Agnes Mukaloni, a pyrethrum (commonly known as chrysanthemum) farmer, says she never thought it would be possible to grow crops on land she called her own, but this season, she will do just that.
Mukaloni leads a women’s group of 30 pyrethrum farmers who organized to pool percentages of their incomes into a savings account, which they used in the latter months of 2013 to rent a plot of farmland for one year. The group was able to earn about $200 (120,000 Rwandan francs) in four months.
Pyrethrum is used both locally and internationally to produce insecticides such as Raid.
In Rwanda, access to land holds paramount significance in food security and income for families as the majority of the population relies on subsistence farming. The group’s purchase marked the first such endeavor for each of the women and a significant step toward building stronger livelihoods for their families.
The women organized through USAID’s Rwanda Pyrethrum Program, a three-year Global Development Alliance (GDA) public-private partnership with SC Johnson and the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, which began in 2012. The partnership is designed to help Rwanda pyrethrum farmers boost incomes while creating an environmentally and economically sustainable raw materials source in pyrethrum.
“It is very rewarding to see how these women have come together so successfully to make this operation a reality,” said Jeanne Nyirakamana, gender specialist for the Rwanda Pyrethrum Program and the group's primary contact. "Now, other women have seen the group’s progress and have shown much interest in joining and forming their own groups.”
While the women will continue to farm pyrethrum and engage in a cooperative system, they plan to use their new farmland to grow potatoes and pyrethrum, which are Rwanda's primary cash and food crops in the northern and western regions. Growing both plants allow the soil to remain nutrient-rich, instead of depleted as it would be if only one of the crops were planted.
Jean Claude Kayisinga, the head of the project for Texas A&M and SC Johnson, called the women’s success a sign that the program is making a difference in the lives of local farmers. “This small step is one of many that will transform the pyrethrum industry in Rwanda and boost the livelihoods of smallholders across the country,” he said.
Mukaloni, meanwhile, maintains a positive outlook for new possibilities. “The future is good,” she said. “We will be able to generate income through the plan that we have, and we will be able to alleviate poverty for our families.”
Last updated: February 20, 2015