Rwandan farming tools
Gasherebuka has been cultivating Rwanda soil for 55 years, yet has no need for a tool shed. He only owns seven tools.

"When I reached my eighteenth birthday, in 1935, my father told me I was strong enough to begin cultivating," he remembers with a smile. "The tools we used then are not much different than the tools we use now." The method of cultivating has not changed much either.

One hundred percent of Gasherebuka's cultivating is done by hand. The same is true with most Rwandan farmers. It is estimated that 95% of the country's 7.5 million people live in rural settings and rely on subsistence farming. Their tools of choice are few and simple, yet multifaceted.

The most popular is an isuka (a hoe). Gasherebuka uses his every day to weed, cultivate and harvest his fields of potatoes, cassava, and beans. An incyamuro (a small hand held hoe) is used to dig shallow furrows when sowing seeds. The seeds are kept in an akebo (a small reed basket) for easy access. Gasherebuka, using the two simultaneously, can quickly cover 60 square meters an hour.

To clear new tracts of land before the soil can be prepared, Gasherebuka has a couple of options. "I'm old school and like to use my umuhoro has much as possible," he admits. "When it is necessary to cut down rather large trees I'll break out the ishoka."

An umuhoro, shaped like a question mark, is a traditional Rwandan machete. The curved tip is used to prune banana plants, cut tall grass, bamboo and remove undergrowth. The straight blade is for cutting small trees. An ishoka (an ax) is for chopping down larger trees.

When collecting hay for his cows and sheep or spreading manure to fertilize his crops, Gasherebuka uses a macaku (a combing fork).

Nearly every Rwandan farmer owns a panga (a common machete). Gasherebuka uses a panga to harvest sorghum, sugar cane, maize and wheat. It is also used to cut grass. "I hardly remember a day that I haven't swung my trusty umuhoro or panga," he proudly acknowledges.

Although plenty of cars and trucks have passed through his Kibirizi village, located in mountainous Gikongoro, 160 kilometers southwest of Kigali, Gasherebuka is unfamiliar with a tractor. "I once saw one on the side of the road," he laughs. "The big machine looked complicated. I'll stick to the tools I know best."