Charlotte and her husband have two children. Her family lives in the Bugesera District in the south east of Rwanda. She is a member of an AEE Rwanda self-help group (SHG) called Twitezimbere, which translates as “let’s develop ourselves economically”. This desire to find empowerment in themselves and not wait for someone to do it for them is a key principle of the SHG approach AEE Rwanda uses. When the people themselves take ownership of the change it continues and multiplies even after the official program ends.
Collectively the self-help group members have rented some land together, with the money from their collective savings. On this land, they are growing a crop of groundnuts, a popular peanut type nut that Rwandans eat by the handful. This collective farming will be a boost to them financially as well as helping them to work together and heal the social fabric that has been damaged in the past. Charlotte says” we expect a good harvest from our SHG groundnut plantation”.
After the initial training and savings that takes place in the self-help group Charlotte has now started to create small business that she can fund from borrowing money from the self-help groups internal bank, of which she is a member. Initially Charlotte took a loan of 30,000 RWF ($36 US) from the group and used it with 10,000 RWF ($12 US) from her savings to buy 3 goats and 1 chicken. She plans to sell the off-springs and expects to use the profit generated to expand the livestock she has by rearing an exotic cow (not a Rwandan cow but a western variety) that will produce more milk. This milk will be used for domestic consumption as well as selling the excess. The other significant product the cow produces is manure which is used on the garden drastically improving yield, which will allow them to shift from subsistence agriculture to the market-oriented agriculture. This shift in farming will allow Charlotte to purchase a more varied diet which will improve the nutrition status of her family. The cash will be used to purchase scholastic materials for her at pre-school aged children, which currently she cannot do as a subsistence based farmer.
For the time being, she works along with her husband doing casual work so as to be able to pay back the loan at weekly basis. ‘Being a member of a SHG helped me to save money. Now my personal savings have reached 35,000 RWF ($42 US).
‘The SHG also helped me to get other skills on nutrition, family planning, hygiene and sanitation, women and child rights, vision building and self-confidence.’ She added