Rwanda, known for its hills and beautiful landscapes, is changing the perception many have of Africa, including Africans themselves. The people of this once-troubled country have begun reaping the rewards of agriculture development, which have been many years in the making.
Rice is one of the products Rwandans are using to bolster the country’s economy, and is a product responsible for creating jobs and a sense of pride in many Rwandan villages.
Now a unique approach is implemented in the Rwandese rice sector, truly entrepreneurial and innovative. Value chain actors (e.g. farmers, traders) as well as chain supporters (e.g. transporters, banks) invested together in a rice processing unit. Normally many of these actors are competing with each other, for instance small farmers and middleman. However, now that they all own shares they mutually benefit from a good price for rice, value adding and shared risks.
The Future is Bright, Thanks to the many cooperatives
To ensure rice production is organized and efficient, local operatives have been formed, each made up of thousands of farmers. Rather than work alone and face the difficulties of doing do, the Rwandan people have realized strength exists in numbers.
“In this way, strength comes together, and therefore every farmer profits and learns,” said one local member of a Rwandan cooperative.
Progress in the Face of Challenges
Rwandans aren’t strangers to difficulty. One of the obvious challenges, especially for a country recently out of conflict, is the lack of foundational structure for locals to build upon. While their dedication is admirable, and their spirit commendable, many operatives still encounter organizational difficulties, or are hampered by a lack of training or financing.
This is why the cooperatives have organized themselves into umbrella organizations – such as Ugama.
Ugama’s Main Goals
The umbrella organization Ugama has a clear set of goals: improve active participation of society members in the rice producing process, and secure more funding and resources for the organization’s farmers.
Ugama is able to acquire extra resources to help Rwanda’s farmers thanks to its size, and has so far made a huge difference to the lives of those in the local community. One farmer, when asked about the particular umbrella organization, said: “Thanks to Ugama we receive training and education to improve our farming, but also we have a better income because we are able to make better prices for our rice.”
Rice, a World Project
One of the main partners of Ugama is the Dutch NGO, ICCO. As an umbrella organization, Ugama is able to represent its people, even on an international stage.
According to ICCO’s deputy Regional manager Netlyn Bernard, the NGO supports Ugama because of its entrepreneurial spirit. The fact that local farmers and community members are able to organize their rice production in such a coherent way bodes well for the future of rice-growing regions.
ICCO wants to be a part of this thriving agricultural development. And the goal, well that’s clear: help the Rwandan cooperatives thrive, so that local communities develop both socially and economically.