If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Together you, the Twisungane Cooperative farmers, Frank Mutesa, and Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) with help from Rwanda governmental agencies, have gone far in the past five years. We have further goals which will require us to travel together to reach.
In addition to becoming much better farmers, the Twisungane group members are becoming effective entrepreneurs. This monthly newsletter discusses new goals to further improve the standard of living for the cooperative members and their surrounding community.
Leveraging Supply and Demand in the Local Food Markets
For practical purposes, harvest times in Rwanda occur simultaneously. Across the country, in smaller communities, food preservation techniques are lacking i.e., for many years discarded spoiled food exceeded the amount of food consumed. Immediately post-harvest the food supply is high relative to demand, later the food supply is low relative to demand. The effect on food prices is to depress them at harvest time and to increase them later as the harvested food spoiled, and edible food became scarcer. This worsened the financial and health problems facing subsistence farmers.
Frank Mutesa has been working to increase awareness of better ways of achieving food preservation. Also, he has helped the farmers see that they need to make food preservation one their top priorities. This combats hunger and adds value to their harvested crops.
All our farmers are following food preservation techniques. In addition, they have agreed not to sell their harvested crops at once after harvest when prices are typically low. So, they are now working to improve their preservation techniques and to add value to their crops. By ‘buying low’ and ‘selling high’ in the local food markets the farmers can improve their overall well-being.
Projects Under Consideration
Tools for Hope Directors, Frank, and the Twisungane group leaders have several projects under consideration. As discussed previously, the farmers cannot produce enough from their small plots to sustain an adequate lifestyle. There is little opportunity for them to enlarge their landholdings and similarly there is little opportunity for full-time, steady (formal) employment. Therefore, non-agricultural, income producing projects take on increased importance in improving their lives. TFH will supply (interest free, no recourse) funding for their projects where the projects are well thought out i.e., where there is a basic business plan showing a ‘road-map’ to success for the project.
Some projects under discussion are.
- Purchasing a second motorbike taxi: Such transportation is popular everywhere in Rwanda. Their first motorbike taxi business is working well even with the COVID-19 travel restrictions. Many in the group are familiar with such taxi operations. TFH has agreed to loan funds for a second motorbike once the Twisungane group has repaid one-half of their original loan. This is based on our belief that the group can manage the added loan repayment burden because of their reliable performance with the first taxi i.e., repayment has been particularly good, they have kept the motorbike in good condition, and have met all legal / administrative requirements.
- Raising Pigs and Poultry: The business plans for these two projects are under development. There are resources available to Frank and the farmers to address the basic questions a business plan should address.
Those and similar resources (academic and governmental) can supply information and best practices for the farmers e.g., Rwanda Pig Farmers’ Association and the Rwanda Poultry Association.
Sewing: The group has found three ladies who have earlier experience with sewing. The proposal for the sewing project thus far, is simply to buy three sewing machines. TFH will work with Frank and the group to refine the project plan.
TFH believes that skill in producing practical business plans is crucial to the long-term success of the Twisungane Cooperative. With a good business plan the cooperative should be able to secure financing for all their future projects.
TFH encourages a basic business plan addressing the following in adequate detail.
- The goals of the project
- How the business will make money
- What the project needs to get started
- The operating budget
- Customer Identification
- How the project will reach customers its
- The effect of competition
- Outline project strengths and weaknesses
- How the project measures success
In addition to projects which may produce incomes in the near-term, Frank is encouraging the farmers to plant fruits trees on their individual farms. Frank discusses with them the benefits of having fruits trees in their compounds and on their farms as well. In Rwanda there is a huge demand for fruit. Rwanda relies on imports for mango, oranges, apples, passion fruit, and many other fruits. Research shows the soil of Rwanda will support these types of fruit trees.
The Way Forward
This COVID-19 is still hindering some progress about the sustainable development journey, because of some restrictions including lockdowns and curfews in Rwanda. But slowly the government is trying to bring the life back to normal and many people have taken their COVID vaccines doses therefore we believe things will be better soon.