Women associations that weave the country’s unique and traditional peace baskets, Agaseke, have ventured into agriculture.
With support from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) alongside Kigali city, the women have set up six greenhouses worth around Rwf11 million with a weekly harvest of approximately 300 kilograms of tomatoes.
Since the project began six months ago, over 5.5 tonnes of tomatoes worth approximately Rwf1.7 million have been harvested with high prospects of yielding even more in the future.
The espousal of the project is a clear indication that women are not only satisfied with portraying the country’s beauty through weaving agaseke but are also determined to improve their financial status.
Most of them hope to benefit saying the agricultural project is outstanding because they can harvest tomatoes periodically to improve their financial status.
Umuhoza Faridah, 36, of the Agaseke association says that the progress so far is impressive with hopes to yield more output.
“There is a possibility that we shall achieve a lot from this, most especially with the financial assistance and technical support at our disposal,” she said.
Umuhoza has been able to open a bank account thereby adopting a savings culture. She is optimistic that her family including two children is set to have a bright future.
Apart from financial empowerment, Umuhoza believes that it has even helped to set up a forum where they can discuss and share ideas regarding the local culture and women related issues.
“Through these associations, we learn more about good moral practices and various government programmes,” she notes.
Umuhoza reveals that apart from sharing ideas on economic empowerment, dialogue in the women groups also helps to foster unity and reconciliation.
She is keen to further strengthen the association by engaging in many more income generating activities.
“We are trying our level best with the available facilities to see how best we can improve our harvest from the 300 kilogrammes a week,” she says.
She explains that her association comprises 20 women cooperatives in Nyarugenge District with over 2,000 members.
Umuhoza believes that each member’s individual contribution is necessary for the project to prosper.
There is even extra reason for her to be more zealous and determined because last week, the greenhouses were officially handed over to the beneficiaries.
During the handover ceremony, Jeanne D’arc Matuje, a representative of FAO, noted that this was an opportunity for women to spearhead the economic transformation of their families.
“It is an opportune moment for women to stand together in the fight against poverty,” she said.
There are two green houses in each of the three districts of Kigali and FAO decided to coordinate with the city officials to put up these houses so that women may benefit by carrying out income generating activities. They are related to production of fruits and vegetables such as mushrooms and tomatoes.
FAO has provided technical support; start up inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, agricultural tools and seedlings. It is expected that once the project is at an advanced stage, there will be much for the women to celebrate about.
However, there are still some challenges mainly related to pests and diseases which attack the tomatoes.
Zaudia Dusabimana, a member of the Nyarugenge group says they sometimes face water shortages while torrential rains causes flooding.
Dusabimana reveals that the last three months have not paid off because the tomatoes were severely affected by prolonged rains during the month of April.
“There is a need to improve the technical capacity of some of our members so as to embrace agriculture which involves the use of modern technology,” she notes.
She expresses worry that some of the reasons that compelled her to join the association may take long to be achieved.
“We were many when the project began but most members have gradually fallen out and this raises doubt about the progress and its benefits,” she observes.
Even if there are mixed reactions surrounding the extent to which this can contribute to financial development, one thing remains clear. That Rwandan women are determined to portray the beautiful culture of their country through the agaseke as they work hard to enhance their wellbeing by taking on other income generating activities.