It was pomp as women from different communities met in Nyanza District to celebrate the International Day of the Rural Woman, with many showcasing what they have achieved after they empowered themselves, courtesy of sustainable agriculture practices.
During the event that was held last Friday, 30 most vulnerable women received support in form of cows, goats and vegetable seeds and best performing girls were recognized with scholastic materials.
The exercise was part of the efforts to empower families, rural women and promoting girls’ rights.
The event organised by ActionAid Rwanda also saw the launch of Farmer Field School (FFS) for banana farmers in Rwabicuma sector.
Championed by the Ministry of Agriculture, the FFS programme is designed to boost farmers’ skills and to encourage innovation to increase productivity.
Emma Marie Mukambaraga, a farmer, is one the women whose lives has significantly improved after benefitting from various trainings both in saving for investment and making use of bank loans to start small income generating projects since 2013.
She was also given a cow sometimes back and started to seek loan from SACCO.
“I used to be a housewife with no income and my family lived in deplorable conditions. It was hard to pay school fees for my children since my husband lives with disabilities. In 2013 we benefitted from training in small income generating projects. I opened an account with a SACCO and got loan of Rwf200, 000.
“I planted bananas and with a subsequent loan facility, I refurbished my house. I also started to grow cassava and I get about Rwf100, 000 whenever I harvest. We also grow maize through our association that we have created called ‘Twisungane’,” she said.
The rural woman said that from the banana plantation, she produces over 60 litres of banana wine every week from which she gets over Rwf18,000 and also sells yellow bananas of which she sells one bunch at Rwf5, 000.
She attributed all these achievements to the training she got, which helped change her mindset towards farming, adding that before this, she only looked at farming for subsistence purposes.
“What the training basically did was to open my eyes to look at agriculture as a vehicle for creating wealth and also exposed me to saving associations (ibimina) which have turned the fortunes of my household,” she said.
Mukambaraga said she has seven children of which five have managed to complete secondary school while two enrolled for vocational school; all of which paid for from her farming practices.
Speciose Mbabazi, the official in charge of human resources and administration at Action Aid said grouping such women in saving association was one of tools to boost financial literacy skills and eradicating poverty affecting rural women.
She said that the project supporting rural women for sustainable agriculture operates in three sectors in Nyanza district with target to ensure food security and economic empowerment as part women’s human rights.
“The trainings target developing rural farmers by starting with women as foundation of families’ welfare. We also looked at ways of handling unpaid care work for women,” she said.
Daria Muhongerwa, the coordinator of National Women Council in Nyanza district said that boosting sustainable agriculture for empowering women is one of ways to tackle conflicts in families caused by poverty.
“It also helps reduce the number of school drop-outs due to poverty. All these must always be discussed in different women’s forums and saving associations at village level so that they train and be models to one another,” she said.