Appolinalia Mukasharangabo is a 58-year-old single mother of one. She is a member of Icyerecezo cooperative that comprises of farmers who grow maize on large scale. She lives with her grandchild.
She joined the cooperative two years ago, and her life has since transformed. Appolinalia narrates how life was frustrating for her, as she had no source of income to meet the basic needs or those of her daughter and grandchild. She was living in a ram shackled house that had no proper roofing. However, all that changed since she joined the cooperative.
“I had nothing in life apart from sorrow and poverty. When I joined the cooperative, I worked with other members to grow maize on large scale. Through World Vision and AIF (Africa Improved Foods), we were able to get stable market for the maize. We can now earn a living unlike before, and this has improved our lives,” she recalls.
With her face beaming with joy, Appolinalia further stated, “I was able to renovate my house and it gave me so much joy to live in a decent house. I am now able to provide for my grandchild, buy myself all that I need and even save some money. All this was just a dream that I did not imagine would one day be a reality before I joined the cooperative. Today, I am also the Vice President of this cooperative, which gives me pride.”
Dominique Ntezimana, a father of three who is also a member of this cooperative, says he would never leave the cooperative after seeing how his life has been transformed. He says that he learned how to practice modern agriculture after he started working with this cooperative but was also able to improve his livelihood and meet his children’s needs. He also noted that when they started working together, there was increase of maize production, which was more sustainable compared to how everyone worked individually before.
“Before I joined the cooperative, I was a poor man without ideas or a plan of how I could ever earn a living or take care of my children. It was sad living life that way especially since I have children. When I joined the maize producer group, I started earning a living unlike before. Now, I can pay for health insurance for my three children, my wife and my self. All my children attend school and get all the scholastic materials they need. Nutrition improved for my children and other households as well. This was a big challenge before I joined the cooperative. I am forever grateful to World Vision and AIF,” Dominique merrily recounted.
Icyerecezo cooperative is composed of 143 member farmers of which 80 are women while 63 are men.
Before World Vision intervention, cooperative members used to experience loss on both quantity and quality of harvest due to poor post-harvest handling techniques. After being linked to African Improved Food (AIF), they sold their production using the cob model, hence reducing the loss of maize production either by quantity and by quality as well as saving much on the time and money with the cob model.
The general living conditions of cooperative members has been improved, with some of them rehabilitating their houses, purchasing land, and getting means to pay school fees and health insurance for their children.
The maize producer group now has access to markets for their produce, which is bought by Africa Improved Foods (AIF) Company in partnership with DSM. AIF and World Vision in Rwanda joined efforts to implement Cob Model (selling their products while still on the cob) to help farmers be able to produce and sell quality maize that is aflatoxin-free and get paid fair market value for what they produce.