A cooperative that started with each member’s Rwf10,000 contribution is now running a multi-million agribusiness growing maize and beans as well as a maize processing unit in the Gakenke sector of Gakenke District.
Jean de Dieu Niyibizi, president of the cooperative, told Doing Business that the cooperative dubbed ” Koperative Twihangire Umurimo” started with 64 members in 2007 by consolidating their pieces of land and each member contributed Rwf10,000 which totaled to a Rwf64,000 capital.
“We started with eight hectares and this has increased to 184 hectares with 1,186 members currently of whom 719 are women,” he said adding more 800 farmers are about to join the cooperative.
He said that with improved agricultural practices, the maize production per hectare has increased from one tonne to about 4.8 tonnes.
“With improved seeds and working with banks to get loans has played a big role in increasing production,” he said.
Two years ago, he said, the cooperative launched a factory worth over Rwf120 million to add value to maize produce.
“We used to lose over 50 per cent of harvest due to lack of post-harvest handling facilities but this has reduced thanks to 14 drying facilities as well as a maize processing unit,” he said.
The factory processes three tonnes of maize into flour per day and sells one Kilogramme at Rwf500.
“We want to expand and process 10 tonnes per day. We also have a car that transports the harvest and two motorcycles and we have an office,” he said.
Securing sustainable market market
Niyibizi said that in order to ensure a sustainable market for their produce they sign contracts with buyers before they plant.
“Before securing sustainable markets, we could plant, harvest but lacked a market for our produce. Banks could not give us loans because we had no sustainable market ready to buy our produce. But after securing buyers through signing contracts one local bank gave us Rwf85 million to buy agro-inputs and we have already paid back the loan,” he said.
The cooperative is one of the cooperatives that have secured a market for the produce to be harvested this agricultural season A under the facilitation by Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative-RWARRI.
Bellange Uwizeye, the Executive Director of the initiative said that about 280,000 maize and bean farmers have already been linked to buyers in 27 districts.
He said that at least more than Rwf3 billion has been invested in maize and bean cooperatives to increase production and help them find a market for their produce in the past few years.
Through Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA) -a project financed by World Food Programme (WFP)-he said in the seasons of 2020C, 2021A and 2021B cooperatives growing maize in 10 districts namely Rwamagana, Ngoma, Gasabo, Rulindo, Burera, Gisagara, Huye, Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe were also assisted to aggregate and deliver 6,101 tonnes of maize to the market generating a total revenue of Rwf1.3 billion.
By working in cooperatives, Uwizeye said that it is very easy to link farmers to buyers and attract better prices, adding that farmers are being mobilized to embrace crop insurance.
“We also support farmers in reducing post-harvest losses. Statistics show that 40 percent of agricultural produce in Rwanda is lost.
This happens during harvesting and through poor post-harvest handling techniques, poor storage facilities including the way of transporting it to market,” he explained.
The loss is also incurred due to the way the harvest is handled while on the market and during consumption because some people buy what they do not exhaust during consumption on the table such as in hotels and restaurants, he said.
“We have realized that we have to train people and increase their skills in post-harvest handling,” he noted.