Our Projects and Research Officer Amanda Benson saw the power of co-operation first hand during her recent visit to Rwanda.

Our projects and Research Officer Amanda Benson with one of the training participants

The project, run in partnership with Tearfund Scotland, sees us deliver training on a range of topics including financial management and governance - both key parts of running a successful co-operative. Using the traditional "train the trainer" model, Amanda's trip was focused on delivering training to a group of individuals who would then go on to train others, expanding a network of co-operative experts and inspiring others to join the co-operative movement.

The week long training programme also involved visits from local co-ops, enabling participants to see first hand how the co-operative model can transform communities and change lives for the better.

Inspiring examples

Participants visiting Ingoro Huye Ababeyi, a local brick and tile making co-operative

One such visit saw a trip to Ingoro Huye Ababeyi, a brick-making co-operative located in Mukoni Valley, part of the Huye district in the south of the country. Established in 2009, the co-operative saw significant growth in 2013 and now has 32 members, as well as providing a livelihood for another 100 people locally.

Made up of women who were widowed or became single mothers as a result of the genocide, through the creation of the co-op, these women have managed to build a thriving business. They are committed to developing their local community too, having built 12 houses for the most vulnerable members and ensuring that each member of the co-operative has health insurance for themselves and their families.

Challenges along the way

As part of an inspiring talk, Liberatha Mukashyaka, president of the co-operative, gave an insight into the challenges that the co-operative had faced, particularly in the early years.

She highlighted how in the beginning some members grew impatient and dropped out of the process to join the co-operative, frustrated that there wasn't a 'quick win' financially. They had a number of other challenges, including poor roads in the area that meant it was difficult for the group to come together for meetings.

Advice and hope for the future

With 20 applications in the pipeline to join the co-operative and all members of the co-operative taking home a minimum of 20,000 Rwandan Francs a month, the co-operative continues to go from strength to strength. The visit ended with three key pieces of advice for all the participants:

  • Come together and think about what you really want to achieve together. What can you all work on collectively to benefit not only yourselves, but also each other and your community?
  • Vote for a committee and then the leadership can start to help organise the business and begin the process of establishing the co-operative. At the beginning you’re not a co-op, so it’s important to work together towards registration.
  • Set the ground rules and the principles for the co-operative. Values and principles are what set co-operatives apart from other businesses and should be right at the heart of what you do.

Through the visit, participants got to see how the topics discussed during the training were put into practice in a real-life co-operative, such as why co-operatives succeed and fail, the advantages of being in a co-operative and how crucial the values and principles really are.

In combining real life examples and visits with theoretical training, we're ensuring this network of trainers is developing a robust knowledge of co-operatives and key business practices that they can pass onto others.

Knowledge sharing is a key part of the project, with this new network of trainers tasked with empowering women farmers to set up and run their own co-operatives. We know that real life examples of success, such as Ingoro Huye Ababeyi, combined with our sector leading training, are what's needed give confidence to others to set up and run their own businesses. 

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