The Inclusive Trading Initiative (ITI) Foundation is implementing an agricultural program in Eastern Rwanda that trains 1,000 farmers to improve their farming methods and business practices. This makes them less vulnerable to climate change and they can get a good income. It is a unique program with a focus on poor farmers. Rwanda is relatively small and densely populated so a farmer has an average of 0.3 hectares of land with which he earns income to support his family. Due to the changing climate, farmers are faced with additional challenges. In recent years, rainfall patterns have been difficult to predict and shifted. It is therefore not surprising that 70% of the rural population lives below the poverty line. This means that these people earn less than $1.60 per day.
The ITI approach
Based upon best practices, the approach of ITI focusses on three elements:
Cultivation techniques – The basis of everything is a good foundation and for the farmer this is fertile soil that can absorb water well and contain it. By applying a combination of crops (biodiversity), the farmer achieves various benefits. Not only does he spread his risks, but he also ensures that the ground does not become exhausted which is often the case by mono cropping. Covering the soil with a thick layer of organic material makes it harder for moisture to evaporate and better moistens the soil when it rains. The farmer is also trained in the use of good seeds and seedlings, the use of compost and how diseases can be prevented and naturally combated.
Organizational improvement – The program provides for two levels of organizational improvement: at the individual level by developing a good farm business plan and at the community level by stimulating the farmers to work together in a cooperative. This allows farmers to gain a better market position, but also pear to pear learning takes place where by farmers strengthen each other.
Market position – As ITI, we help farmers market their crops. In the areas where ITI works, we focus on the cultivation of bananas (Matoki) and Chilli peppers. The market for Matoki is huge in Rwanda because it is widely used in daily food. The Chilli peppers are bought from the farmers and marketed in Europe by a specifically for this purpose established company, Spices Rwanda ltd.
‘I’ve already excited 100 other farmers!’ – Sylidio, farmer in Rwanda
A year ago, Sylidio heard about the training of our project in a radio program. He took a resolute decision, got on his motorcycle and drove 60km (more than 2 hours) to follow the training with us. With the knowledge he gained, he managed to harvest more than 900 kg of fresh product at the next harvest, which gave him good income. Surprisingly, when we were preparing the current season with him, he said: ‘I have already excited 100 other farmers’! All those farmers in his area have now joined the project! Sylidio turns out to be a real entrepreneur and thinks big. He is already busy registering the group as a cooperative. That is how everyone benefits!
Currently, ITI works with 1,000 farmers who are divided over 4 cooperatives. With this project, the farmers are able to quadruple their income, thereby lifting them out of poverty on a structural basis. The success of the farmers also attracts others to become active in the program. ITI therefore wants to start a second project for another 1,000 farmers in a neighbouring area. MissionInvest has again been asked to find the necessary financing for this project.
This 3-year project required a total donation of €225,000. 2 donors provided the total financing through MissionInvest. So fantastic! The total costs of this first project with 1,000 farmers are converted to € 225 per farmer. With the scaling up to 2,000 farmers, the next project can already be carried out for €150,000, or € 150 per farmer!
MissionInvest knows how to connect people with passion. Where one person has the ideas and the capacity to realize great programs, the other has the opportunity to finance them. Both are necessary to realize impact. The cooperation with Wim is always friendly, constructive and business minded. Thanks to Wim’s experience and commitment, the program in Rwanda has grown enormously and we have now reached a phase where we are going to double the program!