Deep in the Eastern province 40 km off the Kigali- Nyagatare highway lies Nyagihanga sector in Gatsibo District with its many hills and green valleys. It is here that FH Association Rwanda (FHR) is transforming and economically empowering communities.
In 1994, FH began working in Rwanda under the Child Wins strategy responding to the serious humanitarian crisis caused by the genocide against the Tutsis. In the immediate years following, FH implemented emergency programs in tracing and unifying children with their families, agriculture interventions, emergency food and non-food item distributions and livelihoods support.
Since 2004, FH has focused efforts on long-term development work including livelihoods, health and education in Nyagihanga sector among other sectors in Eastern and Southern Provinces. According to the executive secretary of Nyagihanga sector, Musonera Emmanuel, FH has partnered with the local leaders in improving quality of education and livelihoods development in the last three years.
FH has transformed the lives of over 3,000 people living in the area. So far FH has constructed over 12 classrooms, provided 10 tons of improved seeds and distributed 500 goats, 200 pigs and 15 cows to residents in Nyagihanga. Drilling of two boreholes is on-going in partnership with Living Water International.
“FH has helped boost education, economic empowerment and improved agriculture by providing residents with necessary skills, trainings, farming equipment and livestock which has improved their lives tremendously,” said Musonera.
In Rwanda, women are considered the heart of the family. This is even more evident in poor families where women bear the greatest burden in ensuring that their families are well looked after.
Nyiranzabonimana Marie, 55, is one such woman. She is a handicapped widow living in Mataba village, Nyagitabire cell in Nyagihanga sector with her only child. She used to struggle to get enough food to feed them both until she was selected as a beneficiary of FH.
She was given a Friesian (improved breed) cow in 2016 which significantly transformed her life.
“It came as a surprise when I was told that I would receive an exotic cow from FH and my world has changed since then. Not only did they give me a cow but also trained me on modern farming methods, savings and gave me farming equipment like wheelbarrow and spray pump,” said Nyiranzabonimana.
Nyiranzabonimana is entrepreneurial and is on her way to becoming self- sufficient. Each day, she wakes up early to tend to her cow before heading to her farm which is a short distance from where she lives. Currently she has one improved breed cow, and a small piece of land where she practices modern farming methods. She recently got a loan from her saving group called “Turwanye Ubukene” to buy basic necessities such as bedding and household items.
Nteziki Thacian is another farmer whose life has been positively impacted the interventions of FH in Gatsibo district. “I was a poor farmer until three years ago. Back then, I could not afford a proper meal or simple basic necessities such as soap. Living in poverty caused me to struggle in every aspect of my life. I am so glad that I was able to leave that life behind once I found refuge in FH,” said Thacian
“Thanks to the trainings that we get from FH in modern farming techniques, use of organic manure and improved seeds, I have been able to get additional income from my farming activities,” said Thacian.
Thacian now earns four times more compared to what he used to get before getting support from FH.
“Before FH trainings, I used to harvest 100kgs of maize from my small piece of land but today I get triple yields after applying modern methods and improved seeds. We have been taught to make compost manure which we use in our kitchen gardens and farms,” explained Thacian.
With the money he earned after selling his crop yields, Thacian was able to buy a cow. The cow has already calved, today he can afford to buy enough nutritious food for his family and also take his children to school.
For Thacian, he cannot imagine what life would be like if FH had not intervened to support him climb out of poverty to become self-sufficient.
“I do not know what it would be like for my family if we had not been trained to save and to use modern methods of farming. Because of FH, I can today get adequate food, clothing, and other basic necessities for my family,” he said.
FH continues to partner with local authorities to empower families such as those of Nyiranzabonimana and Thacian to live healthy lives and enjoy sustainable livelihoods.