WHEN ALEXIS Habimana, a carpenter, was ordered to move his workshop from Tumba area on the outskirts of Huye town to Sovu, outside the town on the Huye-Nyamagabe road, he thought it was the end of his business.
At the time, just a few months ago, an intergrated craft production centre, or Agakiriro as it is better known, had been completed in the area and artisans who had been operating in and around Huye town were being instructed to relocate their businesses there.
Authorities in the district wanted to improve on the artisans’ skills, nurture those interested in the vacations and ease access to such services in the same area.
The centre is located on a plot adjacent to an area earmarked for industrial development, something Huye District authorities believe will help provide ready market for artisanal products.
“At the beginning, I thought we were going to lose our clients,” Habimana says, as he takes a pause from an exhaustive day.
“Everyone was worried because we were being asked to operate from outside the town where we expected low demand. We thought this was the end of our businesses because we didn’t expect people to leave the town and come for our products,” Habimana says.
But today, the carpenter has a different story to tell.
“Though our clientile base had reduced at the beginning, it is getting better as clients get acquainted to this new place,” he says.
Habimana attributes the success of the business to the sharing of skills, good practices and availability of raw materials.
“In the past, everyone worked on their own. But we are now working together,” he says.
“We learn from each other and share skills to improve on the quality of our products.”
He adds: “Here we have nothing to lose. Of course, the beginning is always challenging but we are optimistic for the future.”
In total 28 artisans have so far relocated from Huye town to the Sovu-based crafts centre while another seven are set to relocate by the end of the week.
Grouped under Agakiriro Huye Centre Cooperative, the artisans include carpenters, welders, blacksmiths and metal workers.
Alexandre Ntakirutimana, the coop representative, says coming together has brought them many opportunities and opened room for skills advancement.
“It is allowing us to improve on our skills and make better products,” Ntakirutimana says.
“It is also a chance for us to promote quality and timely services,” he adds.
Ntakirutimana notes that in the past, artisans were associated with sloppiness but working together has since changed that image.
“Coming together has not killed competition between us as some might think. It has rather spurred innovation and novelty,” Ntakirutimana says.
He also says moving in the new centre has allowed them work in a ‘proper and safe environment.”
“We are considering the possibility of increasing our working hours. Perhaps in the future we will be able to work for 24 hours.