Nsinda Prison located in Rwamagana district, has engaged prisoners in extensive modern agricultural production. Over sixty hectares are covered with flourishing green maize fields, in an area that used to be redundant with skinny cows grazing.
Nsinda Prison has over 10,000 inmates actively involved in productive and socially beneficial work, combining punishment and reform strategies.
According to the head of Prisons in Rwanda, Mary Gahonzire, engaging criminals in production is socially beneficial.
“It helps them realize that social wealth does not come easily, fosters a love for work and helps them become accustomed to it,” Gahonzire says. “It instils the idea of ‘no work, no food” in their minds. Work gives them a sense of social responsibility and law abiding spirit and improves their self-discipline.”
It is true that productive labour has enabled Nsinda prisoners to acquire productive skills and knowledge which will no doubt, make it possible for them to earn a living, when they finish serving their terms. It is unlikely that they will return to crime because of lack of job skills.
The Director of Nsinda Prison Pelly Uwera said that it is expensive to hold prisoners indoors, and continue to feed them on tax payers’ money.
She says that in such circumstances, they turn to be more of a liability than an asset to the prisons and the country as a whole.
The Prison farm under the guidance of agricultural specialists from Rwanda Agriculture Development Agency (RADA) has developed plans, to benefit the prison in terms of productions of food supplies, at the same time ensuring that soil fertility is preserved.
“We are talking of sustainable development, this calls for sustainable environmental production, ” Pelly Uwera said.
Over the past years, the Prison’s need to provide adequate and nutritious food to inmates, has had an adverse bearing on the expenditure. Inadequate financial resources have contributed to failure by management to provide adequate and nutritious food to inmates.
There has also been a transport problem when supplying food to prisons. Prisons had to depend on NGOs for food supply.
“The modern agriculture introduced is set to end food shortage, and provide adequate finances to run the prison with limited support from outside.”
“We want to develop a sustainable system that ensures an improved and diversified diet for inmates and enhance their rehabilitation,” Gahonzire noted. “The available land is going to be used to grow and diversify crop and livestock production, to enable prison service generate funds and be self-sufficient.”
Gahonzire further said the idea is to provide inmates with a line of useful work as opposed to idleness.
The institution also wants to offer training in simple agricultural skills and animal husbandry, which would improve their chances of becoming self-supporting when they are released from prison and reduce recidivism.
“We recently transferred 20 exotic goats and 2 cows from Rilima Prison to Nsinda Prison. The aim is to provide for mixed farming and it’s associated it”.
According Francois Nsengimana the prison’s agriculturist, the plan is to increase crop hectarage, use early maturing variety seeds to get two to three crops a year, introduce irrigation, improve dynamic security in the farms, get the prison huge population under control and manage the farms commercially.
The 60 hectares of Maize were interplanted with Avocado trees that will in future serve the proposed multi-purpose fruit factory in Eastern Province.
“We intend to bring a fruit factory in Eastern Province in the near future this will be an opportunity for everyone in the region to benefit.” “The type Avocado a hot cake on international markets.”
Emmanuel Habiyakare, 54, an inmate said that working on the farms field gives them hope for the future.
“I have gained skills in maize planting and spacing. If I go back home, a couple of years to come, I will do well on my land. And above all staying inside prison walls is so boring and puts one in a state of hopelessness,” he said.
Nsinda prison hosts over 13000 prisoners.