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Dried vegetables for improved livelihoods in Rwanda

We will create and empower cooperatives in charge of drying, storing and selling agricultural surplus of refugee and Rwandan farmers.

Photo of Anne-Marie A
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Our idea is to create cooperatives of refugee and Rwandan farmers managing drying facilities where they will process agricultural surplus in order to extend their market or store the products in prevision of the hunger season. The cooperative members will be empowered through Livelihoods training such as business management and financial education. One drying facility which is adapted to the drying of different crops (mushrooms and cassava leaves) will be built in the vicinity of the camp. Indirect solar drying chambers have been selected as the technology that is the most adapted to the beneficiaries and to the environment in which they will be used. A passive solar dryer uses natural convection to heath the chamber. With an optimized ventilation, solar energy is all that is needed. Vegetables will be exposed to solar radiation through a clear covering. In this way, the use of the dryers will be similar to the traditional way of drying vegetables in Rwanda and will be adapted to the skills and knowledge of the beneficiaries. Solar dryers offer a standardize and relatively fast drying rate in all seasons, it protects from elements such as dust, rain or bugs, their retention of nutrients are high, and they conserve better the colour, the taste and the texture of the product. To optimize the conservation time, a storehouse will be built next to each drying facility to ensure that the products can be conserved in an environment where humidity and light are low.

WHO BENEFITS?

Rural Rwandan farming communities and refugee households living in the camps will benefit in many ways from this project. Mainly, small-scale cassava and mushrooms producers will benefit from it by selling their surplus or by having them ready for home consumption during the dry season. A cooperative of 8 producers will be formed in each camp. The members will benefit from the selling of the dried products by having a stable income all year long.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

In Rwanda, in the following districts: Gatsibo, Gicumbi, Gisagarama, Karongi, Nyamagabe, Kirehe, in the vicinity of the refugee camps. The pilot phase will be implemented in Gicumbi district in the vicinity of Gihembe refugee camp.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

ARC Rwanda is a non-profit that aims at improving resilience and self-reliance among refugees and their host-communities. Since 2014, we implement livelihoods and food security activities in six refugee camps in Rwanda.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

ARC implements its livelihoods program through six refugee camps in Rwanda by providing access to Village Saving and Loans Associations, small grants and microloans for small businesses, financial education, business skills training, and vocational training. We also support small scale livelihood agricultural-based activities such as kitchen gardens, mushroom production and poultry keeping. Some of our beneficiaries also cultivate their own plots. In the last years, ARC agricultural-based activities have increased agricultural production. However, we have seen that crop processing and linkages to the market have been left to the goodwill and networks of beneficiaries. The implementation of drying facilities aiming at creating value-addition to the products while increasing a stable access to food all year long would therefore be an innovation for the organization. We really see this challenge as an opportunity to develop value-chains for the crops produced by our beneficiaries. Finally, it is also an opportunity to start implementing activities that will truly benefit both refugees and Rwandans.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

More than having a positive impact on the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, this project aims to improve food security among both refugees and Rwanda nationals. We also think that it will have a strong effect on social cohesion between both communities and therefore be the premise for a stronger collaboration between camp residents and host-communities. The project aims to improve food security for our beneficiaries in two ways. We intend to dry highly nutritious crops such as cassava leaves or mushrooms. These crops also have the advantage of not losing a lot of their nutritional properties during the drying process. Also, by using a process that can extend the shelf-life of the product up to six months, we will specifically ensure the access to those important products during the dry season. Refugees can strongly contribute to social development and economic growth of the community hosting them. Our idea is unique because we will encourage social and economic collaboration between two communities that are usually not brought to work together while they can strongly benefit from each other.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

ARC Rwanda will implement the project. ARC’s program team includes a Food Security and Nutrition Technical Advisor, a Livelihoods and Economic Recovery Technical Advisor and a Shelter and Construction Technical Advisor. Two agronomists also work in the camps. A strong collaboration between ARC’s team, the sector authorities and the Rwandan civil society will also be necessary. After the project, the cooperatives leading the drying facilities will be supported technically by ARC.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

In Gihembe refugee camp, the main crop that produces a lot of surplus is mushroom. Rwandan farmers expressed the fact that they have a lot of surplus for cassava leaves. At first, we wanted to dry cassava tubers, but the production is not as high as expected in this region. Acknowledging that, we will concentrate our efforts on the drying of mushrooms and cassava leaves in the camp where we will implement the pilot. We also acknowledged that there is a market for dry cassava leaves in the communities where will implement the project, but it is not big enough to sell all our products. The market for dry mushroom is also very small in this region. We now plan to create partnerships with shops and restaurants in Kigali so that we can sell them our products. To do so, a new stage in the value-chain will be the packaging of the products. Finally, we assumed that host-community members and refugees were ready to work together, which is true. Nevertheless, Rwanda nationals living near a camp are used to be the ones providing services to refugees and not the contrary. Our project will include sensitization activities to ensure a strong collaboration between both communities

