The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) marked the International Day of Co-operatives, and commited to use its purchasing power to sustainably increase better livelihood for small-holder farmers.
The function was held in Rukomo Sector, Eastern Province’s Nyagatare District on Wednesday.
The theme of the Day was ‘Co-operative enterprises achieve sustainable development for all’.
WFP supports over 52,000 smallholder farmers organised in cooperatives in Rwanda.
According to Jan Delbaere, WFP Deputy Country Director, they provide farmers with incentives to invest in food production by providing storage for their products and ensure sustainability.
“Through the local purchases, WFP in collaboration with the government and other partners, including FAO and IFAD, built the capacity of small-holder farmers’ cooperatives in post-harvest handling and storage, marketing, financial management and institutional strengthening,” he said.
He added that WFP creates linkages to financial institutions and other markets, including local traders and the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, which uses WFP local purchase approach to buy for the National Strategic Grain Reserve.
“In 2013, WFP purchased around 16,200mt of combined food commodities locally worth around US$4 million. About half of these purchases were procured directly from the small holder farmers, either by WFP or by the government for the National Strategic Grain reserves,” the official said.
The proceeds helped the farmers pay school fees and medical insurance for their children and families.
Through local purchases, WFP emphasizes on rural women empowerment by giving them access to markets, credits and business opportunities.
Patricia Murekatete, 46-year-old and a mother of four children who is a member of KOTEBARU farmers’ cooperative in Rukomo sector, said that her cooperative improved her livelihood.
Murekatete, who was trained in post-harvest handling and storage, has made a small fortune by selling her produce to WFP and other buyers.
“I lived in hell with constant conflicts with my husband due to the poverty we lived in... It was not until I joined the cooperative in 2012 that my life changed,” she said.
“I was able to earn around US$1000 last year, for instance. I pay school fees and health insurance for my four children. This has helped me to sustain domestic food security, as well as earn enough money to live a meaningful life,” she said.