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Volume 10, Number 09, October 27, 2016

A good idea goes viral  
in rural Rwanda 
Mukankuzi Alphonsine says her co-op built nine additional maize dryers after seeing the impact of the one CCA provided.  
Farmers in rural Rwanda know a good idea when they see one. When a Canadian development project aiming to increase food security among smallholder farmers introduced a mechanism for drying maize three years ago, no one anticipated the level of interest it would spark.

"Dried maize sells for twice the price of undried maize," explains Fresnel Devalon, who manages the project for the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA). "We had the means to build just 12 drying facilities in five co-operatives. When farmers saw the financial and time-saving benefits of grouping their crops and drying them before selling to market, the idea really took off."

A building frenzy took hold within weeks of installing the drying facilities. A number of co-ops have since erected 16 similar dryers on their own initiative and  with funds they garnered from local authorities and other donors. "Even more dryers are being built as we speak," says Devalon.

Mukankusi Alphonsine, President of the IAMB co-operative near Muhanga, grows maize on her small family farm. She says the results from the crop dryer the CCA project built for her co-op spoke for themselves. "If we consider that each drying facility can hold 4.5 tons, the co-op can recuperate as much as 40.5 tons with the nine additional drying facilities we built ourselves. That's the equivalent of $10,800."

Ibrahim Habuhazi,  

"Before, when we dried our maize at home or in poorly built sheds, we lost a lot to rot, animals and theft," says Ibrahim Habuhazi, who credits the drying and storage services and training his co-op provides for the growth of his harvest and income. Benefits like this are incentives for younger farmers to resist the pull to seek better paying jobs in Kigali, jobs that Habuhazi says seldom materialize.

Back at IAMB Co-operative, Mukankusi says drying maize properly greatly reduces the crop losses associated with traditional home-based drying methods.  "The co-op now recuperates 15% of crop loss that would have occurred using traditional drying facilities. The dryers built by the project can each hold 30 tons of maize. If the same amount of product were to be dried using a traditional method, the co-operative would lose 4.5 tons, or the equivalent of $1200." Devalon says this recovered income helps smallholder farm families to better afford the food and goods they need.   

As well as reducing loss and improving income, farmers say using the dryers enhances the look and quality of their maize. It's cleaner and has no rot or discolouration from moisture. Farmers no longer have to move their maize outside each day to dry in the sun - a significant time-saver, nor buy plastic sheeting and trees for traditional drying. This benefits the environment. Theft in the co-op's centralized drying facilities is minimized, and there is the convenience of weighing crops at the dryer before being transported by the co-op to its storage facility.

A trained agronomist, Devalon says he knows something is working well when farmers take it upon themselves to replicate an idea without outside influence or encouragement. "This particular idea has gone viral among co-ops in rural Rwanda." 
CCA is helping farmers stem food shortages and become more resilient to climate change by enabling their agricultural co-ops to change the way farmer members grow, process and sell their crops. New drought and flood resistant seeds, conservation farming methods, and storage, drying and processing facilities are all giving farmers the leg up they need to sustainably improve their farm incomes and household nutrition. The four-year long project is increasing the value of production and incomes of over 17,600 farmer households.  It is funded by Global Affairs Canada and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada.
Learn more about CCA's work in Rwanda. 

 Charitable Number: 11887 5517 RR0001 


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CCA is a not-for-profit
 co-operative with a mission to establish and grow
co-operatives internationally that build a better world.


To achieve this mission, CCA works closely with Canadian co-operatives and credit unions to channel their knowledge and experience to partner organizations and 
co-operatives in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Eastern Europe and Caribbean.


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