Written by Christine Bigler and Chantal Ingabire.
The Northern Province of Rwanda is an agriculture high potential region. The transformation from a subsistence to market oriented agriculture production is in full swing. One driver of this transformation is agriculture cooperatives. The government of Rwanda support actively cooperatives with agriculture trainings, seed and fertilizer at a reduced price. This intervention helps cooperative members to make the step from home consumption to consumer oriented production. Chantal Mukeshimana is one of few top leaders of farmers ‘cooperatives in the region. She is the president of Coabiki and really proud of herself and her cooperative. At the moment Coabiki counts 86 members and they cultivate together 60 hectares of land. As she testified, the cooperative has seen a considerable growth in Irish potato production during the last years.. They expanded their potato sales in the capital city of Rwanda but particularly they identified a niche market in some big supermarkets of the city.
For the latter, Coabiki members under the leadership of Ms.Mukeshimana came up with an innovation of cleaning and packaging potato. Hence with technical support of some NGOs and government institutions, they have started to wash and pack their harvested potatoes in local hand-made basket which was making them even more attractive to consumers. . With this added value, the cooperative has the possibility to sell the potatoes for a good price to different supermarkets in Kigali. Unfortunately, the market demand for washed potatoes is still small at the moment and only a part of the crop production is sold to this decent price “ However, Ms.Mukeshimana and the cooperative members are confident with the development of agriculture in their area and they are convinced that value addition is one strategy to get more profit. At the moment the cooperative save money to buy a truck. The wish of the cooperative is, to transport the potatoes themselves to the selling point. With this step they hope to gain more accesses to the market and additional market information.