Farmers show the results of Canadian overseas assistance in photographs
OTTAWA (September 21, 2017) -   Rural women and men in two provinces of Rwanda are telling their stories of transformed farm businesses and gender equality in their homes, at work and in their communities through photographs they took this spring. A selection of images entitled Through Our Eyes was unveiled Wednesday by the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) and Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) as they celebrated the conclusion of a five-year initiative to strengthen fifteen farmer-owned and managed co-operative enterprises in the Southern and Eastern provinces of Rwanda.
"We wanted to know what fa rmers had to say about our work," says CDF Executive Director Michael Casey. "We as ked women and men involved in the project to answer that question through the lens of their disposable cameras. The process is called Photovoice and we employe d it to ensure that those who played the biggest role in this project had a say about the value they saw in it."
Their images show a dramatic change in the fortunes of smallholder farm households and their co-ops with post harvest losses reduced by almost 80% in just five years, and rice and maize production and sales quadrupled (432%) during the same period. Not surprisingly, membership in the co-operatives has nearly doubled.

Casey credits these gains with improved farm inputs and practices together with the greater involvement of women in the management of their co-operative enterprises and households. "Our experience shows there can be no sustainable food security without greater equality between men and women, and the full and equitable participation of women in farming,"says Casey.
"After five years, women now occupy nearly half of all leadership positions in their co-operatives. Each co-op ensures, through policy and practice, that women and men share equally in co-op decisions and benefits." He says men and women are sharing household chores and financial decisions, a shift that has allowed women the time to start small businesses that lessen household dependence on farm revenue and help cushion the impact of crop losses that can result from climate change.
The $4.5 million project was funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada. It received generous financial and technical support from Gay Lea Foods, a Canadian dairy co-operative owned by over 12,000 farmers and headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario. 
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The Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF)  is a registered charitable organization. It raises money, mostly from Canadian co-operatives and co-op members, and delivers programs to help smallholder farmers and producers achieve prosperity by building and strengthening financial and non-financial co-ops in developing countries. CDF amalgamated with the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) this summer and will launch its new brand this fall.
The Rwanda Co-operative Agricultural Growth Project was a five-year (2012-2017) project to assist fifteen producer co-operatives in the Southern and Eastern provinces of Rwanda to improve their production, processing, storage and marketing. The project was implemented by the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) with funds from the Government of Canada (through Global Affairs Canada) and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada.
Canadian Co-operative Association programs are undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada

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