How mushroom growing cooperative fostered reconciliation
After the 1994 Genocide, widows and women whose husbands were in prison for genocide crimes as a strong platform to promote unity and reconciliation for sustainable development.
After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which claimed over one million lives, Rwandans of all walks of life embarked on a journey to rebuild the country with a focus on promoting unity and reconciliation.
It is in this context that women from Nyanza District formed a savings and credit cooperative composed of genocide widows and women whose husbands were in prison for genocide crimes as a strong platform to promote unity and reconciliation for sustainable development.
Currently, the association has turned into an agribusiness cooperative with 30 members and so far as Rwanda marks the 27th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, they are reaping big from mushroom growing which has built survivors resilience.
She said the saving group started with 12 women grouped themselves together in 1995 after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
“We started as a savings and loans group contributing Rwf100 every week. The group included genocide widows and women whose husbands were in prison convicted of genocide crimes. From the savings members would acquire loans to satisfy some basic needs,” said Jeannette Kanzayire, is the President of “Twisungane Iwacu Cooperative in Mukingo sector, Mpanga cell.
She said that after the Genocide against the Tutsi, most of them were facing many issues as the country’s economy had also collapsed.
“The women had no food, no clothes, children were not studying. It was a bad life and therefore we gathered to think of our future and also counselling one another,” she narrated.
The savings, she said, inspired them to exploit one of the arable wetlands in the area.
“We used to grow cabbages, feed our families, and sell the rest. This really improved our lives.
However agricultural productivity was not satisfactory since we had no domestic animals to help us get manure,” she said.
She said that, later, local leaders linked the women with development partners that helped to boost their efforts.
“We were given ten cows in 2007 and we built cow sheds. This helped us a lot since we would sell milk. When a cow would deliver, a heifer had to be passed on to a member of the group,” she said.
On her side, with manure from the cows, the agricultural productivity has increased from 50 kilogrammes to over 400 kilogrammes on the same size of land.
The widow, Kanzayire has managed to pay school fees for all her five children who have now completed university and she has gained leadership skills and confidence as she is a member of the women council in the cell and a member of Mukingo sector council.
Magic money from mushroom growing
Kanzayire said that they started buying mushroom spores from Kigali.
“It was costly to buy mushroom spores from Kigali and that is why we started learning how to prepare our own spores after designing a project sponsored by Action Aid Rwanda,” she said.
The group of women invests Rwf400 in preparing one mushroom spore.
“If we want to sell it to other farmers to grow them, we sell one mushroom spore at Rwf500,” she said.
She said that once grown up, one mushroom spore produces two kilogrammes.
“We sell one Kilogramme at Rwf1, 500 meaning one mushroom spore produces Rwf3, 000 having invested Rwf400 only” she explained.
By March 2021, the cooperative was growing 4,000 mushroom spores, meaning from which Rwf12 million produce was expected considering that one spore goes for Rwf3,000.
Over Rwf30 million assets
The cooperative, she said, now has over Rwf30 million in total assets including built-up working places.
“We have also got a machine worth Rwf1.5 million that dries mushrooms. Once installed, it will produce mushroom flour. We are targeting the export market,” she said.
Currently, she said they also have aside saved and loan groups where each member saves Rwf700 every week.
“The women get loans from the savings and loan groups and carry out small income-generating activities. This has also reduced unpaid care that affects many women. Women have now been empowered,” she noted.