International female climate negotiators visit Rwanda Green Fund investment

Rwanda has hosted a workshop to strengthening the capacity of French-speaking female negotiators in sub-Saharan Africa as part of efforts to accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The five day training took place in Kigali and included 20 negotiators who will participate in the 25th session of the conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Chile in December.

As part of the workshop, participants joined a field visit to an Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) investment implemented by ARCOS Network (Albertine Rift Conservation Society) in Bugesera District. The participants visited KIOMIZANYA, a farmers’ cooperative supported through the project and Rugarama Village, one of the six focal villages of the project. The visit allowed participants to understand how local communities, especially women, are engaged and empowered to adapt and mitigate climate change and how the project has improved their lives. 

During the visit, beneficiaries introduced BEST* - an integrated and inclusive approach developed by ARCOS for community engagement and empowerment in climate-resilient and sustainable livelihood action. They explained how ARCOS supported inclusive and participatory transformation of Rugarama Village by establishing a Nature-Based Community Fund (NBCF) that supports this transformation process through small loans given to local communities to support income generating activities that integrate environmental considerations. The fund also supports common services and incentives are given to the best performers in the village. 

In addition, ARCOS supported the development of two farmers cooperatives in the village, KOIMIZANYA and KABONYA, by providing technical training in sustainable agriculture practices including livestock management and post-harvest facilities to enhance their business.

Betty Nyirangirimana, a Committee Member of KOIMIZANYA Cooperative, explained how ARCOS built their capacity in leadership, governance, planning and sustainable cooperative management. She stressed on the enhanced inclusiveness in cooperative governance and decision-making process, where now women are involved and have equal rights as men to participate in all cooperative operations, which was not the case before they start working with ARCOS.

Jean Bosco Murenzi, Chairperson of KOIMIZANYA, guided participants and explained the maize and pig businesses in place. From the seven pigs they started with, they have now reached 58 pigs after jus one year. These pigs are distributed among cooperative members for manure and income generation. He also explained that when they started working with ARCOS, they had Rwf 1,500,000 on the cooperative's account and no other assets.

Today, their annual turnover is Rwf 11,000,000 and they aim to reach at least Rwf 20,000,000/year by 2023. They have also bought one hectare of land where they farm and aim to increase this to four hectares by 2023. Additionally, they have acquired assets including a maize drying ground, pigs and common pig shelter and a cooperative office. Finally, the cooperative is eligible to apply for a loan from the NBCF and more than 15 cooperative members living in Rugarama Village have already received loans from the fund, which boosted their farming operations and livelihoods.

Participants visiting KOIMIZANYA piggery

Epiphanie Mukandanga, a member of KOIMIZANYA and citizen of Rugarama Village, shared how cooperative members are now more aware and have better technical capacity in sustainable practices including soil and water management, sustainable energy and agriculture.

“I invite you to visit Rugarama village, you will see every community member doing the best to harvest rain water and fighting erosion on their farm. Most of us have energy-saving cooking stoves and few have biogas. This is something you could not see a few years back,” she said. 

“I am also proud and confident to tell you that today I contribute to my household income using the skills I got through the training I was given by ARCOS in nursery management and fruit tree grafting. Nowadays, I work on cooperative’s nursery and earn money to take home. In addition, with a loan of Rwf 150,000 from the NBCF, I bought goats and after one year, my four goats had given birth to 6 baby goats. I have enough manure to use on my farm, which has made my farming more productive so I was easily able to pay back the loan, buy medical insurance for my family and I remain with two productive goats,” she said.

After listening to these testimonies, participants toured Lake Cyohoha North and the adjacent wetland to visit the irrigation system and tree nurseries. The irrigation system established through this project uses solar energy to pump water from the lake to water tanks constructed uphill, then the pumped water is used to irrigate uphill farms by gravity. This initiative was put in place to encourage farmers not to do farming in the wetland and wetland buffer by providing them alternative to use their uphill farms even during dry season. The delegates appreciated how much this irrigation system helped farmers to become resilient to climate change, especially the prolonged drought that affect the district. 

Cooperative members explaining the solar irrigation system. The water pumping site on the left and irrigation area on the right.

Today the cooperative can produce seedlings on contract basis, which contributes to the cooperative's income and livelihood of its members because they work in the nursery. Participants appreciated the ownership of beneficiaries and their long-term vision to sustain the project's achievements. They also appreciated ARCOS’ approach that enables inclusive and participatory transformation, through which all community members are engaged and empowered to participate in the process. They also shared how they liked the way women are confident and open minded to share experience and ideas that contribute to their own development and the development of the society to which they belong.

Participants visited the nursery site managed by the cooperative.

Participant Impressions

I really liked Epiphanie's testimony. She had the courage to take a loan and it is impressive the way such a decision could make a big change in her household,” said a participant from Cameroon.

“Congratulations to the ARCOS and FONERWA teams! You have achieved something big!” said Dancilla, from Rwanda.

“Rwanda has a perfect gender policy in place, and you are ensuring it gets implemented at community level! It is amazing to see both men and women participating confidently in these initiatives and sharing same vision.