The life of DR Congo refugees in Nyabiheke refugee camp and host communities in Gatsibo sector of Gatsibo district has socially and economically improved, thanks to the support by Rwanda Red Cross. The members were grouped in four cooperatives in crop and livestock farming and tailoring. ALSO READ: Rwanda Red Cross reaches out to families affected by Covid-19,disasters Cooperative-Twitezimbere mu Bworozi (striving for development of livestock farming) in Nyabicwanda cell is one of those given land for cattle rearing. “Red Cross Rwanda gave us 20 cows. The support has promoted social cohesion between refugees and host communities. The cooperative comprises 28 refugees and 20 host community members. As the cows reproduce, the cooperative will pass heifers to each member,” said Ibrahim Munyaneza, the cooperative vice president. The cows, he said, are also helping affording manure to boost crop production in addition to getting milk. Dominique Mutagoma, a refugee in Nyabiheke camp, said that the cows received since 2020 have restored their hope and improved their lives. ALSO READ: Nyabiheke refugees get smartcards to ease shopping “We appreciate Rwanda Red Cross for the support and connecting us to host communities. The initiative of grouping us into cooperatives has boosted social cohesion among us,” he noted. He said that the support was timely as it reduces reliance on external aid that is not reliable. Bora Batamuriza, another Congolese refugee in Nyabiheke camp reiterated that livestock farming was highly needed. “It was not possible to keep livestock in the camp. We laud Rwanda Red Cross for having given us land for livestock farming. We get both manure and milk to increase agriculture yields and eradicate malnutrition,” she said. Saidi Nshimirimana, the president of Twisungane cooperative (solidarity cooperative) with 69 members of whom 23 are refugees from Nyabiheke camp, said that maize, beans and soybean on four hectares has drastically improved. “We were previously living in poor conditions. We had no land. The Red Cross bought four hectares for us. We grow maize, beans and soybeans. We are currently harvesting six tonnes of maize per hectare. We sell one Kilogramme of maize at Rwf270,” he said. He said that cooperative members save in Ejo Heza- Rwanda's long-term savings scheme. As of May 2023, the cumulative subscribers in EjoHeza are more than 3.2 million, which account for 24 per cent of Rwanda’s total population and 39 per cent of the country’s working age population — many of whom are from low-income households. Of the subscribers to EjoHeza, 50.6 per cent are male, while 49.4 per cent are women, with total savings amounting to Rwf45.4 billion. “The cooperative has grown up. When we started each member was contributing Rwf6, 000 as share but this has increased to Rwf150, 000 per share for a newcomer,” he said adding that the cooperative will buy their own house for operations. The cooperative also helps some vulnerable neighbors get health insurance premiums and has built residential houses for some. “In April this year we got registered as a cooperative,” he said. Support in TVET Twitezimbere Abadozi, a tailoring cooperative comprising 46 members of whom 30 are refugees in Mugera cell of Gatsibo sector, Gatsibo district was also supported by Rwanda Red Cross. “Women and young people have got jobs thanks to the support. The Rwanda Red Cross gave us sewing machines. We save Rwf90,000 per month as a group after expenses. We are in the process of registering a cooperative which will enable us to compete in all markets,” said Mathilde Mukayiranga, a refugee who is the cooperative’s president. Jean Claude Rugaravu, the Executive Secretary of Gatsibo district said that Rwanda Red Cross support has boosted the economy and welfare of the residents. “Social cohesion between refugee and host communities is being celebrated. Rwanda Red Cross helped to create crop farming and tailoring cooperatives that were also given land. Agro-forestry trees, fruit trees and kitchen gardens were established in the communities,” he said, adding that this has improved food security in the sector among refugees and host communities. “To address human security issues, Rwanda Red Cross also built 216 toilets for vulnerable communities to improve hygiene,” he added. Emmanuel Mazimpaka, Director of Communication and Humanitarian Diplomacy at Rwanda Red Cross said that the interventions in supporting refugees and host communities are worth over Rwf200 million. “We supported the development projects of refugees and host communities. The initiative has established social cohesion among them,” he said. As of November 2022, there were more than 72,000 Congolese refugees in Rwanda. Some have lived in refugee camps in the country for more than 25 years. He said the same project is being implemented in Karongi district in Kiziba refugee camp and host community as well as Kirehe district in Mahama camp. “At least 150 students are being trained on tailoring in both refugees and host communities. We will also provide Rwf70 million support to expand a health centre,” Mazimpaka added.