In 2005, a total of 30 women came together and formed a cooperative—the Jyambere Mubyeyi, to devise ways of extricating themselves out of poverty. Based at Gambiriro village, Kabere Cell, Ruheru sector of Nyaruguru district, they started with saving Rwf200 per month. In 2010, they upped their saving efforts to Rwf500. In the same year, they started growing wheat on rented land.
The president of the cooperative, Agnes Mukandekezi, says they did not profit much from the first season because of drought. “Nevertheless, we did not give up. In the subsequent seasons we earned a bumper harvest and in 2011 we embarked on buying cows. ActionAid donated five and we bought five for the cooperative. Much as the ten cows belong to the cooperative, they are distributed for rearing among the members. When they sell milk, part of the proceeds are kept on the cooperative account and the rest is retained to buy drugs and buy other necessities to keep the cows healthy. The custodian of the animal takes the third calf for good,” explains Agnes.
Agnes says in 2012, they hatched the idea of building a maize processing mill. “From our savings, we bought an acre of land for Rwf2,000,000, timber to erect the wooden walls for Rwf300,000, paid for labour and cement. ActionAid provided the iron sheets and donated the mortar and all its peripheral parts.”
She however says they have not yet installed the milling machine awaiting the factory to be connected with power. “But once we get this up and running, we believe we shall create a bigger impact not only amongst the members of the cooperative, but even among all the residents of Kabere Cell. Meanwhile, the milling machine and its parts are kept at the sector headquarters of Ruheru. “The district officials and EWSA are working to ensure that we get connected before the end of October.”
Mukandori Daphrose a member of the cooperative, says through the cooperative, AAR has trained them on a number of issues and empowered with business and soft skills. “We knew nothing about human rights before the coming of ActionAid into our lives. We are now well versed with women and child rights, and we have good enough skills of how we can manage our small and big projects.”
She says that beyond the improved household incomes of members, the cooperative has given them a bigger voice. “We have gained dignity, we are ensured of food and nutritional security and we all pay for the mutual medical insurance for our families.”
Being respected members of the community, Jyambere Mubyeyi has mothered a smaller association of mothers also comprised of 30 members called Ntusigarenyuma.
“Our individual members have all got savings accounts either with Baque Populaire du Rwanda or Nkunganire SACCO Ruheru. As a cooperative, we interact with the bank on a day to day basis. In fact as we were buying the land onto which the milling plant seats, we got a loan of Rwf500,000 for Baque Populaire,” says the Jyambere Mubyeyi presidedent before she makes a salient statement; “We were nobodies. Today we are respected, we are a people of dignity and we are not relenting.”