Professionalising women farmers: Key to success

Women’s organisations are becoming more professional and taking the lead across many value chains, which is driving up yields and strengthening the agricultural sector.

Tuzamurane cooperative’s processing unit enables it to supply dried organic pineapples to countries across Africa © Aimable Twahirwa
Tuzamurane cooperative’s processing unit enables it to supply dried organic pineapples to countries across Africa © Aimable Twahirwa

Thursday, 01 March 2018

Members of the Tuzamurane farmers’ cooperative based 200 km east of Kigali in Rwanda have received training in pineapple production and farm management skills to access new local and international markets.

Theresie Nyirantozi, a 55-year-old pineapple farmer with 2 ha of land, reflects on how adopting new farming practices and gaining business skills has changed her life for the better. “Six years ago, there was no real income generated from my farming activity,” she says. A small-scale farmer with previously modest pineapple production, Nyirantozi had worked her farm with only a hoe and machete and was unaware of the benefits of manure or fertiliser for improving yields.

However, since joining the Tuzamurane (meaning ‘lift one another up’) cooperative in Kihere district, Nyirantozi has been introduced to best practices for organic pineapple farming and helped to connect with local and international markets. The cooperative, which was established with Oxfam’s support over a decade ago, has over 130 members with 80% women membership. “For more than 5 years, we have been using soil organic matter to grow healthier and more productive pineapples,” says Nyirantozi, who now earns €245 a month instead of just €16 prior to joining the cooperative. As a result, she has been able to set up a business selling pineapples, save money through the cooperative’s savings scheme, and help improve the wellbeing of her family.

After acquiring knowledge on best practice cultivation techniques and good farm management skills, Emiliene Mukandutiye says she owes her improved circumstances to the skills she gained through the cooperative. Prior to the training, Mukandutiye produced around 150 kg of pineapple per month, however, since learning how to space her pineapple plants for optimal growth, improve weeding practices and plant pineapple tops directly into the soil, her production has increased nearly five-fold. As such, and with improved handling and storage techniques, her pineapples which once sold for only €0.04 now sell locally between 4-8 times higher (€0.19-0.38). “Thanks to this project, my house has been repaired and upgraded with electricity, and I am now able to pay school fees for my children,” enthuses Mukandutiye.

Accessing the export market

Tuzamurane cooperative has benefited from the support of various government agencies and NGOs and, since 2014, the women have also benefited from an Oxfam Enterprise Development Programme (EDP), which specifically targets vulnerable groups in rural communities. For the Tuzamurane cooperative, the EDP has supported them to achieve organic certification and establish a processing unit to supply dried organic pineapples to countries across Africa, as well as to the European market.

“This project was established mostly to provide business development skills and advice (on best farming practices) to local women farmers,” says Marie Jeanne Uwanyarwaya, funding coordinator at Oxfam’s Rwanda office. The intervention has also provided innovative financial support to the women (loans, grants, guarantees), totalling around €3,380 each year.

“The main advantage is that our cooperative’s partners have trained us on best farming practices, and after we produce pineapples, they connect us to consumers and to the market place,” Nyirantozi says, pointing out that this approach has given local women more confidence in pineapple production, which is carried out on member’s own land as well as on 90 ha of cooperative land.

A vision for the future

As a result of the Oxfam project and support from other partners to provide business development skills and training on organic production, pineapple farming has become a profitable business for women in the Kirehe district. The cooperative is now able to produce and sell 18 t of fresh pineapples at the local market and export at least 20 t of dried pineapples annually to France. “The western world is now taking a liking to dried pineapples from Rwanda,” says Jean Damascene Hakuzimana, president of the Tuzamurane cooperative. “Local processing plants are also now ordering our pineapples to produce fruit juice,” he adds.

Sylvestre Barajiginywa, project manager at Tuzamurane, says the members are eagerly awaiting the extension of the project, which will see additional drying processing machines installed in the newly established facilities for Tuzamurane. “Farmers are producing a higher quality and quantity of pineapples, but they need to continue to expand their market access,” he says. “Our aim is to export 36 t per year by 2020.”

Aimable Twahirwa

Other dossiers

Facts and Figures

Tuzamurane cooperative’s processing unit enables it to supply dried organic pineapples to countries across Africa © Aimable Twahirwa

SOURCE: IFC report (2016) - Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.