Millennium Village project brings hope to Bugesera

Five years ago, Mayange residents in Bugesera District were helpless and distraught following prolonged drought and the resulting famine.
Niyonkuru at his workshop in Mayange. The New Times / Seraphine Habimana
Niyonkuru at his workshop in Mayange. The New Times / Seraphine Habimana

Five years ago, Mayange residents in Bugesera District were helpless and distraught following prolonged drought and the resulting famine.

According to residents, Mayange had from 2000 to 2005 experienced low levels of rainfall that resulted into poor harvests, leaving most people in despair. Some of the residents reportedly shifted to neighbouring districts to earn a living.

This was before the Millennium Village Project was introduced in the area in 2005. With the coming of the project, the area has seen improved agricultural output, setting up of small business and formation of economic partnerships in the area.

Donald Ndahiro, the Millennium Village Project co-ordinator, said the initiative has so far been successful in reducing hunger in the area, as well as increasing financial sustainability.

“When we came to Mayange, there was famine people had lost hope. We had to train them in sustainable and modern farming practices, like crop irrigation, to be able to grow crops during the dry season. We also taught some how to make handicrafts, and helped them form 42 co-operatives,” he said.

Ndahiro noted that though the project gave residents food aid at the beginning, today there is enough to eat and some for sale. He said most people under the project have started up businesses like poultry farming, basket weaving, welding and beekeeping.

“There will be no more hunger in this area since we have built their capacity as far as farming is concerned and they are now able to produce enough food for themselves and for sale,” he added.

Ndahiro added that the residents also access finance to fund their businesses.

Innocent Ngezahoguhora, 42, dropped out of school after primary six, but he is now a mechanic, thanks to the support and training from the project. After acquiring the skills, Ngezahoguhora is now training others in the trade.

He has also started a bicycles repair workshop as most of people in the area use bikes in daily activities.

“My life changed for the better. I earn Rwf3,000 per day and can afford two meals a day for my family, which was not possible before,” he said.

Emmanuel Niyonkuru, 18, a welder and resident of Mayange sector, is one of the youth who have been taught welding and metal fabrication under the project.

“I have started a welding workshop and have been able to buy a piece of land worth Rwf450,000 and a bicycle. I encourage the youth to study vocational courses like welding because they ensure ready jobs and self-reliance,” he said.

Him and his peers have also started up a credit union.

Consilde Mukakalisa, the vice-president of a basket weaving co-operative, said she can now afford to hire labourers to work on her farm and pay school fees for her children. And so do other members of the co-operative.

However Mukakalisa said they still lack a ready market for the baskets, noting that their merchandise is mostly bought by tourists, which is a small market.

Ndahiro said they are designing a website to showcase the co-operative’s art crafts and expand the market for the products.

The Millennium Village Project aims to help rural African communities eradicate poverty through empowering them with better technologies to improve agricultural productivity and access to markets.

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