After three months of planning, debating and excitement, Nyabageni village has started implementing their agriculture project! Eighty families are members of the project and they are actively working together to start a registered cooperative for growing potatoes. They have divided the land and labor into three groups that coordinate for the work. With 120 acres, the community is hoping to grow over 27,000 kilograms of Irish potatoes.
Just a few months ago this group was socially and economically divided and seemed unable to cooperate. The Twa population has remained very poor, while the rest of the population has had some access to agriculture jobs, subsistence farming and capital. Some of the Twa refused to work with the others Rwandans and many of the non-Twa were unsympathetic to them since they repeatedly steal.
Last Thursday I visited the group and they – for the first time – came to the meeting early. Ernest and I found them sitting together and resting their limbs with their hoes by their sides, having just come back from the field.
I have to admit I had been worried about this one; it is not the easiest group we have worked with. Even so, the community has proven once again to be completely capable of handling their own project with just a little encouragement, organization and financial support.
Since they started planting they have contacted us requesting for us to resolve problems that have arisen and we have turned the questions right back to them. Each time they have dealt with the problem and strengthened as a group. When they bought their hoes there was a problem of where they will be stored. Some people wanted to keep them for themselves but they came up with a solution to store them in the group leaders homes and check them out when needed for the project. During last weeks meeting people openly expressed their discontent with the group leaders storing the hoes because they believed the leaders were ‘treating the hoes as their own property’ so they reconsidered where to store them. Now they are keeping all the hoes on the chief’s property. The community also put in a penalty of 5000Rwf for anyone who does not do their share of work, of which they now record in booklets.
The community spent some time reflecting on the process of developing their proposals. They said the group never before came together to address problems and work together in the capacity they have for the MicroGrant project. They said they would start having meetings twice a month for their cooperative. They also said they never believed they would work in the field with their village chief, and now they are because they are all part of the cooperative!
There is newfound energy and organization in the community and Ernest and I are very excited to see it! Thank you to the Segal Family Foundation and Ernest who made it possible!