Over 10 years ago, Yvonne Murekatete, had no stable source of income and solely depended on her husband for all her needs. However, this meant that she could not get what she wanted all the time.
It’s this situation that forced Murekatete 13 years ago to rethink and devise ways to earn her own money and improve her livelihood and that of the family. She decided to venture into fish trade as the family lives near Lake Kivu.
The resident of Ninzi cell, Kagano sector in Nyamasheke District was able to secure a micro-loan of Rwf200,000 to kick-start the venture in 2005, selling silver fish. Her husband is engaged in farming activities, but could not afford to raise money to cater for all the family expenses, including the children’s school fees and health insurance.
“Therefore, I decided to become a fishmonger to supplement my husband’s earnings and ensure our family could afford the basic needs of life,” she says.
Nyamasheke district is one of the areas with immense potential for the fisheries industry, which Murekatete exploited so as to improve family’s income and living standards.
Most of the residents in the district consider the lake the only resource, which they can exploit to improve their welfare as well as advance the district’s development initiatives.
Joining a fish vendors’ cooperative
Later, Murekatete joined a fishmongers’ group after a whole year working as sole vendor. She joined Turwanye Inzara Cooperative, which was started to support jobless women who were operating along the shores of Lake Kivu in Kagano sector.
The cooperative was also established to economically empower women to make them self-reliant, according to members. The cooperative started in 2003 and so far has 30 members of whom 26 are women and four men. Murekatete says that after joining the group, her business started to grow gradually to become a sustainable venture, which is now the main source of her income.
“Within two years of starting the business, I could raise monthly savings amounting to Rwf40,000. I managed to buy cattle among other livestock, I bought some hectares of land, connected my house to electricity,” Murekatete says.
Later, the cooperative established a savings group called Tuzamurane under which she deposited some of her earnings. Murekatete explains that members contribute Rwf10,000 each every month, the total sum of which (Rwf300,000) is given to one person. The group works as a revolving fund to help members undertake their development projects.
Chantal Rafiki, another fish vendor in the cooperative, says her income has increased over the 16 years she has been a member.
She boasts of possessions such livestock and lands, among others, which she says have enabled her to secure loans to expand her business.
The women fish vendors say illegal fishing is one of the big threats to the industry, noting that it has affected their operations.
However, Aime Fabien Kamali, the mayor of Nyamasheke District, said that the district has put in place mechanism to fight the vice and use of illegal fishing practices on Lake Kivu.
He added that they are working with security organs to monitor the lake so as to eradicate illegal fishing practices on the lake, hurting fisheries production.
What others says
Emmanuel Uwimana, says that women in the cooperative have been empowered economically and “they are now self-reliant”.
She says the male members of the group are mainly engaged in fishing while the females do the sales and marketing aspects of the trade.
The cooperative sells 10 basins of silver fish per day worth Rwf350,000. The cooperative plans to expand its operations and also construct a modern market in the district.
According to the Nyamasheke mayor, the district is investing in infrastructure development, such as improving roads, to attract more investors in the fisheries industry to exploit opportunities offered by Lake Kivu.
“Besides being a tourist attraction, Lake Kivu has huge potential for fisheries sector investors. In fact, we have started receiving requests from investors, who are willing to exploit the potential of the lake,” Kamali said.