Rwanda is Africa’s most densely populated country. More than 1,000 people occupy each square kilometer of the East African nation. On top of that, in Rwanda 56 per cent of those people live below the poverty line. Co-operatives are an important part of the nation’s food security strategy because sustaining the population from the available land is a constant challenge.

Now, the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) has signed an agreement with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to support agricultural co-operatives in Rwanda. This significant project is expected to last for five years with a total budget of approximately $CAD4.5 million. Of that, roughly $CAD3.5 million will come from CIDA. Nearly $CAD800,000 will be raised for the project by the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada. The remainder will be contributed as labour which will mean volunteers from Canada’s thriving co-operative movement will provide their services to the $CAD4.5 million project.

The nuts and the bolts of the deal will see a partnership with UGAMA (Centre de Services aux Co-opératives de Gitarama), IWACU (Centre for Co-op Research and Training) and CCA to assist 15 producer co-operatives to improve production, processing, storage and marketing. There are also initiatives including the construction of rice and maize mills, storage facilities, and water management systems planned. The success of a pilot initiative where participating farmers have registered dramatic increases in yields and improvements in storage and marketing provided the basis on which to reach this latest agreement.

“We are delighted to have this agreement signed so that we can get to work on this initiative,” said CCA’s Senior Director of International Development, Jo-Anne Ferguson. “Food security is a critical issue in Rwanda. We are fortunate to have excellent partners in UGAMA and IWACU and we are keen to take on this challenge.”