Eugenie Mukarubayiza and her family were in Rutsiro District in Western Province, Kibingo sector, with her family, when the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi started. They survived Interahamwe militia in the area and fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo via Lake Kivu.
They got to Nyamunini Island where some fishermen used small boats to transport them, and others who could not swim, across to another island called Idjwi during the night.
When they got to Idjwi Island, they continued to Goma in DRC still using the boats. However, since the boats could not carry all the people, the ones who were left behind on Nyamunini were killed by Interahamwe. When the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) liberated the country, they returned in July.
On return, she found most of her relatives had been killed.
The widow attends to her banana plantation.
To make matters worse, her husband passed away in 1996, leaving her with three children to cater for singlehandedly — she had no idea how she’d cope.
With all this, she was fostering two children of relatives who had been killed. The Genocide left her family in poverty; their house was destroyed and other resources stolen.
“My husband died when we were renting. I had to go and live in a small hut and I could hardly get food for my three children. I had no domestic animals to help me. Then, one of my children later passed away too. It was too much to bear,” she says.
The widow later received a donation of trees and 21 iron sheets from good Samaritans so as to construct a house of three rooms.
“After getting shelter, I started to think of income generating activities that would help me look after my children,” she says.
She decided to exploit a small piece of land that had been left by family members; to cultivate it and be able to take care of her children and the two others she was fostering.
“In 2002, I was trained on women development in rural areas with other people. Later, I started a small income generating project to grow onions and tomatoes using a loan of Rwf150, 000 that was granted to me a local microfinance institution. I supplied the harvests to markets in Gisenyi area, now Rubavu District,” she says.
Mukarubayiza managed to pay back the loan and with the money she was making, could afford to pay school fees and buy basic needs for her children.
After paying back the loan, she requested for another loan of the same amount — Rwf150, 000.
“I was working hard; I was living in a house of three rooms yet I had four children under my care. So I had to generate more money to be able to build a bigger house,” says the 52-year-old.
Building the dream
In 2014, the Genocide survivor secured another loan of Rwf450, 000.
“I bought a piece of land and a cow. This helped me to modernise a banana plantation, plant coffee trees and buy manure,” she says.
For better venturing into modern farming from subsistence farming, she has been getting agro-inputs of seeds and fertilisers as credit from Tubura, a non-profit agricultural organisation that offers farming inputs and agricultural training on credit.
“I get agro-inputs on credit and pay back after harvesting,” she says.
Profit from farming
So far, she says, the cow has delivered eight times.
Mukarubayiza says she sold some of the cows and constructed a decent house.
“I sold a bull at Rwf300, 000 and with more income from banana, coffee, maize and beans farming, I was able to construct a new house. The house which I started building in 2017 is currently worth about Rwf10 million even though it is yet to be completed,” she says.
Although she sold some of the cows, she remains with five of which two are providing milk.
The two provide 14 litres a day, sold at Rwf200 a litre, bringing it to Rwf84, 000 a month.
She says the banana plantation that used to cover half a hectare, now expands over 20.
“From the first banana plantation, I earned Rwf80, 000 every month and with the expansion I will be earning double,” she says.
She has 1,200 coffee trees from which she harvests over three tonnes of cherry coffee per season.
She earns Rwf1 million from coffee growing, and harvest one tonne of beans per year and 500 Kilogrammes of maize per season.
The challenges she faces are lower prices for agricultural harvest and lack of own transport to supply to big markets in Kigali to get better deals.
Mukarubayiza is also planning to venture into modern poultry and construct a commercial house in which she can store and retail her farming productivity.Follow NkurunzizaMiche