Valeria Mukarugerero, a 50-year old member of a pineapple production cooperative “Tuzamurane” tells of struggles in her line of work before she joined a cooperative.
“I used to harvest a lot of pineapples from my plantation, but the post-harvest losses were significantly high which saw us make little profit after every season”, narrates the mother of five.
The problem she encountered was common to most of the pineapple farmers in Kirehe District leading a section of farmers in the region to come together in 2005 to find a market for their produce.
“As we shared the same problem, we all agreed to sit down and find a lasting solution that would benefit for all farmers, and our community at large”, she added.
Coming together, they decided to start a cooperative of pineapple farmers, dubbed “Tuzamurane”. The cooperative would buy pineapples from farmers and supply them to different factories and markets.
As they were collecting their produce as one entity, it became easy to negotiate with entities and business that need pineapples as a raw material to manufacture juices, as well as different products.
That is how they managed to secure a contract with Inyange industries. The cooperative is also the main supplier to a large section of Kigali community markets such as Nyabugogo market, Kimisagara and Kimironko market.
After securing the tender from one of the biggest industries and markets, Tuzamurane members did not stop by there. In 2014, they sought a way to export their sliced pineapple fruits to the international market.
In this regard, they sought organic certification from ACOCERT, an international accrediting body that is based in France, and started exporting sliced pineapple products to France.
Members of the cooperative say that they export about two tons of sliced pineapple fruits each month to France.
Jean Damascene Hakuzimana, the President of the cooperative said the initiative which was created out of the citizen’s initiative has improved the standards of living of the cooperative’s members as well as the community at large.
“Recently, we have had disasters in our districts. We refunded them to repair their destroyed belongings and made sure they are not vulnerable to disasters,” he said.
The President added that the cooperative has grown to 141 members with revenue of about Rwf 30 million per month that is shared among the cooperative members who also benefit from selling their produce to the cooperative.
“It means they earn twice. We first buy pineapples from them for export and production, and when we get profits we share with members,” he said.
The improved standards of living are also testified by Valeria Mukarugerero, a pineapple farmer who was previously not in position to afford school fees for her children, but is now a landlady owning a five-room rental house.
The cooperative has also created employment opportunities for 26 people including farmers, food scientists, and others.
Emmanuel Mugabo, the Production Manager in the cooperative says that the developments were also supported by the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture and International Fund for Agricultural Development’s project to reduce the post-harvest losses through its designed project PASP (Post harvest and agribusiness support project).