In Rwanda, an Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS Becomes a Strong and Vibrant Business Group
WITINYA, which in Kinyarwanda means “have no fear,” began its activities in 2005, as a group of neighbors infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS who came together to form an association with the purpose of social support and encouraging positive living. Seven years later, they are part of a thriving and self-sustaining cooperative in the District of Bugesera, in Rwanda.
Along the way, as required by the Rwandan government and for sustainability purposes, WITINYA needed to start generating revenues, as part of transitioning from an association to a cooperative. So after registering as a cooperative, WITINYA members received a series of cooperative management trainings in operations and governance to better understand the new structure. Through CHF’s EMIRGE Program, the cooperative also received specialized business assistance, including business planning, integration into growth value chains, agriculture technical assistance and market assistance through business exposure.
WITINYA was started with chili pepper production and used its profits to invest into pineapple production on three hectares of land. The cooperative is also providing additional services to its members, including markets for their products, employment during the harvesting period and inputs bulk purchasing.
WITINYA Cooperative’s Major Achievements are:
Through market linkages support the cooperative made sales of 462,839 Rfw (US $771) for both chili and pineapples (From January to August 2011 on a five-hectare pineapple plantation and a nine-hectare chili plantation).
Pineapple seeds were purchased for a value of 2,000,000 Rwf (US $3,300).
The cooperative participated in Rwanda’s Annual National Trade Fair in August and September 2011 to showcase its products and develop market relationships for future trade opportunities. Newly made marketing contacts are currently being evaluated.
WITINYA Cooperative has been selected as the best pineapple producing cooperative in Bugesera District by the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture’s Horticulture Authority (RHODA). RHODA supports the horticultural sector in Rwanda through capacity building, seed multiplication and technology demonstrations. RHODA has agreed to provide a technician who will offer ongoing technical assistance needed in pineapple production.
The business planning training helped the cooperative members to be innovative and initiate several income generating activities (IGAs) to support their families. In short, the cooperative changed from hand-out mindset to business mindset / profit making entity and as a result, members were able to meet their basic needs, such as health insurance, school materials and fees for their children.
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