A few years ago they lived a helpless life. The luxuries and basics of life looked like a far-fetched dream for these disabled former soldiers in Nyarugunga, Gasabo district. But it is a different story today, thanks to a co-operative society they started two years ago to engage in farming and improve their income.
Joseph Sebena, the treasurer and secretary of Igisubizo Cy’amajyambere Co-operative, which brings together the Nyarugunga group of close to 60 disabled retired soldiers, said despite some challenges, they have achieved their goal of empowering members financially.
“Members are now able to solve their financial problems without resorting to begging “because now we have a reliable source of income,” Sabena says.
He said the group is engaged in various income-generating projects, including dairy and poultry farming.
Sebena said the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC), which helped them establish the co-operative and start income-generating businesses, was also supporting them with soft loans and jobs. RDRC was set up by the government to helps ex-combatants to reintegrate in communities and adapt to civilian life.
Jules Ngaboyishema, a disabled ex-combatant and one of the founders of the co-operative, said they started the society to create jobs for themselves and become self-reliant.
“Disability should not be an excuse for us to beg or become a burden to Rwandans; we are strong enough to support ourselves,” he said.
He added that the co-operative has helped them pool resources to improve their welfare and living standards.
“One day, I went to the neighbourhood shop to buy sugar on credit, but the shop attendant said he could only give a Rwf100 coin, saying I wouldn’t be able to pay the debt if he gave me the sugar because I am disabled,” narrated Ngaboyishema.
“This was the inspiration that forced me to organise other disabled ex-soldiers to start the co-operative.”