May 22, 2017

Spirit of Learning in Rwanda

Since 2013, SPARK has been busy with the Cooperative Support Programme (CSP) in Rwanda. This programme aimed at offering assistance to Rwandan Cooperatives and Small or Medium Enterprises to increase the revenue of farming in the region, create more jobs and enhance food security.

CSP (2013-2017) was a joint project of SPARK, ICCO Terrafina, AgriProFocus and Agri-BDS Network in Rwanda and was funded by the Ministry of Foreign affairs of the Netherlands. Among its achievements, 1674 members of cooperatives were trained, 31 cooperatives received access to commercial loans for the first time and 53 cooperatives were linked to institutional buyers.  

In March 2017, to mark the last year of CSP, the SPARK team launched an e-booklet to share the results of the programme. The Rwandan cooperatives can simply swipe through different pages of the e-booklet, read about and learn from the fascinating experiences of their counterparts. This is expected to significantly improve the network of Rwandan cooperatives.   

Farmers to Lift Rwanda Cooperatives

The event was held in Lemigo Hotel in Rwanda and was widely attended by 83 participants representing government institutions, the Embassy of the Netherlands, a number of NGOs, financial institutions and private companies.

Marthe Paauwe, SPARK Country Manager in Rwanda, opened the ceremony by welcoming all participants, particularly those who contributed greatly to the success of CSP and added: “I want to welcome all of our partners in our learning journey. We are sure the valuable skills learned by farmers will take the Cooperatives to a higher level.”

Entrepreneurial orientation to benefit all

In the second part of the event a workshop was held to provide extra information on Agri-BDS Network and further discuss the Cooperative Movement in Rwanda. Among the hot topics of discussion, Inclusive Leadership and Cooperative Management, Access to Finance and Access to Markets seemed to pick the majority of interest among participants.

Pieter Dorst, The Head of Development Cooperation in the Embassy of the Netherlands, opened the workshop by talking about the Dutch Cooperative Movement, and emphasised: “the same positive results are achievable within the Rwandan Cooperatives”. The Dutch Cooperatives are the engine to a professional agriculture business, making the Netherlands the second largest agri-exporter in the world.

Mr. Dorst went on to reiterate the importance of lasting collaboration among Cooperatives and said: “CSP was a successful programme. Collaboration between Cooperatives, the government institutions, development partners and the private sector is crucial in order to boost the business performance of Cooperatives. We must all stand for a comprehensive entrepreneurial orientation within and among Cooperatives.”

Road Ahead focuses on Farmers and their Needs

In the closing ceremony of the event Laurent Ulimubenshi, the President of Agro-BDS Network, outlined his vision for the future of Cooperatives in Rwanda and said: “The agricultural business services should focus on developing farmer entrepreneurships. It is important for the network members to understand the real needs of their target clients.”