Widows find support in groups
Nyamasheke District stands out with its swaying coffee and banana trees and is one of the agriculturally-rich districts in the country. However, individual farmers use their small portions of land to mainly grow food crops.
The average family size is seven members according to Achen Mirriam, a community nutritional officer with Strive Foundation Rwanda. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left many widows having to be the sole providers for their families amid high poverty levels.
Strive Foundation Rwanda has partnered with the government and other organisations to provide supplementary feeding to families struggling to meet their daily needs.
Ms Achen said that on average, about 500 children aged five and below suffer from severe to moderate malnutrition every month, with a good number of them recording iron deficiencies in Nyamasheke district.
“We give fortified blended flours for porridge to affected and vulnerable children, pregnant and lactating mothers,” says Ms Achen.
Another concern in Nyamasheke District is the high rate of child-headed households. At 21 years, Uwizera Marthe heads a family of four, and she is also a mother of two children. Orphaned at a young age, Uwizera and her siblings have been part of the child-headed households programme, run by Strive Foundation Rwanda since 2009.
The programme caters for their medical insurance, school fees and has provided them with a cow for milk and built them a house. They also have a small kitchen garden, which they have been trained on maximizing.
Mukethimana Esperance, an agronomist in the district, works with 64 child-headed households to guide them on how to best manage their small parcels of land to become food secure.
In Huye District, women have been running the Ingoro Huye Ababeyi Co-operative in Mukoni Valley for the past 10 years. The project is run by Strive Foundation Rwanda in partnership with Human Help Network.
Mukashyaka Liberatha who lives in Nyarurembo village, Huye district, is a mother of four and is the president of the co-operative. She has been a member for the past 10 years.
“The district and the sector leaders mobilised s to come together and form a co-operative. We were trained on brickmaking as a way of making money.
The members are widows and single mothers, a majority of whom were widowed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” said Ms Liberatha.
The co-operative sells the bricks in bulk to construction companies and individuals for construction. The members have accumulated savings of over Rwf15 million in their bank account.
The project is self-sustaining and the co-operative pays for members’ medical insurance. Members are also able to earn a living each day, and get dividends from their savings.