by Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Olivier Bonnel is traveling with 5 other journalists from Europe on a “media tour” in Rwanda. They are visiting areas receiving help from various United Nations agencies. These areas are among the poorest in the country.
From Musanza, a province in the North of Rwanda, not far from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Olivier reports that 70% of Rwandans are farmers who cultivate small pieces of land. Since 2015, with the help of USAID, a new type of iron-enriched bean has been introduced to combat widespread anemia in children. Thanks to this new bean the health of both children and expectant mothers has improved. In addition, this type of bean yields higher production levels (about 5 tons per acre) and sells for more than the “common bean” on the market, thus improving the financial conditions of the farmers who cultivate it.
Agricultural Cooperative in Southeast Rwanda
From a province in the southeast of Rwanda, Olivier and the team of journalists visited an agricultural cooperative just a few kilometers from Burundi. This cooperative is a joint effort on the part of 4 UN organizations.
Founded in 2015, 974 people are involved, 85% of whom are women. According to the FAO, the people working in the cooperative are among the poorest in Rwanda. The agencies financed an electric mill allowing them to make corn flour, a food base for this population. Excess amounts are then sold in nearby markets through the mediation of the agencies involved. In addition to providing a means of self-sustenance, this initiative has given the local women the possibility of becoming economically independent. The profit from the sale of corn flour has also allowed the acquisition of some animals.
All those involved in the cooperative take part in an agricultural course. Among other things, they learn about the seasons, sowing methods, and hygiene. One women explained that she learned that 2 bean grains were enough to plant in the ground, not the 5 that they were used to planting. Her production has, therefore, increased, allowing her to purchase a water basin and a cow.
Jean Bosco, another farmer involved in the cooperative, explains how gender equality is being achieved through the distribution of land. In support of a law of the Rwandan government, land belonging to a married couple is divided equally between them, thus reducing domestic conflict.
In addition to development and the integration of women, this cooperative exercises a very important social function in the small local communities.