April 30, 2015

SPARK IGNITE: Rwandan Youth Unite Under Ubumwe, the therapeutic farm

*Written by Violet Busingye- Programme Officer for SPARK Kigali, Rwanda

Supported by SPARK, AERG is an association of students and widows who survived the genocide in Rwanda. Its main focus is to support young survivors and widows overcome psychological trauma experienced, provide legal assistance and mitigate high levels of unemployment. Founded in 1996, AERG currently represents over 43,000 student survivors from 272 secondary schools and 33 tertiary and higher institutions. It has become a safe haven where young survivors can support and empower each other through difficult times. Under the, the Youth Entrepreneurship Training Programme (YETP), SPARK supports AERG by providing entrepreneurial skills and tools to assist young survivors through their reintegration into society, designed to restore their faith in life and set them up for a bright future ahead. Since its launch in 2012, YETP has supported up to 600 young survivors to harness their skills, improve access to quality employment and guide them through their entrepreneurial ventures.

Meet Ubumwe

SPARK recently caught up with a group of 17 young survivors supported by AERG who decided to pool together their talents and skills to build an enterprise collaboratively. Through the YETP they created a cooperative named “Ubumwe”, meaning Unity in Kinyarwanda, to start up a business. It all began when the group would meet twice a month to share the challenges and hardships they faced both at home and school. Since many of them no longer have any close relatives, the group depends on each other for mentorship and advice. Having built a strong bond of loyalty and trust over the years, the 17 youngsters committed to starting a business together to support themselves and make an honest living. Working hard and being part of a thriving business would build confidence and pride and encourage those in the group struggling more than others. Ubumwe is an inclusive cooperative and aims to help members outside of the group as well by providing jobs, useful skills and a positive, proactive example for young people in Kigarama.


Therapeutic Farm

To set their plan into motion, the 17 young entrepreneurs reached out to their district and were given a piece of land to work with. They eventually decided to use the land for farming as many members of the group were passionate about farming and found agribusiness to be one of the quickest income generating businesses they could pursue. The business is already experiencing growth with over 40 pigs on the farm having started with just 4. Currently they are growing maize on their land and keeping their pigs for sale which has proven to be very profitable. Although they have hired 7 employees to help on the farm, all 17 members of the group participate in cultivating the land as well and have divided the tasks according to the interest and skills of each member. Having started their business with only $300 USD in their pocket, they are currently generating a monthly turnover of $1,500 USD. They expressed that although it may sound like ‘small money’ to some, the success and impact of their business transcends financial gain. The business has helped several members of Ubumwe, many of which are orphans, to sustain a higher quality of life. Before the farm, many of the youngsters worked petty odd jobs, having to walk long distances without enough food to eat while on the job. The farm has given them a purpose; having somewhere to go every morning and being able to take pride in their work has been a transformative experience for the better in the lives of these young survivors.

Building a Social Enterprise

This is only the beginning for this resilient and ambitious group of young entrepreneurs. In the future, Ubumwe plans to establish a pig meat processing factory with a large slaughterhouse. They hope to turn their business into a social enterprise where they will select a number of poor homes needing an income or extra financial support, providing them with piglets to raise and breed which the business will then purchase back from the chosen families once they are grown. This way, struggling families in Kigarama are able to earn a living and the factory will have a constant supply, truly a win-win situation. Furthermore, Ubumwe plans to commercialize their products and develop their brand more by selling milled maize, packaging it and marking it with their company name. When planning for the future and the expansion of their enterprise, Ubumwe continues to prioritize the well-being of the members of their group while ensuring their business also makes a positive social impact on the lives of those in their community. Ubumwe is for everyone.

SPARK IGNITE is SPARK’s blog of stories, updates and opinions by SPARK staff, on relevant topics in the news, stories from the fields, and what inspire us to do what we do.  We welcome external contributions; to contribute please contact media[at]