One cooperative in the Mushishiro sector of Muhanga district, Rwanda, is fully sold on renewable energy technologies. The awakening came through the president, Epiphania Mukarubariza.
The cooperative began in 2010, conceived by women who wanted to collectively farm and market maize. Now, the group of 19 women and two men, own 2ha of land on which they produce arrowroots, sweet potatoes, maize and cassava. Their biggest customers are schools in the sector.
“We encourage people to join and take advantage of the collective marketing. Being a group increases our chances of getting funds for new ventures we embark on”, Epiphania explained, adding that the purchase of improved cookstoves is one such fringe benefit. “I cannot tell you how much SNV has helped us; even the poorest member has a stove!”.
Epiphania lights up when she remembers how she came across the revolutionary cookstoves that have transformed lives in the households of her members.
“I was invited to a workshop where SNV was teaching about balanced diet and renewable energy. We also saw some stoves that were new to us. I came back and told my members what I had learnt. We decided to take a loan from the District Sacco to enable members to buy the stoves. As we waited for the loan, we attended an exhibition in Muhanga and placed an order for 21 stoves. SNV later delivered them to our village, and all the extra stoves were sold to villagers,” Epiphania narrated.
Epiphania and her cooperative members realise that renewable energy can only create impact if it is experienced. They have therefore began mobilisation campaigns in Mushishiro, during times when they are not working on the farm. The cooperative members gather residents in Mushishiro for diet clinics where they demonstrate the efficacy of the stoves. Through these clinics, they have been able to convince residents to eat balanced diets and put aside money to invest in stoves.