17 April 2018

Rwanda: Survivors Association Achieving Self-Reliance Through Agri-Business

The Association of Student survivors of Genocide against the Tutsi (AERG) has over the years improved their self-reliance by making use of a 120-hectare farm in Karangazi Sector in Nyagatare District.

The plot of land in Eastern Province is a gift to the association from President Paul Kagame to boost members' financial status and support vulnerable members.

Emmanuel Twahirwa, the AERG national coordinator, told Business Times that since taking over the land in 2014, they have used it to generate income consequently having more impact.

The land is used for diverse modern agricultural activities.

"Currently modern agriculture is being carried out on 60 hectares for maize, banana and horticulture. We also have 85 cows and 100 goats on the farm," Twahirwa said.

During the commemoration week, the association members carried out community work on the land including building a fence around the it as part of the weeklong commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

"We have also set up an irrigation system on the farm where we are partnering with a Kenyan company involved in modern farming. We harvest about 200 metric tonnes of maize every season. The 4.5 hectare banana plantations also significantly contributes to income," he said.

The members have also dug dams and boreholes for use with the modern irrigation system.

Twahirwa said the revenue generated from the agricultural activities enables the association runsits operations which include social support, counseling and trauma treatment as well as advocacy for members.

The association is however keen of fully maximizing the benefits.

"If we exploit the land optimally, the support could be greater with increased impacts on survivors and beneficiaries," he said.

Beyond re-investments in agriculture, the proceeds from the farm have also gone into setting up a counseling and legal helpline project which helps young survivors seeking support.

Other projects include Humura Nturiwenyine which trains association members to serve as trauma counselors who come in handy especially during commemoration period.

So far, over 3,200 members have been trained.

The association has also used some of the proceeds to further their youth entrepreneurship program which aims at providing entrepreneurial skills to vulnerable youth and reducing unemployment.

According to Twahirwa, during the 24th commemoration of the Genocide, they were able to renovate four houses for vulnerable genocide survivors and to construct 10 kitchen gardens as well as donating five cows.

So far, the members have constructed 19 houses for vulnerable survivors and rehabilitated another 14.

In the last 4 years, the association has participated in constructing about 13 kilometres of feeder road networks.

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