Rwanda: from Rwf 64,000 in capital to Rwf 100 million agrifood – Gakenke Cooperative’s Journey
A cooperative that started with the contribution of 10,000 Rwf from each member now operates a multi-million dollar agro-industry that grows maize and beans as well as a maize processing unit in the Gakenke area of the district of Gakenke.
Jean de Dieu Niyibizi told Doing Business that the cooperative nicknamed “Koperative Twihangire Umurimo” started with 64 members in 2007 by consolidating their plots of land and each member contributed 10,000 Rwf which totaled a capital of 64,000 Rwf.
“We started with eight hectares and it has grown to 184 hectares with currently 1,186 members including 719 women,” he said, adding that more than 800 farmers are about to join the cooperative.
Maize crop drying facilities reduced post-harvest losses. Photo: courtesy.
He said that with improved farming practices, corn production per hectare has increased from one tonne to around 4.8 tonnes.
“Along with improved seeds and working with banks to obtain loans, this has played an important role in increasing production,” he said.
Two years ago, he said, the cooperative launched a factory worth over 120 million Rwandan francs to add value to corn products.
“We were losing more than 50 percent of the crop due to the lack of post-harvest processing facilities, but this was reduced thanks to 14 drying facilities as well as a maize processing unit,” he said. .
The factory transforms three tonnes of maize into flour a day and sells one kilogram at Rwf 500.
“We want to grow and process 10 tonnes a day. We also have a car that transports the crop and two motorcycles and we have an office,” he said.
Secure the sustainable market market
Niyibizi said that in order to ensure a sustainable market for their produce, they sign contracts with buyers before planting.
“Before securing sustainable markets, we could plant, harvest, but we didn’t have a market for our products. The banks could not give us loans because we did not have a sustainable market ready to buy our products. But after getting buyers by signing contracts, a local bank gave us 85 Rwf. million to buy agricultural inputs and we have already paid off the loan, ”he said.
The cooperative is one of the cooperatives that obtained a market for the products to be harvested this agricultural season A under the facilitation of the Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative-RWARRI.
Bellange Uwizeye, the initiative’s executive director, said around 280,000 corn and bean producers have already been linked to buyers in 27 districts.
He said at least more than Rwf 3 billion has been invested in maize and bean cooperatives to increase production and help them find a market for their products in recent years.
Thanks to Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA) – a project funded by the World Food Program (WFP) – it declared during the seasons 2020C, 2021A and 2021B of cooperatives growing maize in 10 districts namely Rwamagana, Ngoma, Gasabo, Rulindo, Burera, Gisagara, Huye, Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe were also helped to aggregate and deliver 6,101 tons of maize to the market, generating a total turnover of 1.3 billion Rwf.
By working in cooperatives, Uwizeye said it is very easy to connect farmers with buyers and attract better prices, adding that farmers are mobilized to adopt crop insurance.
“We are also helping farmers reduce post-harvest losses. Statistics show that 40 percent of agricultural products in Rwanda are lost.
This happens during harvest and because of poor post-harvest handling techniques, poor storage facilities, including the means of transporting it to market, ”he explained.
The loss is also due to the way the harvest is managed in the market and during consumption, as some people buy what they do not use up during consumption on the table such as in hotels and restaurants, did -he declares.
“We realized that we need to train people and increase their skills in post-harvest processing,” he noted.