USAID and Land O’Lakes Venture37 Celebrate Success at CD4 Closeout Event in Kigali
By Mutangana Emmanuel
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with Land O’Lakes Venture37, organized the closeout event of Cooperative Development Activity 4 (CD4) and highlighted the achievements of the project during its time in Rwanda. The event took place in Kigali, Rwanda on October 24th, 2023.
The USAID Cooperative Development Activity 4(CD4) is a five-year activity implemented in Lebanon, Malawi and Rwanda by Land O’ Lakes Venture 37.
Since 2018, in Rwanda, CD4 has increased the performance of cooperative enterprises to enhance the livelihoods of their members. The focus has been on promoting inclusive and resilient cooperative organizations, as well as strengthening research and learning efforts in the cooperative development sector. In Rwanda, CD4 has operated in three districts, namely Bugesera, Gicumbi, and Rwamagana, to support the economic transformation of 23 agriculture farmer-owned cooperative businesses.
Speaking at the event, Willy Nyirigira, Deputy Chief of Party for CD4 at Land O’ Lakes Venture37, highlighted the accomplishments of the project during its five-year duration and discussed the challenges it encountered.
He emphasized the significant role of their training program for cooperative leaders in improving their business performance and increasing production. Nyirigira acknowledged that without the determination of the cooperatives, they would not have achieved anything.
“Our efforts have enhanced the managerial capabilities of partner cooperatives involved in the sale of maize, legumes, fruits, and milk. This was achieved through training, coaching, establishing strategic market connections, and providing direct financing via grants. By offering coaching services, we equipped these cooperatives with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively and profitably manage their businesses.” He stated.
He also revealed that enabling environment helped them to strengthen apex organizations as they support and advocate for their members while encouraging networking and harmonization of cooperative development efforts.
Mr. Nyirigira added that CD4 has collaborated with the Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) to develop a five-year strategy governing the development of Rwanda’s cooperative sector. It also founded the first of it’s kind sector working group called the “Cooperative learning platform”.
He said that the CD4 project has promoted the principle of gender equality in cooperatives, which has increased the number of women working, through learning and dissemination, conducting research on various sticking points with Rwanda’s cooperative development sector and disseminating research findings, including potential solutions.
“Our project financed and disseminated five successful research studies in Rwanda, including its Gender Action Research, which highlighted challenges and opportunity for rural women in entrepreneurship. Throughout these activities, the project prioritized the inclusion of women and young people”. He said
“The activity conducted a major research and training program, Gender Action Research that is equipping women with financial literacy tools and more to help them move from traditional gender roles into income earning roles. 887 people have been reached through training sessions on gender, women’s empowerment in business and Gender Based Violence”. He explained.
In addition to the achievements, CD4 helped cooperatives leverage their strategic geographic positioning and improve their leaders’ professionalism through promoting food security and boosting revenues by linking cooperatives with better markets and inputs.
“Through our tailored business development services and coaching sessions, cooperatives learned how to diversity their businesses to increase their revenue. Primary cooperatives and apex in Rwanda had a positive trend in their revenue of 58 and 335 percent, respectively. They also learned how to successfully apply for grants and other funding opportunities in Rwanda, these opportunities helped our partners buy and distribute equipment like maize post-harvest handling machines and milk collection vessels” Nyirigira said.
Dr. Patrice Mugenzi, the Director General of the Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA), emphasized in his closing remarks that it is crucial for people to collaborate and safeguard the accomplishments of cooperatives throughout the five years that CD4 has been in operation.
“I am the new director of RCA in Rwanda. It has been three months, and during this time, I have observed several things that indicate that the cooperative is a pathway to sustainable development. What I mean to convey is that I have personally witnessed many of these partners who are involved in the cooperatives. We have encountered each other in various training sessions, whether organized by USAID or CD4. The objective of these trainings was to enhance our knowledge and skills, thereby enabling our cooperatives to continue their developmental journey.” He said.
“After hearing about the activities of the co-operatives, I would like to deliver a message to all those who desire to find a solution on their own rather than relying on others. This is what they refer to as innovation,” he said.
He also emphasized the cooperatives to pass on the knowledge they received in the CD4 trainings to the rest of the members, reminding them that even though CD4 can be permanent it can’t reach to all Rwandans.
“Another thing I want to let you know is that the best is ahead. We want the knowledge you have been given to reach as many as possible”
He concluded by saying that the most effective approach to working with partners is not to provide them with well-organized university courses, but rather to assist them in improving their existing practices. He wishes that the method employed by the CD4 teachers could be adopted universally so that individuals can find solutions to their specific problems.
Cyprien GAHUTU, president of COTINGOZA cooperative, reflected on the importance of Land O’ Lakes and how CD4 trainings has changed the lives of their cooperatives in a significant way.
He explained that if it wasn’t for CD4 in the past five years, their cooperatives would still be in chaos and would not have achieved anything.
“The trainings we received were conducted in three ways: trainings on good management of cooperatives, trainings on accounting, and trainings on business. These trainings were beneficial to us as they provided guidance and structure to our work. They also helped us to think critically and engage in activities that enhance the capabilities of our members,” he said.