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

Which kind of activities will be implemented to sensitize host-community members and refugees to the advantages of working together? Will the markets we want to access be the same for each product and each region where the project will be implemented? How is the best way to reach businesses in Kigali to extend our market there? Where will be the best location for the facilities so that farmers can reach the site safely and easily? What will be the background of the members of the cooperative who will operate the solar dryer? How will we select them? How can we include cooperatives and associations of farmers so that they can benefit in a wider way from our services?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Poverty rates have decreased in Rwanda thanks to initiatives linking rural communities to economic opportunities. Yet, no project improving rural livelihoods has directly reached the farmers with whom we will work. Most of them still rely on subsistence farming, which is often not enough to cover basic needs. In Rwanda the humanitarian response has led to a strong dependence of refugees to aid agencies, impacting negatively their food security and economic status. We now operate a transition to sustainable solutions, but many refugees are reluctant to change. Also, initiatives bringing livelihood opportunities don’t reach all refugees. We have to extend our activities to improve resilience.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

We will improve the resilience of farmers in Rwanda by diversifying their sources of incomes and promoting a stable access to food. In a pilot we will test the best way to establish sustainable cooperatives which will operate crop drying facilities. We will first build the solar dryer and the storehouse. We will then form the cooperatives and offer entrepreneurship and technical training. Finally, we will mobilize the farmers to sell their production or use the dryer for home consumption.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • Between 6 months and a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within in 500 km of where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Above $1,000,000

Despite the significant economic development of Rwanda in the past 20 years, food insecurity and malnutrition continue to be a big challenge among rural Rwandan households, especially small scale farmers. Rwanda also hosts 150,000 Congolese and Burundian refugees, for whom income generation and food accessibility is a major challenge. Spoilage and waste of the food produced by refugee and Rwandan farmers decreases their chance to access better incomes while the members of their communities continue to face food insecurity.

The shelf life of many foods produced in Rwanda, like cassava, cassava and pumpkin leaves, and mushrooms, is very short (1-5 days for green vegetables and mushrooms). Due to the input time and energy of harvesting and preparation, up to 75% of cassava leaves get spoiled. During the dry season, deficits are observed affecting household food security because of higher commodity prices. Better preservation methods can help ensuring stable incomes and access to food in both communities throughout the year.

To reach this goal, ARC will increase collaboration between host-community members and refugees through the creation of food drying facilities managed by specifically trained cooperatives. Solar drying preserves foods from waste and spoilage more efficiently and effectively than most other techniques. It does not require a lot of equipment or technical knowledge, it uses free and renewable energy and it preserves many nutrients that are otherwise frequently lost during the packaging and preserving process. Increased access to solar drying facilities for farmers would go a long way in increasing family farmer incomes and stabilizing periods of economic uncertainty (i.e. ‘hunger seasons’). Furthermore, we see many advantages to dehydrated green vegetables and mushrooms, such as a conservation length that can reach up to 6 months, a preparation and cooking time reduced by half, and a decrease of 90% in their weight and volume, which facilitates transportation and storage (not to mention the health benefits of having access to healthy greens more year round).

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Anne-Marie,

The Amplify team and our experts have some feedback and questions for you:

Will it be legal for people in camps to work on this idea?

What benefit do you expect for both the processors and the small scale farmers.

How will the cooperative communicate with local farmers about the market needs? Will these be proactive or reactive exchanges?

Is the formation of the coop to benefit the larger community and provide food security during the dry season or it is a food drying business that the community can purchase food from during the dry season? I would like to know if drying facilities already exist and how they operate finically? Are they self-sufficient? Are farmers already drying their crops for their own use/survival?

I would suggest creating a (value ecosystem) map to chart out the exchange of service, products and money. I’m not quite clear how the ecosystem will currently be sustainable. If I am a farmer selling my goods to the cooperative during the harvest, am I buying back essentially the same goods during the dry season? Where will the initial funds come from to begin buying the first rotation of crops?

Looking forward to learning more! 

Photo of Anne-Marie A
Team

You can find the answers to the questions attached to the contribution. Thank you!

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thanks for letting me know Anne-Marie - and for answering our questions! 

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