FEATURED: How USADF support has transformed lives

Representatives of different enterprises and cooperatives following the presentation

Rwandan farmers’ cooperatives and renewable energy companies that were and /or are supported by the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) are already reaping increased profits and incomes for members, thanks USADF grants and capacity building support they are receiving from the Africa Development Consultant Ltd (ADC), a local partner that has a Cooperative Agreement with USADF to build the capacities of USADF grantees.

USADF is an economic development agency of the U.S Government whose programs promote the development of small holder agricultural producer groups, small- scale agribusinesses and small and medium enterprises. There is also a USADF Off – Grid Energy Initiative in Rwanda being implemented as part of the Power Africa Program. Agribusinesses are supported to address issues of value-addition, post-harvest losses, access to selected agro-inputs, and training in good agricultural practices. Off- Grid enterprises are supported to reach more communities with renewable energy. They all met on February 26, in a workshop dubbed “Enterprise sustainability, growth and impact.”

James Karangwa of COOPRORIZ-Ntende, Gatsibo district sharing experiences on Good leadership. Seated on the panel are Domitille Abambazimana (ADC) and Dida Mukundiyukuri of COOPPAVI, Rubavu district.

Viateur Nsengumuremyi, the Manager of IABM, a farmers’ cooperative with 774 members growing maize in Muhanga district, said that they got funding of Rwf 161 million from USADF in 2014 to support their maize production and processing project. “The USADF supported us to construct maize drying facilities, installation of three-phase electricity, maize shelling and factory equipment, a revolving maize purchase fund that enables us to purchase maize, and other funds that were used for training and hiring technical assistance services. We have a maize processing factory where we produce 3 tonnes of maize flour per day. We also buy maize from non -members. Thanks to the support the cooperative has added 130 hectares to 215 hectares while the yield has increased from 2.5 tonnes to 4.2 tonnes of maize harvest per hectare,” he said.

Geoffrey Kayigi, The USADF Country Program Coordinator speaks to the participants during the meeting

Jean Damascene Hakuzimana, the President of Tuzamurane, a cooperative of 130 pineapple farmers in Kirehe district, said that through a grant of Rwf 170 million, in 2015 we started exporting dried pineapples to France. “Our produce has increased from 2 tonnes in 2015   to 21 tonnes in 2018. Through USADF funding we were trained in organic pineapple farming, dry pineapple processing and value chain and paid for the initial certification process that resulted in passing annual audits for the IMO Organic certificate.  We also, through USADF funding, expanded the factory to install sanitary facilities, purchased dry pineapple processing equipment, a truck, generator, and post-harvest supplies.  Today we export between 1.5 tonnes and 2 tonnes per month of dried pineapples.  With USADF funding we were able to add our own contribution and attract additional funding from MINAGRI/PASP to further expand our production facility. We have 188 hectares where we do organic farming of pineapples. They also supported five associations of farmers to buy some land and trained them on better agricultural practices, and provided seeds and fertilizers that they pay in installments,” he said.

Rebecca Ruzibuka, the Managing Director of Africa Development Consultant Limited (ADCI shares some views with cooperatives representatives during the meeting

Fidel Ngirinshuti is the President of Cooperative CODEANYA with 68 farmers growing tomatoes on 2.5 hectares in Nyamasheke district. He said “thanks to the USADF support, we have installed a solar-powered drip irrigation system worth Rwf 29 million out of a Rwf 71 million grant. We used to get a harvest worth Rwf 300,000 but it has increased to Rwf 2.6 million per year, thanks to modern irrigation.” He further said “we benefitted from various trainings, technical assistance in developing an Administrative, Financial Policies and Procedure Manual and we are now preparing a business plan on tomato processing to reduce post-harvest losses,” he said.

Participants applaud for the panelists who were speaking on different topics in the workshop

Uwiherewenimana Marthe, the President of KOPAKAMA cooperative that grows coffee in Rutsiro district, said that there are 1,029 members who have received a USADF grant equivalent to $ 247,330 to build a coffee washing station for processing organically grown coffee. The fund will be used to construct a modern warehouse, coffee drying facilities, purchase of a coffee pulping machine and top up the seasonal cherry purchase fund. We have been trained in book keeping and financial management, monitoring and evaluation. We will also be trained on value chain, organic standards and traceability. We have an association of women within our cooperative who have joint land for organic coffee cultivation, branded as women coffee and is for export,” she said.

