Kimironko: The life of former beggars, people with disabilities transformed by mushroom farming
By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
At least 70 former beggars and people with disabilities benefit from joint work in the pursuit of their family development.
The lives of these men, women and teenagers are being transformed, thanks to the support from UNDP and the Rwanda Governance Board through the Project entitled “Equip Children and Women Beggars as well as Persons with Disabilities with Skills for Life”.
This project, which is being implemented by the Peace and Hope Initiative targets vulnerable communities in Kimironko Sector, Gasabo District in the city of Kigali.
The long-term aim of the project is to help beneficiaries thrive through entrepreneurship and child development through education with a view to achieving Sustainable Development in the beneficiary families.
Some of the beneficiaries’ activities include mushroom farming joint projects which have now contributed to their social-economic change as they explain.
The project which is transforming the lives of former beggars and people with disabilities was conceived by Mr. Albert Musabyimana, Founder of Peace and Hope Initiatives together with his colleagues with a view to contributing to national poverty alleviation programs.
When you get to where these beneficiaries grow mushrooms in the Kimironko sector, you find them happy using their hands and these reflect the changes in their faces compared to the past when they had to live from begging and other antisocial behaviours.
Mrs. Ugiriwabo Julienne has a visual impairment. Only though she has that disability she leads one of the beneficiaries ‘group called TUZAMURANE Village Savings and Loan Association, (VSLs).
She says joining the Group has benefited them a lot.
“Joining this project has lifted us out of isolation. We met others and learned to grow mushrooms. We can now grow them ourselves.” Mrs. Ugiriwabo testified.
She added that she has been able to sell some mushroom produce which has positively impacted her life.
She explains that her disability didn’t prevent her from joining others because she is also able to use her own hands and knowledge.
“As you can see, I have a visual impairment. However, with the first mushroom harvest, I personally earned money to buy what I needed and to pay for the rent.” She noted
From her first income, Mrs. Ugiriwabo was able to earn Rwf 108,000 from which she managed to buy a Rwf 74,000 Cooking gas which also plays a part in Environmental protection.
Delphine Mukakagina is another beneficiary.
She also emphasised that the benefits from the group include getting out of isolation and continuing to thrive together.
“When we started this group, we started from scratch. Now we have come to an interesting level. We have gained a lot in our minds; we have learned how to move from one step to another and we want to continue to work together to find what works for us and our families.” Mukakagina said
She returns to the fact that children have moved out of poor living conditions because of the benefits they receive from the group.
“I have four children. All my children are learning well. They do well in school, they are able to eat well at noon and in the evening.” Mukakagina says
She added that “Even during the COVID 19 Lockdown we haven’t had much of an impact on us. We came here to work and they paid us Rwf 2000 and we bought food for our children. You can see that we have no problem and our children cannot return to street life.”
In fact, the activities of this project are making a difference in the lives of these beneficiaries and their families in a positive way.
In addition to these women, Mr. Vedaste Habinshuti who has a leg disability also confirms that the outcomes are obvious.
“This group has been a great help to me. I used to live in a loneliness mainly because of my disability. Today, I have no more loneliness. As good as I am now, I don’t see how I can explain it. I feel happy to be with others in the group and I love it so much.” He said
Twahirwa Innocent, Project Programs Officer, says the project is aimed at empowering the poorest, including former beggars and people with disabilities.
He explains that the initial activities include the cultivation of mushrooms which have now been harvested for the second time.
“This project is helping us change the lives of our beneficiaries and move them from one level to another,” he said.
According to Twahirwa, so far, they have been able to generate Rwf 1,400,000 from the mushroom farming.
“Now, we are using this income to expand project activities.” He said.
Based on the mushroom market, a kilo cost between Rwf 1700 and Rwf 2000.
For example, on Monday, August 2, 2021, they were able to harvest between 80 and 100 pounds. This means that they can harvest about Rwf 170,000 to Rwf 200,000 a day.
Twahirwa said that in order to support the project’s activities in a sustainable way, they have now started expanding the area for planting mushrooms and other vegetables to diversify their production.
Near the green house where they plant mushrooms, another plot has been prepared to expand agricultural activities starting with the cultivation of vegetables.
Mukantagara Cecile, 88 years old and the oldest of the group, commends the project funders for the contribution they are investing in their lives.
She said “Apart from the social benefits, the project has boosted the collaborative approach among the beneficiaries.”
“Being with others is great. It strengthens me. I could have stayed in bed, but now I am with the others working for our development. Thank you to the sponsor for taking me out of loneliness and being able to meet others” Mukantagara said.
This project is the fruit of the work of the Peace and Hope Initiative whose activities aim at supporting groups of people who have limited means to provide for their families and themselves.
The Peace and Hope Initiative has been advocating for orphans of the Genocide against the Tutsi who had given birth at early ages.
The organization started a school for those children whose parents were orphans and later launched a Primary School level to educate children from poor families in Kinyinya.
As the time went on, the Peace and Hope Initiative worked to expand charities to more vulnerable groups including former women beggars, children and persons with disabilities in Kimironko Sector of Gasabo District in the city of Kigali.
Undoubtedly the activities of the Peace and Hope Initiative are among the most important and life-changing for many.
Albert Musabyimana, founder of the Peace and Hope Initiative and Genocide survivor, says all of these have been taken into account in the context of continuing giving back to the country.
“We too have lived a bad life but by having a visionary leadership we have been able to achieve a lot so sharing it with others is a good sign of generosity.” Musabyimana said.