On December 22, 2015, Karongi District celebrated the sharing out of group dividends and savings by five Integrated Savings and Lending Groups (ISLGs), who represent another group of 226 ISLGs in the same district facilitated by the USAID Ejo Heza program through its Rwanda Partner Organizations Caritas and ADEPR.

The ISLGs presented their livestock purchased from their savings to the audience, who witnessed key achievements towards improving their livelihood.

Abahuza Mugambi from Gishyita sector testified: “With the sharing out of group dividends we purchased mattresses which replaced our traditional ones, and our group members purchased 4 pigs and 6 cows. We started using modern agriculture techniques and applied manure on our households’ fields and newly purchased land plots. We and our families have access to medical services. Our next step is to set up a cooperative; all administrative steps are completed, and we are waiting for authorization from the Rwanda Cooperative Agency”.

Richard Barute encountered USAID Ejo Heza when he had a child who was underweight. The USAID Ejo Heza nutrition group taught him how to provide a balanced diet for children, including micro-nutrients such as carrots, beet roots, and spinach. He learned the habit of cooking beet roots in almost every meal. The child’s health is restored. He also joined an ISLG. With the share outs, he bought a land plot on which he constructed a house. Now he is involved in the Mobisol energy solar project as an agent. He has a television and enjoys watching TV with his friends.

“With the first share outs I financed my wedding. Now I own a carpentry workshop worth 4 million Rwf (US $ 5,344)”, said Ismael Ndagiragije.

Umurenge Sacco of Mubuga Sector, a savings credit and cooperative, is providing access to formal financial services to the ISLGs with free access to accounts. Since 2014, Global Communities USAID Ejo Heza in partnership with COOPEC INKUNGA has offered a new youth savings product, known as Iteganyirize Rubyiruko,  translated to “youth let’s plan for the future”, comprised today of 800 young people in 30 savings groups. COOPEG INKUNGA started as a savings group composed of 38 people. Today COOPEG INKUNGA has a total savings of 1,112,000,000 Rwf (US $ 1,489,701) in the districts of Rutsiro and Karongi.

“Ejo Heza started its program in the poorest districts of the country, but today these districts are not among the poorest anymore. The program has mobilized 2,011 ISLGs in the eight districts which are key to development”, explained Laurien Jyambere, USAID Ejo Heza Senior Livelihood Team Leader.

“If you have a look on all the animals that have been brought to the district lawn, the work speaks for itself”,  said Aphrodice Mudacumura, Director of Investment, Employment and  Cooperatives Development, representing the Mayor of Karongi, “I encourage everyone who is not in a savings group yet to reach one, savings should become a culture for Rwandans. Our next target in the current performance contract is to create 2000 jobs. USAID Ejo Heza is a bridge to new entrepreneurship activities through the Integrated Savings and Lending Groups. People are saving and benefiting financial education leading to new investments,” he concluded.      

In an effort to tackle stunting in young children, USAID Ejo Heza is targeting donations of 1900 small animals to some of the poorest households and Be the Change Volunteers in its eight districts of operations.

A recent study conducted by USAID revealed that children under 5 years in rural areas of Rwanda experience stunted growth. Stunting has a major impact on children lives as it puts children at higher risk for chronic diseases, delayed cognitive development, reductions in academic achievement and future earnings.

USAID Ejo Heza beneficiaries and “Be the Change Volunteers” gathered on December 23, 2015, on the lawn in Gishamvu sector, Huye district, for the distribution of small animals organized by the Rwanda Partner Organization DUHAMIC ADRI.

To acquire 2 rabbits or hens, beneficiaries have to belong to the VUP Ubudehe categories 1 and 2, have a child under 2 years and not practicing any small animal husbandry.

“Be the Change Volunteers” get a goat or a pig in recognition of their support to beneficiaries in the community, helping operationalizing the program during four years. Goats and pigs not only represent a source of proteins, but are also source of income from the sale of meat and agriculture inputs such as manure.

In a speech to the beneficiaries, Jeanne d'Arc Nyirajyambere, USAID Ejo Heza Senior Nutrition Specialist, stressed the importance of protein consumption for the healthy growth of children under 2 years. She urged not to sell the eggs, the rabbit or chicken itself, and buying instead a bag of sweet potatoes. “For now, these animals are only for your own consumption. Your children need proteins for their healthy growth to avoid any delayed cognitive development caused by a lack of proteins as this condition will never be cured”.