According to Jonathan Nsengiyumva, the manager of COOTP Pfunda cooperative that grows tea on 890 hectares in Rubavu district, “thanks to USADF support and the technical assistance we received through ADC we gained skills on how to manage vehicles by saving money equivalent to its depreciation cost without diverting it to other things. Today the income generated from vehicles is deposited in a special account so that it can be used for maintenance or buying new ones.  The account now has Rwf 20 million and we have ordered a Rwf 40 million vehicle besides two new vehicles granted by USADF,” he said.

Ngirinshuti Callixte, the President of COOPTHE Mwaga Gisakura, a tea cooperative that grows tea on 600 hectares in Nyamasheke district, said that USADF has helped them to build a storage facility for fertilizers, build 2 bridges on Mwaga and Bushekeri rivers, rehabilitate tea feeder roads, construct and rehabilitate tea collection sheds, and purchase trucks. These improvements have made a tremendous contribution to the quality and volume of tea leaves delivered to the tea factory. The cooperative with 697 members, 21 permanent workers and 1,300 casual workers has also built 18 hangars, and bought two vehicles that transport 2/3 of the tea harvest. “Thanks to the support, each member is now  getting between Rwf 25, 000 and Rwf 50, 000 per month which increased from Rwf 23, 000. We saved Rwf 8 million in terms of a Community Reinvestment Grant (CRG)” he said. CRG is an initiative whereby supported cooperatives use part of their profits to support other cooperatives or associations in the surrounding community in order to extend the grant impact beyond the direct beneficiaries, to the community.

Slydio Habarurema, the President of COOPRORIKA, which grows rice on 144 hectares in Nyagatare district, said that they got Rwf 124 million support spent on different needs and trainings, constructed a 600 square meter warehouse of paddy, 4 drying yards and 8 storage facilities, purchased threshing machines, acquired working capital of Rwf 30,000,000 which has grown overtime to enable the cooperative purchase members’ paddy, and install an accounting software for proper financial accounting. “Our capital increased from Rwf 30 million to over Rwf 35 million in two years. We have also helped four cooperatives in their community CRG savings of Rwf 6.2 million. We supported a cooperative of visually impaired people engaged in making school uniforms, especially sweaters, disabled people who engage in pig rearing project, a group of women engaged in cleaning services and another group engaged in saw milling. We have also set up a training center for youth,” he said.

James Karangwa, Director of Investment for COOPRORIZ-Ntende cooperative in Gatsibo district that grows rice, said that their cooperative successfully honored the CRG pledge and their support was issued to four cooperatives including one of basket weaving women, illiterate elderly, community health workers with a livestock project, and one that manages irrigation and dams.

Jean Pierre Muhire, the Managing Director of RENERG Ltd, said they managed to build a 30 KW solar energy mini-grid worth $146,000 of which $100,000 was the support from USADF. “The grid launched last year is benefitting over 136 businesses and households,” he said.

Besides the presentations by the enterprises’ leaders on what their groups achieved with USADF funding, the participants learned from and made contributions to the presentation of James Nkubito, the Director of Planning and Cooperative Promotion of Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA), on “The role of Cooperatives in the Socio-Economic Development of Rwanda.”  Jean De Dieu Gakara, of Urwego Bank, informed the participants about various agriculture products offered by the bank and presented the topic “What enterprises need to fulfill to tap the available funding in the country.” This theme was also discussed by Emmanuel Gisagara, Access to Finance Specialist, Single Project Implementation Unit-International Fund for Agricultural Development (SPIU- IFAD) Funded Projects, Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Board (RAB).

Geoffrey Kayigi, the USADF Country Program Coordinator, said that the benefitting enterprises are selected through a call for proposals in which one of the criteria is to have been in operation for three years and have a direct impact/benefit to a big number of smallholder farmers or community members. “We select from priority value chains identified in the MINAGRI’s Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation (PSTA), currently PSTA IV.”  He said that today there are 22 active projects worth $4.3 million of which $3.6 million are in agriculture projects, over $340,000 in renewable energy and $25,000 in small youth projects, adding that since 2005 they have given over 100 grants worth over $10 million in total.