardens/Africa New Life partnership. Photo by Esther Havens.
Scovia was born in Tanzania and her husband William was born in Rwanda. Through twists of fate and politics, they met when their families moved near each other in Tanzania. William went to Scovia’s parents and asked to marry her, offering three cows as her dowry, which is a custom in their culture. Together, they had nine children, two of whom are now married and starting families of their own. Their love has led to new generations, but their story is more complicated than that. The family kept cows and livestock in Tanzania until they were forced to leave it all behind and come to Rwanda. Settling in Kageyo meant big changes for their family. William started farming beans, maize and sorghum and sells the harvest leftover after his family has enough to eat, but sometimes it’s not enough. The kids received sponsorships and enrolled in school. The family was also introduced to the Kageyo Garden Project. They have been gardening for only a few months, but it has made an impact in their large family. They grow spinach, carrots and kale and eat out of the garden as often as they can. “I can see a big change,” said William. “The vegetables are very good. I didn’t know much about them before. Ever since we started using vegetables, we stopped suffering from stomach problems.”
Their seven children in school also benefit from Theo’s garden at the New Life School. Winnie, their teenaged daughter, explained, “Before we didn’t eat vegetables at school, now we do.” Students are getting vegetables at school and at home, which makes a big dietary impact. Winnie used to constantly rub her eyes and strain to see, but now her eyes are healthy. Her sister, Kellen, loves carrots straight from the garden, which provide vitamin A and contribute to good eyesight. The family used to spend 3000 Rwandan francs a week on vegetables. Now, they use their savings to buy things like soap. They also pay people to deliver water to their house, which shows that the money households are saving as a result of the gardening program goes straight back into the community.
Scovia is the main gardener of the family. “I love working in the garden because I love vegetables,” she said. She’s also glad that her garden is in her backyard, as opposed to their small plot they farm that is a good distance away. “It’s easy to grow because it’s near, you can see any changes and deal with them immediately.” Farming crops is seen as easy and necessary in Kageyo; most have to do it to survive. But there is still a lot of education to be done about backyard gardening. The family learned about composting, and started doing that for the first time ever. They also learned to water their garden every morning and night, which is different from the crops they plant and rarely have to water. It’s a big time commitment, but Scovia is determined to do it. “Since I love vegetables,” she explained, “I do all my work I used to do, but I can’t fail to spend time on these vegetables. If you love something, you can always have time for it.”