Impabaruta, a cooperative of smallholder farmers in Kamonyi District in Southern Province, has been named the 2013 African Farmer Organisation of the Year, beating over 60 contestants from across Africa.
The African Farmer Organisation of the Year Award (AFOYA) is meant to recognise smallholder farmers throughout Africa for their role in promoting food security across the continent.
The award recognises a group that has demonstrated ability to improve the livelihoods of the poor in Africa.
This year’s award, announced in Accra last week, was organised by two non-governmental organisations, African Investment Climate Research (AFRICRES) and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
AGRA supports Rwandan farmers through the Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative (RWARRI) and Rwanda Development Organisation (RDO).
John Bideri, the RWARRI Director, said Impabaruta was recognised for its good governance, market access strategy of having farmers pool their produce to sell as a group, and for involving women and youth in its activities.
“The award reinforces farmers. We need to do more and avoid complacency. Challenges must be highlighted and handled immediately. We cannot afford to relax,” Bideri said, while speaking at a workshop in Rwamagana yesterday.
Emma Kambewa, AGRA market access programme manager, said the group’s strategy is to involve women and the youth in its activities.
“We invested $100.000 million in Rwandan farmers because we are convinced that smallholder farmers can make a difference. The Rwandan cooperative also received the award because of its exceptional involvement of women and youth in agriculture,” Kambewa said.
Two thirds of Impabaruta — 678 — members are women.
“Boys regard agriculture as a dirty work and shy away, yet they are the most active in society. That the cooperative attracted them is worth recognition,” she said.
Kambewa said the workshop was organised to assess the success and failures of the project.
Manasseh Mpagazehe, the chairperson of Impabaruta cooperative, said the award would encourage them to work harder, noting that it was a surprise victory.
“I cannot express my joy. I was overwhelmed when we were announced winners. It was a whole new experience. Journalists immediately surrounded me in Accra, asking hundreds of questions. This was a historical moment,” he said.
Mpagazehe, however, said farmers still face a number of challenges, particularly unpredictable weather.
“Natural hazards like drought and floods affect us and we lose millions of francs. We need enough capital and technology to improve productivity,” he said. Cooperative members insisted the main issue was post harvest management.