Seraphine Mujawumukiza decided to quit her job in 1996 as a primary school teacher and started farming her over two hectares of land in the hopes of improving her family’s standard of living. A widow raising nine children on her own in Rwanda, Mujawumukiza had spent decades earning little income and feeling hopeless about the future of her family.
But Mujawumukiza found that farming was the relatively easy part—getting her produce to the market after harvest was the biggest challenge. Like other farmers in her district of Kamonyi, Mujawumukiza would sell to whichever maize trader she came across. Many times, they would take her hard-earned produce and disappear without paying her, promising to return with the money later.
“My lack of choice in buyers, coupled with the fact that I had many problems raising a big family alone, made me desperate to sell to whomever approached me first, and this caused me to incur high losses,’’ she said.
Then, in 2016, a local company called SARURA Commodities helped change things for Mujawumukiza and others like her. Fueled by a grant from Feed the Future, SARURA (which means “abundant, sustained food harvest”) provides training to farmers and has established an aggregation center to collect district farmers’ produce. The company uses smart postharvest handling techniques and sells to premium markets, which helps farmers like Mujawumukiza earn a larger, more reliable profit for their produce. So far, this partnership has enabled SARURA Commodities to benefit over 2,000 members—1,653 of them women.
“Before the support from Feed the Future, we could not set up an aggregation center in Kamonyi because there was no mechanism or capacity for farmers to bring their produce here,” says Augustin Mutijima, managing director of SARURA. “Previously, the norm for farmers was to sell to middle men or directly to Kigali market and it was not economically viable for us to set up an aggregation center. Now, I am happy to say that the support to SARURA has had a ripple effect in Kamonyi; all five farmer cooperatives and their members now trade with us, and are happy with our services.’’
Mujawumukiza counts herself as one of SARURA’s happy customers. “Out of this, I have bought one laptop for my sons at university, I have connected piped water into my home, and I have purchased a cow, which provides me with compost manure I can use in my onion garden,” she says. “And the projected sales from my onions stand at $1 million Rwandan Francs (US$ 1,210) upon the next harvest.”
SARURA is just one of 65 private sector businesses, collections centers, and cooperatives that have engaged with the USAID Private Sector-Driven Agricultural Growth project, part of Feed the Future, since 2014. The project’s sustainable private sector-led model and unique grant-making structure helped farmers increase their agricultural sales by $2.5 million in 2016.
The USAID Private Sector-Driven Agricultural Growth project is a five-year effort, implemented by RTI International, that is working to stimulate private sector growth in line with the Government of Rwanda’s Vision 2020 aim of transforming agriculture into a market-oriented, competitive, and high-value sector. Keep up with the project on Twitter: @psdag_rwanda