Vi Agroforestry thanks staff and partners in Rwanda – closes office after 16 years

Vi Agroforestry thanks staff in Rwanda for outstanding work as the office is closing after 16 years of work in the country. The picture also shows Vi Agroforestry’s Director and Regional Director. Photo by Joy Kivata.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.” This expression by Alphonse Karr  would sum up what a moment that was as we bid farewell to our team in Rwanda. A trip down memory lane celebrating our footprint in various parts of Rwanda since 2005. How do we even start to summarize a 16-year-journey from just planting trees to sustainably improving agriculture and the livelihoods for smallholder farmer? That is our 16-year story in Rwanda!

“I was there when we started our operations in Rwanda witnessing the first-ever opening meeting in 2005 and today am here witness the end of a beautiful journey”.

Meet the longest-serving Vi Agroforestry staff in Rwanda Jean Baptiste Ntahompagaze who graced our national close out ceremony held on 13th October 2022. Full of wisdom and humility he shared how happy he was to see the difference we made in the lives of so many smallholder farmer families in Rwanda.

Jean Baptiste Ntahompagaze (left) is thanked for his long and faithful service to Vi Agroforestry in Rwanda by Regional Director Gudrun Boström at a closing lunch for staff. Photo by Joy Kivata

As a farewell to our stakeholders, Vi Agroforestry organised different close out meeting at various levels culminating with the national close out meeting held with all our stakeholders that we collaborated with including farmers and farmer organizations /cooperatives, the Swedish embassy staff and government representatives, CSOs, among others. The meeting was not only an opportunity for us to reflect and celebrate many achievements over the years but also made it possible for us to reunite with former Vi Agroforestry staff.

National Close out ceremony which marked the formal closing of Vi Agroforestry’s 16 years in Rwanda. It was a day filled with pomp and colour as we reflected and celebrated on our work in Rwanda. In the picture, glitter rains down on Vi Agroforestry’s Director, Regional Director, and Country Manager, as well as on representatives from the Rwandan Ministry of Environment and the Swedish Embassy in Rwanda at the unveiling the 16-year journey report. Photo by Joy Kivata

Speaking during the meeting the Ministry of Environment called on farmers to ensure the continued sustainability of the programmes, urging them to continue implementing and sharing knowledge gained as well as upscaling what they have absorbed over the years and continue fighting climate change and poverty
The Swedish Embassy in Rwanda shared its desire to continue building on the work already done by Vi Agroforestry, and the lessons learned as they upscale their work.

Subidi Mugisha a youth from Kayonza shared his reflections on what an eye-opener the gender equality training he attended through Vi Agroforestry was. It has shaped him as a young adult. He admitted that, as a teenager, he could not have imagined who he is today: a happily newlywed man who feels comfortable in a kitchen and gladly shares various household chores with his wife. In the society he grew up in, women’s tireless work for the good of the family is often taken for granted. But he is aware, and he expresses great appreciation towards the women in his life.

Subidi Mugisha and his wife photo by Magnifique Ingabire

Another story that made an impression on everyone gathered, came from a 52-year-old Alivera Mukamurigo who today is a successful entrepreneur. She explained how she had previously saved all her money hidden under the mattress. It was a constant worry to save like that – and on top of the worry, termites occasionally found and feasted on the money. But with Vi Agroforestry’s support, she, together with peers, formed a village savings and loans association. It provided a much safer way to save, and she soon had enough money to start up the small business she successfully runs today.

These are just some of the outstanding testimonials we received! It was overwhelming and such a fulfilling moment knowing that we made a difference then and even now years later to see the positive change stories.

Farmers engage in a panel discussion sharing their experiences, achievements and lessons learned

Over the years, we have planted over 20 million trees! And today as we exit Rwanda we are proud of the milestones we have achieved, we leave our local partners in a better space, empowered and better equipped to stand on their own two feet” Gudrun Bostrom said while addressing the different stakeholders attending the national close out meeting.

We also held a special luncheon with the Vi Agroforestry Rwanda team where Eva Åberg the Vi Agroforestry Director expressed her heartfelt gratitude! Thanking them for everything that they have accomplished so far, their dedication, service and commitment to Vi Agroforestry cause. “It wouldn’t be enough to thank you, its touching and inspiring what you have done here” she added.

It was last spring that the Board of Vi Agroforestry took a decision to phase out operations in Rwanda, following challenges in fundraising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Read more about the board decision here..
Vi Agroforestry will stop working in Rwanda by the end of December 2022.
Join us in celebrating Team Rwanda for the incredible work they have delivered over the years.

Participants during the meeting. Photo by Joy Kivata

Read more about what Vi Agroforestry has achieved during 16 years in Rwanda here.