Collaborating with cooperatives to improve the lives of smallholder farmers in Rwanda

“Koperative Abizerwa Byumba” (KAB) is in Byumba sector, Gicumbi District of the Northern province. This cooperative is a result of joint efforts of former farmer groups of Vi-LIFE Programme (the former Vi Agroforestry) beneficiaries in Gicumbi District. The cooperative started working with Vi Agroforestry in October 2014 and most members are involved in financial services through village savings and loans (VSL) groups. They specialise in agroforestry, forestry and horticulture seedlings production. It now has 2,231 members (824 Males and 1,407 Females). Through sensitization and mobilization meetings, the cooperative has grown and is still attracting/recruiting new members.

In Collaboration with Vi agroforestry, KAB cooperative to date has constructed 125.5 ha of radical terraces and planted 1,250,352 trees in Gicumbi District. Cooperative members have been trained and integrated SALMs practices in their farms. Members have been supported with water harvesting tanks for water collection and storage for domestic use, and improved stoves to reduce firewood use. In addition, most members have been supported in various enterprises, banana, pigs, fruits etc.

These activities have improved the livelihood of cooperative members in so many ways. Their yield has increased, and most members are now able to pay Community Based Health Insurance and feed their family. Some farmers have set up small enterprises.


Beatrice NYIRABALIGIRA lives in Nyamiyaga cell, Kageyo sector, in Gicumbi District. She is 50years old, married, with 5 kids (3sons and 2 daughters). She is a member of KAB cooperative.

‘’Before joining this cooperative, something was missing in my life and my life was not good. When I joined in 2015, we were trained on soil and water conservation and vegetable production. An idea came into my mind that I can grow vegetables for my family but also for selling. Now I have a vegetable garden business. Later I joined the VSL and be part of this group makes me happy because I managed to save money and buy my cow. I later got a loan and renovated my house. Now I am happy because I can pay school fees and school materials for my children and the health insurance for my family.’’ She narrates.

Radical Terraces Construction

KAB Members are learning how to construct radical terraces in Ruvune Sector, Gicumbi District. The farms belong to cooperative members and serve as demonstration site on sustainable land management practices. Water trapping pits were also integrated in the farm to collect rain water where necessary. To cope with Covid-19, participants need to be in small groups of 10 people and they have to keep social distancing of at least 1 meter.

Lime and compost will be applied to increase soil fertility.

Terraces construction in Ruvune

VSL activities in Covid-19 Context

Some districts of Rwanda including Gicumbi District were in total lockdown, physical meeting was not possible. Now, farmers are allowed to continue activities like VSL activities. Farmers engaged in such activities must respect the covid-19 preventions measures put in place by the government; many people are not allowed in order to prevent the probable spread of covid-19. Farmers are facing challenges in loan repayments and saving collection especially during the lockdown period.

KAB cooperative members decided that the meetings will be attended by not more than 15 members including leaders and other farmers will be shifted in different session and send their shares. Saving groups are normally composed of around 30 members.

Members of Twizerane group in saving session in Kageyo Sector.

 Macadamia Enterprise in Gicumbi district.

To raise farmers’ income, KAB cooperative has set up macadamia enterprise near the office, to monitor the growing of that plant.  This decision came after hearing that this macadamia farming offers an important source of income to smallholder farmers.

This will be a demonstration site, to encourage and interest other farmers (beneficiaries) to grow the plant because of its demand. The seedlings will be sold and help the cooperative to have money which will be used for cooperative activities. Members will also be given training and taken in field days to learn more how macadamia seedlings are produced. Germination has started and pricking out will be on progressive basis.

Seedling production activities have started in 10 nurseries established in the area. Pricking out and tube potting activities have started for fast growing seeds, and they expect to plant them in September -October during the rain season.