Dufatanye twese women’s cooperative

13, November 2013

Dufatanye in Kinyarwanda means ‘work together’ while twese is ‘all of us’, therefore dufatanye twese means ‘all of us working together ‘

The name reminded me of a similar group that I met in Northern Uganda; ‘WAWOTO KACEL’ which in Acholi translates into something similar like ‘let’s work together’

On 11, November, I left Kigali behind to the northern province of musanze. Before coming to Rwanda, I had been communicating with a young person who is part of a youth group based in musanze, and took this opportunity to visit the North and his youth cooperative.

Musanze is Rwanda’s most mountainous district, and from here you can see the largest part of the volcanoes national park, and its head office at Kinigi. Musanze is also where most of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas are found, making it the most popular tourist destination in the country. Five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga chain are within Musanze’s boundaries, with the Rwanda – Congo DRC border crossing over the peak of Karisimbi (lying at 4,507M). I debated about crossing over into Congo DRC’s Goma (there are frequent buses leaving Musanze throughout the day) for the weekend, but after asking around, no one seems to have good things to say about GOMA, except for lake Kivu and another volcano, the town was deserted and prone to conflict, but the M23 rebels recently gave up their arms and there is no telling if this finally is the end of the conflict in DRC.

Although Wikipedia tells me Musanze has one of the most agreeable climates in Rwanda, I came during rainy season and it has not stopped raining, from Kigali and now here, luckily I am not sleeping in my tent like I was in Kigali, and the days in musanze are warm, while the nights can be pretty cold. The weather has been pretty kind during the day (we’ll ignore the one where I was drenched running back to my host’s house), and also predictable, the clouds gather before the rain eventually starts to fall, which I found Kigali not to have.

Majority of the district’s population works in agriculture, and thus most of Musanze’s countryside has been stripped of its foliage and farmed to grow pyrethrum, sorghum, potatoes, African indigenous vegetables, etc. The volcanoes national park is still a rich and luscious habitat of green vegetation and animal life, but farmers outside of the park have taken over the land all the way to the park’s boundaries.

On Wednesday of this week, I visited ‘IMBARAGA CO OPERATIVE’, IMBARAGA means strength. The cooperative works with over 500,000 farmers mostly in the Northern Province, and has a vision to promote farming as a profession. ‘Dufatanye Twese’ is one of the cooperatives that works with IMBARAGA, and is made up of women who benefit from the ‘African indigenous vegetable’ scheme by having access to seeds, and collective farming.

The group is under the leadership of ‘Florida’ who also kindly agreed to give me an interview about the group’s activities, unfortunately this is only a few minutes because we were caught in the rain half way through recording, and because there was no shelter at the garden, we had to abandon post and run for shelter.

African indigenous vegetables are eaten across parts of Africa and have been proven to have nutrients that help combat malnutrition; they have also proven to be a source of income and employment for those who grow them; leaves are harvested and sold at the market or when the plant matures its seeds are picked, dried, and sold on to other farmers as well. IMBARAGA has 4 sites in musanze where quality seeds are produced and then distributed, because the seeds come from the cooperative, it is guaranteed they are clean and of good quality. There are 4 farmer groups currently working with IMBARAGA to grow African indigenous vegetables, with groups being made up of both men and women, but women’s numbers being the highest with only a handful of men involved.

Rwanda is a densely populated country with a population of 11million people, and because the country is mostly mountainous, much of the land has to be consolidated and the government encourages cooperative activity, with people working together to maximise the land available to them. I did not get chance to speak to the women about diversifying into other areas besides for farming, however they were mentioned being keen to visit other farmer groups and share some lessons with them….

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