Triumph After Turmoil: Weaving for Peace
In Rwanda, basket-weaving is an age-old tradition. Hand-woven baskets are used for transportation and special ceremonies, and are now one of Rwanda’s most popular exports. Gahaya Links is an artisan cooperative empowering cross-generations of women and girls, widows and orphans, and Hutu and Tutsi alike to build bridges through artisan enterprise. In 2004, two entrepreneurial sisters, Joy Ndungutse and Janet Nkubana, combined their experiences in handicrafts design and marketing to create Gahaya Links.
In early 2007, the U.S. African Development Foundation awarded Gahaya Links a grant of $82,000 which provided the capital needed for Gahaya Links to develop marketing and the tools needed to sell their products to Macy’s department stores. Today, as a result of Gahaya Links’ cooperative model and local partnerships, they are able to leverage seed capital from the U.S. African Development Foundation to produce high quality crafts for export with more than 5,000 artisans from over 50 cooperatives and associations located in all the provinces of Rwanda.
In June 2010, USADF awarded Gahaya Links an expansion grant of $242,162 to expand its business by developing new product lines both in their existing handicrafts specialties, as well as for new product lines of jewelry, textiles and handbags. Gahaya Links is now exporting globally about two shipping containers of product a year.
Through handicraft training, Gahaya Links is committed to training local women in artisan crafts and building on their traditional skills in basket-weaving and tailoring. Gahaya has also trained 500 girls; who have dropped out of school, in handicraft skill and design, investing in the next generation of young female artisans.
Monica Mucamana is president of the Mpanpa Weavers’ Cooperative in Ruhango district, one of the contributing cooperatives that sources to Gahaya Links. In the past, weavers would earn 300 RWF, or less than $1, a week for their handicrafts. Now, weavers can earn up to 3,000 RWF ($4 USD) a week by selling to Gahaya Links. Mpanpa Cooperative members are paid upon delivery of the baskets, with some earnings going back to the cooperative fund for collective costs, such as health insurance. Monica says, “I can provide food at home without waiting for my husband to provide money for that. Thanks to my income from the weaving business, I feel empowered in the upkeep of my home and paying my daughter’s school fees.”
Gahaya Links has successfully progressed from organizing low-income urban and rural women across ethnic lines into small basket-weaving groups, to a global artisan enterprise that molded weavers into entrepreneurs who can sustain their families and communities. In partnership with USADF, Gahaya Links is an example of where development meets purpose, not just to generate income but also to weave peace, empowerment and prosperity into the lives of women.
Twenty-two years ago this April we mark the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people were killed in 100 days in 1994. The U.S. African Development Foundation has remained steadfast to helping Rwanda’s men and women, from vulnerable women to smallholder farmers, from entrepreneurs to small business owners, to rebuild their country. USADF supports vulnerable populations as they advance from the sidelines of poverty, with USADF assistance, to become players in the economic growth and progress in post-genocide Rwanda. To read more, visit www.usadf.gov.
Turmoil to Triumph Series: Investing in the Promise of Tea
The U.S. African Development Foundation is dedicated to supporting smallholder farmers in Africa with targeted investments in cooperative organizations. Through principles of open membership, democratic participation, member education and solidarity, cooperatives remain a robust tool for effective economic development across Rwanda. COOPTHE Mulindi, a registered tea growers’ cooperative and USADF grantee since 2008, lost over half its tea plantation during the Rwandan genocide. Members of the cooperative lost all their crops and savings, and had to begin anew. Thanks to a partnership with USADF, COOPTHE is succeeding in rebuilding infrastructure, rehabilitating crops, and improving its organizational capacity and financial systems.
