Eliane Mukarunyange, 30, is a member of Duhuzimbaraga Cooperative—a 30-member association that brings together people involved in the same trade, pottery.
For almost her adult life, Mukarunyange and others in the same business, made and sold pots on individual basis, but life never changed until a local non-government organisation, the African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization (AIMPO) brought together these Karangazi sector potters, in Nyagatare District, into a cooperative.
It is the one-year-old cooperative that has given Mukarunyange and other members the reason to believe that the future is finally getting bright.
Indeed, the members of Duhuzimbaraga Cooperative now believe that they are no longer working just to make their lives better, but are looking at a bigger picture of transforming their community through heeding the government call to work together.
“Yes, we are not yet well off, but we are sure that the future is bright given the support we are being given by the government and development partners,” said Mukarunyange.
The cooperative is engaged in making and marketing improved charcoal stoves and pots.
A report by Communauté des Potiers du Rwanda (COPORWA) a not-for-profit organisation that works for promotion of the rights of potters in the country, shows that 77 percent of these historically marginalised people cannot read and write while 30 percent are unemployed. The reports also indicates that 95 percent of those considered to be employed are potters, earning Rwf7,000 a month on average.
Under the cooperative, the potters are seeing their fortunes change. A stoves made by the cooperative goes for a retail price of Rwf 2,500 and on a good month a potter can save in excess of Rwf 50,000. These stoves are energy efficient; meaning members of this cooperative are also contributing to efforts to protect the environment.
Now members want to invest in the education of their children by using their income to supplement government efforts to provide education to all children.
“I never had a chance to go to school but I do not what my children to be like me; the reason I am working hard to make sure that I take them to school,” said Mukarunyange, a mother of two.