Donatire M., mother of five children is grateful for the chicken and rabbit she received. “They will for sure make a change in our nutrition. In addition to the kitchen garden which provide us with micronutrients from vegetables, rabbits reproduce themselves very quickly and chicken lay eggs. On the long haul, poultry or chicken raising is a promising income generating activity”, she said.

“I preferred to choose 2 hens because of the eggs they are laying” added Marie Grace M., beneficiary and mother of four children.

Melanie W., mother of four children and “Be the Change” volunteer in a farmer field school is grateful for the goat she received.

On December 24th 2015, Global Communities launched the USAID Twiyubake program in Huye district.

The launch was presided over by Huye district’s Vice Mayor in charge of Economic Affairs, and attended by Executive Secretaries of its 8 sectors, representatives of the Rwanda National Police and Rwanda Defense Force, district staff in charge of public health, gender and family promotion, and representatives of DUHAMIC ADRI and Global Communities USAID Twiyubake.

The program will be implemented using the cascading approach through the subgrantee Rwanda Partner Organization DUHAMIC ADRI.

In his opening remarks, the Vice Mayor of Huye district, Cyprien Mutwarasibo, discussed the successful partnership the district has experienced with DUHAMIC ADRI, which is appreciated for its expertise in different programs implemented over the past ten years. He welcomed the USAID Twiyubake program as it is aligned with the Vision 2020 target to further reduce poverty. Twiyubake will implement some of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, of which the first is no poverty, the second zero hunger. “The district is working on these programs through mobilization but also needs funds and expertise which can only be achieved in partnership with the private sector, civil society and NGOs” he stated.

After a brief presentation by Global Communities of the program, including sectors to be covered, activities to be implemented, areas of intervention and selection and enrollment procedure of households, DUHAMIC ADRI presented the program targets and strategies for Huye to the district officials.

“In the  first year of implementation DUHAMIC ADRI is targeting enrolling 3000 households throughout the eights sectors, establishing 150 savings groups which are the entry point to further program services, and establishing 24 youth savings groups”, explained DUHAMIC ADRI Program Manager Verena Nyirabarinda.

Joint Action Development Forum (JAFD) representative Leon Pierre Kayitare praised Global Communities’ initiative to present and discuss the program prior to the start of program implementation. “We used to work on a day-to-day basis with DUHAMIC ADRI in the former USAID Higa Ubeho program. Their support has definitely contributed to Huye being the best performer in the implementation of the performance contracts for the year 2015-2016. I appreciate the good relationship with the Executive Secretaries of Huye sector and the good communication we use to have. The communication is key to avoid duplications and harmonize the different activities in the sectors. As we are all ambassadors, the implementation of the USAID Twiyubake program activities will be a success”, he concluded.

In line with the National Governance month, Nyaruguru District, on December 1, 2015, celebrated its socio-economic achievements marking the end of the District Mayor’s five-year mandate. The event brought together partners and farmers and featured the Annual District Open Day exhibition and a Share-Out celebration for USAID Ejo Heza Integrated Savings and Lending Groups (ISLGs).

“Nyaruguru which was ranked the fourth poorest district in 2010, with 61 % of its population under the poverty line, recorded a poverty rate of 47% in 2014, getting closer to the targeted rate of under 30% by 2018 as stated in the EDPRS 2”, remarked the District Mayor Francois Habitegeko.

Key to this success is the partnership with district partners in alignment to the national performance contract, avoiding duplication of efforts in the area. The district partners are International NGOs, local NGOs and cooperatives which presented at the Open Day exhibition their involvement in the district ranging from promoting savings groups, agricultural value chains to women and girls empowerment and much more.

Beneficiaries from various savings groups under the USAID Ejo Heza Program celebrated the sharing out of group dividends and savings accumulated over the last 12 month cycle by presenting to the audience the livestock they had purchased with their savings.

“We joined the USAID Ejo Heza Integrated Savings and Lending Group program two years ago and formed a savings group when we were destitute women. We started with 1,100 Rwf (1.47 US $) per month, after two years I bought a cow which calved, I sold the calf and now sell milk. We are 21 members, mostly women. Seven of us have acquired cows, others goats and pigs. Of course we will continue with this group, but in this new cycle we will contribute 1,100 Rwf per week to have greater disbursements. Our goal is to buy a land plot with a house”, testified Immaculata M, leader of the group. 

“It is amazing to see how most of you started saving around 1,000 Rwf (1.34 US $) per month and after two years you own a cow”, stated Waringa Kibe, Program Coordinator of Global Communities Ejo Heza Program. She encouraged the community to continue saving to reach their individual goals, which also contribute to those of the district and the country as a whole.

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