Life After War Crisis Is Possible

Life After War Crisis Is Possible

Publication info

Posted
12/7/16
By
Ephron Hakizamungu

MPANGA, RWANDA – It took 15 years for Gloria Kabagwira to get back to her native Rwanda, after fleeing the unrest in the mid-1990s. But with the right training and access to credit, it only took three years for the 46-year-old to become one of her district’s most successful farmers. This is her story.

“My home village is 12 miles from the nearest paved road,” Gloria said. In my village, homes are made from mud bricks, and electricity is non-existent. The nearest water pump is a good half-mile away, and it is not good water.”

Gloria and her family returned to Rwanda from Tanzania in 2009, after the government promised me a free hectare of land. “When my family and I came back, we were poor,” she said. “The government gave us the land, but we did not know how to use it. We survived, because in the area it was easy to grow bananas and maize – not much else, though.

“Everything started to change in 2011, when I joined a local community savings group, compelled by a mixture of curiosity and desperation. For the first time in my life, I had access to skills and business training. Crucially, I could also access credit via the group fund. I contributed 400 Rwandan francs (less than 50 cents) a week from working in the fields. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.”

Before long, the 30-strong group was ready to start lending. And Gloria was ready to borrow.

“I was growing a few crops to eat, but I knew that if I grew tomatoes and cabbages, then I would be able to sell them,” she said. “So I took a loan from the group of 25,000 RWF ($30) to buy tomato seedlings. It was a lot, and I was afraid about how I would pay it back. But I did! Today, my crops bring in some 500,000 RWF ($600) a season – half of it net profit. And I am not stopping there.”

‘I no longer have to beg from my husband’

With her own savings and timely loans from the group, Gloria has managed to build a water reservoir and install her own biogas system, erasing the need to forage for fuel. She has also expanded her acreage to grow passionfruit and papaya. She credits her new income with much more than an improved quality of life.

“In Rwanda, if you are a woman, you look to everything from your husband,” she said. “If you need salt, soap or clothes you must ask. You feel like you don’t have value. Today, I no longer have to beg from my husband. We share responsibility for the family.”

For all her success, Gloria has even bigger plans for her children. “I don’t want them to cultivate vegetables,” she said. “I want them to get a good education and learn to speak English so that they can get good jobs.

“CARE’s Hand in Hand project trainings have opened up my mind,” she added. “I was just doing my business without paying much attention to it. During trainings, my mindset changed and I realized that my business was not well managed. I started keeping records, which I was not doing before. Today, I can tell you how much money I invested in the business, and how much money I expect from it.”

With encouragement from a CARE trainer, Gloria began to think of new and sustainable ways of doing her agri-business. She wrote a business plan and got funding to build a greenhouse worth 6 million francs (more than US$7,200).

“I am now confident that I will be able to grow tomatoes during both dry and rainy seasons,” she said, “and my monthly income, which is about 500,000 francs ($600) today, will increase tremendously.”

Gloria now employs eight people – two permanent and six occasional workers. Her customers are mainly the neighboring schools and police camps. She highlights that her key success factor is customer care and the heart to support the community.

“I do not want to develop alone,” Gloria said. “For example, I milk my cow and give free milk to families with malnourishment among their children. Today, I have helped three families whose children were about to die. I also teach the neighbors how to farm vegetables and fruits for profit, not just for consumption. I give them free seedlings, and I feel encouraged by their progress.”

 

Gloria Kabagwira, 48, used to work in her neighbors’ fields to survive. But now she is a successful farmer and employer, with her own greenhouse.

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