A group of disabled people who previously used to beg on the streets is now on the way to self-reliance after teaming up to form cooperatives that are reaping large and from farming activities.
From Rwf 1, 500 contributions, KOTWIHEGI-Twiheshagaciro farming cooperative which started in 2012 in Gisagara District with 82 members the group is on the way to achieve targets to give up begging according to Stephania Mukantagara, the president of the cooperative.
“Each member contributed Rwf1, 500 and we started to grow pineapples by exploiting an idle land we got from sector officials. We started by planting 2,083 seeds of pineapple but initially they failed to grow and harvested little. After we got discouraged by such situation, we opted for growing cassava,” she told Business Times.
Due to being discouraged by crops failure, the cooperative members decreased to 45 members of 39 have different disabilities.
The cooperative leader said that the remaining members planted cassava on one hectare that they leased and eventually enabled the cooperative to start buying their own land.
“After we started harvesting cassava, we bought our own land that was half of a hectare. The other season we grew maize and beans which also helped us to buy another parcel of land,” she said.
She said that it was until 2017, that they also started to grow banana crops.
“We got support of Rwf1.5 million from the district, bought bananas and fertilizers. However due to drought we could hardly harvest and therefore we bought irrigation equipment to reduce chances of losses,” she said.
Mukantagara said that they currently have over 503 banana plants in their plantation and they are preparing to plant another 54 in coming days.
“We harvest 1.5 tonnes every month per one hectare from about 2 hectares of banana plantation and sell at Rwf100 per Kilogramme to the juice producing factory. We can now pay health insurance for ourselves, we get daily food from our grown crops,and each member has livestock such as goats. Others have formed saving groups in which they also save generated income from different activities,” she said.
Besides cassava and banana plantations, the cooperative has also another hectare where they grow beans and maize.
“We wish that each member also buys a cow goats they have now. We are looking at saving more money so that we can add value to our harvest,” she said.
Another cooperative “Dukomeze Ubuzima” of disabled people in Musanze District in Shingiro sector is also reaping big from growing Irish potatoes.
Jean Damascene Sinzabaheza, the president of the cooperative which has 85 members said that it started in 2010 as a saving association where each member could contribute Rwf200 every Wednesday of the week.
He said the group’s savings amounted to Rwf1.2 million and starting farming on a leased plot of land of 50 acres.
“For the first time, we harvested 15 tonnes of Irish potatoes and gradually the profits amounted to Rwf8 million which we invested in different things. We are involved in Irish potato seed multiplication and seeds trading seeds,” he said.