With small monthly stipend, a survivor builds a dairy farm

Alice Mutesi is a 48-year-old survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. A resident of Rusheshe village in Masaka, Kicukiro District, Mutesi lives what she personally describes as a happy life that she struggled to build using initial investment capital of only Rwf30,000.
Alice Mutesi feeds one of her cows. Sunday Times/Stella Ashiimwe
Alice Mutesi feeds one of her cows. Sunday Times/Stella Ashiimwe

Alice Mutesi is a 48-year-old survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. A resident of Rusheshe village in Masaka, Kicukiro District, Mutesi lives what she personally describes as a happy life that she struggled to build using initial investment capital of only Rwf30,000. She shared her rather inspiring story in this a verbatim narration with Stella Ashiimwe in a meeting at her livestock farm in Masaka.

I STARTED with Rwf30, 000 that I got from Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission as a monthly substance allowance. I used to keep chicken, but realised later that poultry business was not feasible at the time. So I decided to buy one indigenous cow that [unfortunately] produced very little milk—only one litre per day. 

With support from Duterimbere, a women self-help group, I managed to transform my business by improving the quality of my animals through cross-breeding and seeking veterinary services. 

The goal was to improve the quality of the cows and increase the amount of milk I would get on a daily basis. I also sold some of the local cows and raised money to buy cross-breed heifers.

This changed my life because I am able to earn a good living—pay for the education of my children as well as raise money for daily upkeep for my family. 

With time, I received training on modern livestock farming methods which enabled me to increase my cows and acquire better breeds that produce between 60-80 liters of milk a day. Some can produce as high as 120 litres depending on the cow.

I also look after rabbits, chicken and a banana plantation to diversify my source of income. So, I don’t entirely rely on livestock.

With the help of Duterimbere and a series of trainings on how to run my business, I have now become a model livestock farmer in my village, passing on the knowledge to other farmers in the area. I train young farmers, share my experience and also sell to them some of the cattle.

I always felt that I needed to share my success story with others. That is why I have helped other farmers to improve the livestock. 

In order to maximise benefits from my livestock project, and instead of seating idle looking at my cows, I  decided to save some money and set up a milk outlet—a dairy shop on the main road to Kigali City centre. In my shop I am able to add value to milk from my farm by selling fresh milk and African tea to the public, especially business people. 

At my shop, I am often very busy serving cups of fresh milk, and milk tea with bread and mandazi to my clients who are mostly passengers, transporters. It costs at low Rwf300 for one to have a simple bite and a cup of milk.

I am very happy because my livestock business is doing well and I can be able to sell all the milk from the farm. Indeed my shop has become a milk collection centre for farmers who want to access the milk market outside Kicukiro district. This is good for my family, the community and the country as a whole. 

These days I earn about Rwf300,000 per month from milk. In my village, I am known for having pioneered modern livestock farming methods and for being able to share my skills and livestock with residents who have also abandoned old traditional methods. This has made me the most decorated farmer in the area.

I am very grateful to the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission and the government for putting up policies that support rural women. My special thanks go to Duterimbere for its efforts to empower women living in rural areas.

I joined Duterimbere with the aim of getting more money—but I realised that actually it was not the money that is given out in loans that is important. It is the training that actually made a difference in my life.

My success story has enabled me to get recognition from national leaders and some foreigners who visit my projects to witness the success story of rural women in Rwanda.

 

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