Nyagatare - Winiflida Mukakigeri, 48, is a rural farmer who has moved from leading a hunger- stricken life to become a model farmer in the district and beyond.
Married with 11 children, the maize farmer from Rwimiyaga sector in Nyagatare District shares her story of the journey to being a bread winner for the family.
“In 2006, I was always frustrated thinking of my family. We depended on subsistence farming which was unproductive,” says Mukakigeri.
With all energy spent, everyday, in the garden, Mukakigeri says the seasonal production was only 50kgs of maize and 25kgs of beans.
“It was a drop in the ocean. Both the maize and beans produced was not enough to feed my family.
All changed when she was introduced to two agriculture projects; Rwanda Development organization (RDO) and Research into Use (RIU), in collaboration with Duterimbere, a Micro-finance institution.
“I was later blessed to be a beneficiary of the RDO and Research into Use projects that helped apply fertilizers in our gardens,” she says.
At first, Mukakigeri adds, we resisted the use of fertilizers.
“We were told that use of fertilizers was unproductive but after a series of consultation by RDO officials, we adopted the system and yielded bumper production in a short period of time.”
After applying the fertilizers, Mukakigeri harvested 500Kgs of maize.
“I was very excited to harvest 500kgs of maize on just one hectare of land. This time I managed to sell some and got school fees for my children,” she says.
In the second season, RDO helped Mukakigeri use cows for cultivation. With industrial and other agricultural fertilizers she applied, Mukakigeri harvested 1tone of maize which she sold and bought household facilities.
Mukakigeri’s third season saw her harvesting 5 tonnes of maize on a hectare of land.However, with the increased production, Mukakigeri and other farmers could not find market.
“RIU advised us to work under a cooperative and they purchased our maize at Rwf200 per kilogramme,” she said.
Later, Mukakigeri and the other members of the cooperative joined the ‘Inventory Credit system’, a programme that facilitates farmers to get credit facilities and use their harvest as security.
The farmer’s harvest is stored in a warehouse or grain storage facility until the loan is repaid.
This system, according to Innocent Kirenga of RIU, protects farmers from selling their produce at low prices, just because they need the money.
“The need and lack of credit can force farmers to sell their crops to the first buyer at harvest, often at a low price.
Then, the farmer often has to buy food and seeds a few months later at higher prices. One of the advantages of this system is that farmers can sell their crops in the months after the harvest, when market prices are higher,” Kirenga noted.
According to Mukakigeri, their cooperative has registered enormous success and they have been urged by local authorities to mobilize other rural farmers to follow in their footsteps.
Today, Mukakigeri is a happy mother. Her children are in school and she has managed to save a more than Rwf1m from her profits.
“My dream is to construct one of the best houses in my village where people will see it as a modern house that belongs to a once poor farmer,” she said. “I also want to buy a nice vehicle that will transport my children to school.”