My.Coop adapted in Rwanda with sugar cane farmers

My.Coop – Managing your agricultural cooperative training package gets another adaptation in Rwanda.

Actualité | 23 mai 2018
Participants at the training
Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in Rwanda accounting for about 30 per cent of its GDP and more than 65 per cent of total employment. Yet the sector is still based on subsistence agriculture by small-scale farmers and faced by various challenges such as land degradation, vulnerability to climate disasters, low levels of productivity and weak processing and marketing capacities. The Government of Rwanda recognized the importance of cooperatives in agricultural and rural development and poverty reduction by setting up a Taskforce on Cooperative Promotion in 2005. However, many Rwandan agricultural cooperatives are still in an early stage of development and need capacity-building support to improve their competitiveness and sustainability (For more details see the ILO evaluation report of an agricultural cooperative support programme in Rwanda).

Participants at the training
In this context, Agriterra, in collaboration with the ILO’s Cooperatives Unit, translated My.Coop - Managing your agricultural cooperative training package into Kinyarwanda and adapted into the national and local context. The training programme aims at strengthening the management of agricultural cooperatives so they can offer high quality, efficient and effective services to their members. The adaptation was followed by the first pilot workshop with sugar cane farmers’ cooperatives in Rwanda from 30 April to 3 May 2018. The sugar cane sector in Rwanda has faced a lot of challenges mostly due to conventional farming practices and natural calamities such as floods and water stagnations in Nyabango and Akagera valleys where all sugar canes for the sole sugar factory in Rwanda are being produced. When the marshlands were drained, farmers started to work together through cooperatives. These cooperatives are still fragile and need to be trained on various skills including on governance and management of the cooperatives.

Participants at the training
During the first pilot, 17 farmers from five sugar cane cooperatives were trained on the module 1 (basics of agricultural cooperatives including governance, management, finance) and the module 2 (cooperative service provision). They appreciated the participatory sessions where they shared experiences in group discussions, presentations, and storytelling. An interesting story was shared by a woman who have been working in sugar cane farming since 1975.

“It was in 1975 after getting married that I started growing sugar cane on a small area in Nyabarongo marshaland but the marshland was mostly used for growing other crops like sorghum and tomatoes. In 1990 I started growing cane with aim of supplying large quantity to the sugar factory. It was a long journey where the mash was mainly characterized by floods but things became worse during the 1994 genocide when nobody could harvest or do anything about cane. After the genocide, the sugar factory (Kabuye Sugar Works) approached us and we started supplying canes which were still in the field. Today, we are happy with our cane business because it is generating money for me and my family and the marshland is drained," Ms Mukamurigo Bernadette explained.

The participants have committed to transfer the acquired knowledge to their cooperatives’ colleagues. They have also requested additional training on the fourth module on cooperative marketing.

For more information on the My.Coop and its adaptation, see the Guide for Potential Users.