The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Private Sector Driven Agricultural Growth Project (PSDAG) has partnered with Masaka Creamery Ltd, an American-owned company based in Rwanda that produces cultured dairy products which include yogurt, cheese and butter.
According to John Porter, the Managing Director of Masaka Creamery factory which is located in the Kigali Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Gasabo District, this partnership has enabled the factory to purchase “an investment of wonderful machinery and to reduce the risk of the private sector investor who are putting money in this project.”
He added “We have managed to do a lot of things because of this partnership and we are very thankful to the American People for their support which has enabled us to produce new products which have never been produced in Rwanda before except through this partnership.”
Masaka Creamery used a 234 Million RWF grant from USAID to acquire new dairy processing equipment, cold storage equipment, and milk quality laboratory equipment.
In a press statement sent to topafricanews.com, the USAID said “These investments will also increase the incomes of farmers who supply Masaka Creamery with milk and will help to meet market demand and quality requirements.”
17 out of 28 Staff at Masaka Creamery are Deaf
Arriving at Masaka Creamery Factory, you will see young boys and girls very active, smiling and presenting healthy faces both inside and outside of the factory.
What is very encouraging is that these young people have an ideal Team spirit and you cannot believe that among them there are 17 who live with hearing impairments.
Speaking at the Official launch of USAID-Masaka creamery Partnership, the US Ambassador to Rwanda, Peter Vrooman said “This is very meaningful for me to see such amazing project bringing milk products to people of Rwanda from the farmers of Rwanda.”
He added that “This is the first time I tasted IKIVUGUTO, but also for me this month I am to see first hands how the deaf community is participating in Agro-business! That’s really fantastic.”
Rwanda has put in place several measures and policies which support people living with disability while at the same time ensuring that this community is having access to employments as well as benefiting from other income generating activities.
Ambassador Vrooman noted that this month the British Colleagues and U.S Embassy will be working on “how to be more inclusive of people with disabilities in our programs and our staffing.”
He said Masaka is a great example how they can move forwards in various works and other programs.
Commenting on the launched partnership, Ambassador Vrooman said “Agri-business is the first priority of the Government of Rwanda for its development to provide Good foods for the region.”
“I think the potential to expand and Grow this business is meaningful not just for Rwanda but for the entire Region.” He added.
On behalf of Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Theogene Rutagwenda who is the Director General of Livestock in the Ministry said “this is the collaborative effort between the Ministry of Agriculture and the United States Government”.
He explained that the existing partnership between the USAID and the Ministry started back at the early years after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, through the Project called Land O’Lakes that was supported by the US Government and the main Objective was to produce the milk because the milk was not there.
“After the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi there was not enough milk. So it was a lot of collaborative effort to produce the milk, to nourish the people of Rwanda.”
“We are now moving to a second stage of adding value to that farmers’ milk. We will produce several products with value added to our raw material which is the milk. The farmers will benefit, the consumers will benefit, and everybody as well as the Economy will grow.”
He noted that the Government of Rwanda is looking for the way to increase the income of the population adding that “here at Masaka Creamery factory” the Government and partners are starting with increasing the income of the vulnerable population.
Speaking to Topafricanews.com, the Managing Director of Masaka Creamery Ltd John Porter revealed that “17 out of 28 staff members of Masaka Creamery factory are deaf.”
“We began hiring out that community because we brought in one women who was deaf and she was not in a good situation so we decided to give her employment and we saw that she thrived better in the community where there were people facing similar challenges. We hired intentionally as many people we found in that deaf community and it was really wonderful.” Porter said.
“For the business, this community of Rwanda, they might be disabled but they are not limited, they are wonderful people, very capable and they are looking for an opportunity to demonstrate what they have to offer, so it’s an honor to work with these people and I can myself be a beneficiary not a sponsor of deaf community,” He added.
Mr. Porter told this website that “Their performance is fantastic, they are much focused, they are smiley, they really care about the work they do….they are extremely high performers and this company has benefited greatly from them”
The Masaka Creamery factory was established in 2015 and it produces high quality Diary products for Rwanda and obviously in the region.
The investments made by Masaka Creamery with USAID support have boosted the company’s annual domestic sales by 200 percent, supported the development of eight new products (fresh cream, sour cream, butter, ghee, mascarpone, fruit yogurt, thick yogurt, Ikivuguto), and contributed to local economic development by enabling an increase of income by 20 percent for 2,000 milk farmers in the Eastern and Northern Provinces.
The new products have received the Rwanda Standards Board quality standard certification and are currently being sold to high-end hotels, restaurants and retail markets.
‘‘We are grateful to Masaka Creamery for having particularly employed the youth regardless of their disability (hearing) status. This is a perfect example of social inclusion and we hope that other businesses will draw into your footprints”. Says Jean Damascene, a representative of disabled workers at Masaka Creamery.