Scenic views of a rich vegetation and outstanding hills welcome you to Shyingiro Sector, at the foot of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. In this park edge sector lives 47-year-old Drucilla Mukabagwera a mother of 5 who together with several other women who have tailored their way into financial freedom.
In 2020 IGCP under its SIDA funded project – Leading the change donated 36 sewing machines to KOUSHI and Imbereheza Community-Based Conservation Organizations in Rwanda. The purpose of this was to enable the members diversify their livelihood options, boost their income, and improve standards of living which consequently reduces park dependence by the community.
About 73 members have utilized the sewing machines and earned income from them through tailoring. Mukabagwera Drucilla a KOUSHI member reveals that since she acquired the sewing machine a lot has changed, “for 25 years I tilled other people’s gardens for a daily wage of Rwf 300 ($3) which could barely feed my big family. And because we didn’t have enough, we always argued with my husband, however since I started earning more, I now realize that the major cause of all the violence was extreme poverty”. Drucilla adds that she has been able to buy two farmlands worth Rwf 2m ($2000), renovate her house and buy 5 sheep.
Chantal Turamyumukiza on the other hand reveals that she has been able to construct a residential house worth Rwf 2.7m ($2700) provide better food and necessities for her family as well as invest and save for the future of her children.
Since its initiation 4 years ago, the SIDA funded Leading the Change Project has contributed to livelihood improvement of park-edge communities and given families a chance to self-reliance.
“We have about 17 people involved in tailoring and on average, each takes home at least Rwf 3000 (3 $) during the low season and about Rwf 10,000 (10 $) during the peak seasons like Christmas, Easter and school term beginning,” says Eliezar Twizerimana, the Chairman of KOUSHI.
In addition to the daily earning, members can save at least Rwf 2000 (2 $) weekly. The members pool together their weekly savings and give it to one member at a time to invest into a development project of choice. This has seen members get even more financially independent and happy.
Because of the benefits realized so far, the community has grown to appreciate and support conservation work even more. For example, they vigilantly monitor and report illegal activities in and around the park as well as sensitize the rest of the community about the benefits of mountain gorilla conservation.
“We credit this project for job creation, women empowerment and boosting conservation awareness and support,” says Benjamin Mugabukomeye, IGCP-Rwanda Country Coordinator.