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Rwanda: Meet the farmer whose co-operative has transformed a village (AllAfrica)

Jean Marie Vianney Habumuremyi is the president of a co-operative which is transforming a village in eastern Rwanda. He explains how the co-operative started and what it’s doing now: “We started as an association of pineapple farmers in 2006, but recently the Rwanda Agricultural Board provided us with the option of cultivating orange fleshed sweetpotatoes which have become so profitable for our co-operative and the people in our community.” The sweetpotatoes provide plenty of Vitamin A and help to combat malnutrition.

Mr. Habumuremyi says that Duhange co-operative has improved people’s livelihoods in Karenge sector, Rwamagana district, Eastern Province. He continues, “We have been able to make different products like cakes, bread and biscuits from the potatoes and have gained financial strength within our co-operative.”

The co-operative is building a factory to manufacture these products. When complete, funds will be mobilized to stock the factory with equipment. Mr. Habumuremyi says, “… with the factory established, the unemployment issue will be addressed and we shall no longer waste food, because sweetpotatoes which are perishable will be preserved … we shall dry and make flour that has a longer shelf-life.”

The 36-year-old farmer is married and has two sons and two daughters. He joined the army in 1999, but was laid off in 2001. Mr. Habumuremyi continues, “Thereafter, I started a small business where I imported different products from Uganda but it was risky because I made several losses. This inspired me to join farming because I enjoyed it.” Now, he is committed to creating a new life for himself and helping those around him.

Mr. Habumuremyi attended several trainings designed to equip farmers with new farming technologies. He says that, without training on modern farming methods, he would not have become a good farmer. He’s grateful that the trainings are paying off and that he is getting results.

Dativa Mukanyandwi is a 26-year-old farmer and a member of Duhange co-operative. He (she?) attributes the co-operative’s success to good decision-making. He explains, “They have set up several profitable initiatives after first consulting all members. I think this has made us unique.”

Mr. Mukanyandwi says that, by selling their produce in bulk, they have been able to afford to spend  about six million Rwandan francs, about $US 10,000, to get electricity for their offices and factory, as well as electrify part of a village. The co-operative owns 20 hectares of land. They use 10 hectares to grow crops and rent out the rest as a source of income.

The co-operative plans to export processed products, and needs to build their capacity to produce quality products. Currently, the co-operative faces the challenge of conserving sweetpotatoes with outdated technology. But Mr. Habumuremyi is confident. He says, “In spite of the challenges, our success is a result of working tirelessly as a team with the goal of improving the livelihood of the people in our community.”