FEATURED: How rice farmers’ cooperative amassed Rwf1bn in assets

A worker during the weeding of rice in one of the cooperative's rice paddies that cover over 600 hecatres. Courtesy.

COPRORIZ Ntende, a cooperative of rice farmers in the Eastern Province’s Gatsibo District, has accumulated over Rwf1 billion from growing rice on about 600 hectares.

The cooperative harvests between 3,000 and 3,500 tonnes of rice every season, which is six months, according to information from its management.

The cooperative brings together 3,761 members. 1,260 of them are women.

Rice ready for processing at a factory in Gatsibo District. Courtesy.

Elysée Rugwizangoga, its president, said that working under the cooperative arrangement has improved their lives.

It started in 2003 with each farmer contributing Rwf3,600 before it was transformed into a cooperative in 2008.

Each member’s contribution increased to Rwf116,000 in value as of 2018.

COPRORIZ farmers engage in drying rice before storage and supply to a rice mill. Courtesy.

If you factor in the Rwf300 million hotel that they inaugurated in January last year, the value is higher. The two-star hotel has 30 rooms.

“If the value of the hotel is factored in, we think each member’s share is valued at Rwf380,000,” Rugwizangoga said.

He added: “We have achieved a lot. We own seven cars which help us carry out farming activities including transporting our produce to the market. We also own two buildings and a multipurpose hall, with the total properties worth Rwf1 billion in value.”

The cooperative also has shares in Gatsibo Rice Company – a rice mill to which they supply inputs.

COPRORIZ also has accomodation facilities. Courtesy.

As part of their social safety programme, he added, the cooperative pays school fees to children of its members up to senior six. The parents pay back through their harvests. The cooperative is planning to rollout the scheme up to university level of the student.

Ernest Nsigayehe, the Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Gatsibo District, told The New Times that out of the three rice growing cooperatives in Gatsibo District, COPRORI Ntende is the biggest.

On average Gatsibo District produces five tonnes of rice per hectare. The district grows the crop on 1,291 hectares per season.

Nsigayehe said that profitable investments that the cooperative has made shows that it has been performing well.

“They have good rice harvest, they get over five tonnes per hectare. Rice produce was the basis of their investments,

“As a district, we offer them technical support so that they increase rice productivity both in quantity and quality,” he said.

By diversifying their investments, he said, the cooperative has managed to avert losses usually occasioned by unpredictable weather conditions.

“We had used fertilisers worth over Rwf100 million, and over 10 tonnes of seeds, applied pesticides to control disease among other inputs. All our investments were lost,” he said.

From the investments it has made, it generates Rwf85 million profits per year, and pays dividends to its members.

The cooperative has plans to adopt mixed farming by practicing livestock farming as well as growing more crops.

Rugwizangoga said they will distribute 30,000 chicks to members as well as feed to nourish them until they are nine-month-old.

To achieve such a good performance, Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA), a public institution in charge of promoting cooperative sector, supports it through capacity building programs, inspections, audits, trainings and coaching.