Valerie can’t stop smiling. A few years ago she was lonely and isolated, a widow struggling to earn an income. But together with 450 other women in the hilly Rutunga district of Rwanda, she is now a farmer.
Valerie’s journey started in 2013, when she joined our 3-year Aspire project to lift 450 women out of poverty. Valerie and the other women received intensive agricultural training and the set up costs to start farming. With the support of the project’s agronomist they cultivated their land and formed a cooperative in order to bargain collectively and receive the best price for their harvests.
But when the project ended in March of this year, Valerie and her colleagues were worried about managing the farm on their own. She explained that climate change has made farming more difficult and labour intensive in recent years because the women have to spend so much time irrigating the fields. She was anxious that without our support they would fail.
However, Valerie and the other women remembered their training and gave it a try, despite the hard work involved. And it’s a good thing they did, because together they have harvested 60,000 kilos of French beans and each woman has earned a profit of $274 or £227, a sum Valerie can scarcely believe possible.
Now that she has seen her first harvest, Valerie has renewed confidence in herself and her own skills. She is also determined to save money to send her children to school and pay for health insurance. She looks forward to other Aspire trainees coming to see what the women in her cooperative have achieved, boosting their belief in their own capacity to change their lives.
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