For Odette Mukarusagara the chance to be part of a Self-Help Group (SHG) run by AEE Rwanda with Kinder Not Hoffer was a life changing moment, she says “We were not able to get enough food due to infertile soil, lack of livestock, we did not easily get clothes and means of medical treatment, we were very poor. My husband was drunkard and abusive. This situation made me feeling alone and sad.” This was in 2011, now 6 years later so much has changed.
In the SHG the women received training in various topics such as saving & lending, business management and entrepreneurship, and part of this training involved each member weekly putting a small amount into a communal account that they can later withdraw from. For Odette her first time was borrowing 2,000Rwf ($2.50 US) which she used to buy and sell avocadoes to her neighbors, and with this small step her business started.
Soon Odette was borrowing more from the SHG and had increased her range of produce to include potatoes and sorghum and the profits increased. Soon she had enough credit history and deposit to go to a local bank SACCO (Savings and credit co-operative) and borrow 200,000Rwf ($250 US) a huge increase compared to where she was 12 months earlier. This 6-month loan was paid back in 4 months as she had started to buy and sell different crops (beans, sorghum and maize), buying them when the price was low at harvest time and selling them on when the price had increased, at this stage she was earning 43,00Rwf ($50 US) profit!
Again, she borrowed 400,000Rwf ($500 US) and added another branch to the growing business, one of buying small cows and selling them when they were older, again paying it back before it was due. As the business, has grown she has been able to move out of the grass thatched house she started with and is now living in the village in a house she built with running water and electricity. She currently has a 2 million ($2,400 US) RWF loan, she says “my business of cow and beef
trading is running well. I am able to get a profit of 250,000Rwf ($300 US) per month” which she can save at the bank to help her next business endeavor.
Six years later a lot has changed for this family, they now eat three good meals a day, she can afford to send them all to school, two are now in secondary school, and easily provide the materials needed. When asked about her marriage the change is dramatic “Before joining the group we used to have a lot of conflicts home but now things have changed he’s proud of my business because I can provide a lot of things for the family” and in fact they are working together in these business activities and the husband no longer drinks.
This amazing story of change and transformation has taken six years to be written, but it is happening all over the country and the shackles of poverty are broken and their amazing potential is unleashed.