In Rwanda, an Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS Becomes a Strong and Vibrant Business Group 

Rwandan Women

PHOTO: Chili peppers were identified as a promising cash crop by WITINYA Cooperative in Rwanda..

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, with 72 members (13 male and 59 female), 42 of them living with HIV, 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.

farming pineapplesPHOTO: The  WITINYA Cooperative members started with chili pepper production and used its profits to invest into pineapple production.

In 2011 growing season, Witinya’s production profit was RwF 2.4 million (US$ 3,957.)  The cooperative invested RwF 700,000 (US$ 1,154.16) from that profit to purchase 39 goats which they have currently distributed amongst the members and they are multiplying (considered a Cooperative asset, not personal assets).

Members have most recently received their dividends in both cash and in assets – it generally falls within the range of RWF 10,000 to 19,000 (US$16.00 – US$32.00.) They have also purchased rabbits and distributed them to their members for their personal use (whether they want to multiply or consume.) In addition, the cooperative has leased three hectares of land from the government for five years to expand their production of pineapples and are currently focused on increasing the quality of their produce. Working to combine their harvest with another local coop, Witinya’s members hope to meet the minimum tonnage of 1.9 tons to sell to a processor in Kigali, who will pay them a higher rate for their produce.

The business planning training helped the cooperative members to innovative and initiate several income generating activities 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.