Jean Marie Vianney Habumuremyi, the president of Duhange Cooperative is among several Rwandans who have explored the benefits of working within a cooperative.
In an interview with The New Times, he explains how the cooperative has improved the livelihood of people in Karenge Sector, Rwamagana district, Eastern Province.
“We started as an association of pineapple farmers in 2006, but recently the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) provided us with the option of cultivating Orange Freshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP) which have become so profitable for our cooperative and the people in our community,” Habumuremyi said.
He said the Orange Freshed Sweet Potatoes provide plenty of Vitamin A and help to combat malnutrition.
“We have been able to make different products like cakes, bread and biscuits from the potatoes and have gained financial strength within our cooperative,” Habumuremyi said.
Recently the cooperative took on manufacturing as a new initiative. A factory to manufacture bread, cakes, biscuits and sweet potato flour is under development—its foundation was laid in 2011.
“The community will benefit from this initiative because with the factory established, the unemployment issue will be addressed and we shall no longer waste food, because sweet potatoes which are perishable will be preserved because we shall dry and make flour that has a longer shelf-life,” says Habumuremyi.
At 36 years, Habumuremyi is married and has two sons and two daughters. He is also a demobilised soldier who is committed to creating a new life for himself as well as contribute towards improving the welfare of those around him.
“As a senior three dropout, I could not get a professional job so, I joined the army in 1999, but I was laid off in 2001. 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,” Habumuremyi explains.
He attended several farming trainings and workshops organised by Rwamagana District and other agricultural organisations to equip farmers on new farming technologies.
“Without the extensive trainings on modern farming methods, I don’t think I would have become a good farmer. I’m grateful that the trainings are paying off and that we are getting results,” he explains.
On May 1, 2011, during the Labour Day celebrations, the Ministry of Public Service and Labour awarded Duhange Cooperative for their outstanding performance.
As a cooperative, they have plans of exporting processed products hence the need to widen our capacity to produce quality.
Currently Duhange Cooperative faces the challenge of conserving sweet potatoes without outdated technology—the more reason to acquire modern machinery.
“Inspite 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,” Habumuremyi explains.
The cooperative has 20 hectares of land to their name; they cultivate on 10 hectares and rent out the rest as a source of income. They farmers are building a small factory that will be complete in a month’s time before they mobilise funds to stock the facility with equipment.
Dativa Mukanyandwi is 26-year-old farmer and a member of Duhange cooperative who attributes their success to good-decision making.
“They have set up several profitable initiatives after first consulting all members. I think this has made us unique,” Mukanyandwi explains.
Through selling their agricultural produce in bulk, Mukanyandwi says, they have contributed about Rwf 6million to acquire electricity for their offices and factory as well as electrify the area of Nyamatete cell in Rucaca Village.