With seed capital, capacity building support and technical assistance from the USADF Technical Partner, African Development Consultants (ADC), COOPTHE reestablished its tea plantation, improved drainage canals and tea nurseries, and installed an irrigation system to boost year-round production. With qualified senior staff, COOPTHE strengthened its financial accountability and management, allowing the cooperative to recoup savings and reinvest in the surrounding community. COOPTHE’s success not only improved livelihoods of its 1,000 full-time members through increased salaries and subsidized health insurance, but also for the surrounding community. The cooperative helped to start Mulindi primary school, support a neighboring nursery school with subsidized teacher salaries of $64/month, and formed a village-level Credit and Savings Association for members to invest their savings where approximately $2,857 is saved by members monthly.
By partnering with USADF, COOPTHE Mulindi has the tools in hand to be a truly transformative business for thousands of smallholder farmers supplying tea. USADF believes in enhancing the power and capacity of post-conflict communities to take charge of their own development, through agriculture, trade and investment.
Twenty-two yearsago this month we mark the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people were killed in 100 days in 1994. The U.S. African Development Foundation has remained steadfast to helping Rwanda’s men and women, from vulnerable women to smallholder farmers, from entrepreneurs to small business owners, to rebuild their country. USADF supports vulnerable populations as they advance from the sidelines of poverty, with USADF assistance, to become players in the economic growth and progress in post-genocide Rwanda. To read more, visit www.usadf.gov.
Turmoil to Triumph Series: Rwanda’s Finest Coffee
In post-genocide Rwanda, coffee farming has been a boon to small farmers looking to rebuild livelihoods after the 1994 violence. Agriculture accounts for almost 90 percent of Rwanda’s economy, with over 500,000 smallholder farmers growing coffee. RWASHOSCCO, a Rwandan Small Holder Specialty Coffee Company and USADF grantee, is a Fair Trade Certified Small Holder Specialty Coffee Company in Kigali made up of six farmers’ cooperatives, and representing the interests of nearly 14,000 farmers. With a roasting and export business, RWASHOSCCO has built a strong reputation as one of Rwanda’s top small coffee businesses with an internationally recognized Maraba Coffee brand.
USADF partnered with RWASHOSCCO by providing a modest investment of $100,000, RWASHOSCCO’s business quickly developed and USADF provided a second grant of $392,200 to expand market growth opportunities expanding their visibility in the international specialty coffee, and increasing their visibility in both domestic and international export markets.
Maria Bedabazingwa is a coffee farmer from Musasa district, and a member of the Dukunde Kana coffee cooperative that RWASHOSCCO represents. Maria lost her husband and two eldest children during the 1994 genocide. With her house and land destroyed after the war, Maria struggled for years until 2002 when she joined the cooperative to grow coffee. With a steady income from selling her coffee beans, Maria was able to buy a cow through the Dukunde Kana cooperative fund and purchase health insurance. “Before I had nothing. Now thanks to my coffee farming, I was able to save enough money to build my new house,” says Maria. USADF is helping small farmers like Maria to build better, more sustainable livelihoods.
By partnering with USADF, RWASHOSCCO has had the tools necessary to be a truly transformative business for thousands of farmers and families supplying coffee. As shareholders, the coffee farmers of RWASHOSCCO are benefiting from the business’ new financial management system, and dedicated senior staff. With a fully operational processing plant in Kigali, RWASHOSCCO was able to increase production and reduce costs of transporting coffee to market. Most importantly, there is now an established system of business and social indicators providing the data necessary to confidently engage international businesses of conscience who invest in fair trade and socially responsible businesses. At the core of our mission, USADF believes every African should have an opportunity to be a part of Africa’s growth story. RWASHOSCCO is a prime example of resilience and how working collaboratively – Hutu and Tutsi alike, the benefits of community collaboration and hard work can result in a pathway to prosperity.
Twenty-two years ago this month we mark the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people were killed in 100 days in 1994. The U.S. African Development Foundation has remained steadfast to helping Rwanda’s men and women, from vulnerable women to smallholder farmers, from entrepreneurs to small business owners, to rebuild their country. USADF supports vulnerable populations as they advance from the sidelines of poverty, with USADF assistance, to become players in the economic growth and progress in post-genocide Rwanda. To read more, visit www.usadf.gov .