March, 2024

Financial fundamentals for women

The Strategic Alliance – a collaboration between ETP, ETP members, and GIZ – supports initiatives to help more farmers achieve improved livelihoods through sustainable, community-level solutions.

The initiative was successful by focusing on three training approaches – Farmer Field Schools, Farmer Business Schools, and Village Savings and Loans Associations – that gave participants valuable new life skills.

Improving livelihoods reached 8,000 smallholder farmers and 32,000 tea workers directly across Malawi and Rwanda.

Meet Marthe

Marthe Mukanzirabatinya is the dynamic Chairperson of the KOBACYAMU Cooperative, established in 2000 in Kitabi, Nyamagabe district, southern Rwanda. She has already guided the organisation through two terms with her unwavering commitment to the group’s success. She has also supported the establishment of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) within the cooperative.

Under Marthe’s leadership, and in partnership with ETP,  the VSLAs have transcended its initial purpose. The cooperative’s economic success – with benefits reaching up to 100 million Rwandan francs – echoes her vision of a community thriving through tea farming.

“Today, a tea farmer is like a worker who gets paid monthly, on unchangeable dates,” she says of the area’s new economic security. “A worker who doesn’t starve, who gets medical care from the cooperative. All that because of working with ETP.”

Our partnership has also diversified local agriculture and educational initiatives, significantly growing financial literacy within the tea farming community. The KOBACYAMU VSLA’s reach extends to nearly 6,000 farmers, all of whom have benefited from its assistance.

The significance of tea

Despite the cooperative’s successes, challenges persist, such as coping with fluctuating tea prices. But Marthe remains dedicated to ensuring quality products, insisting that, as farmers, “We are required to go back to the source for good quality tea”.

She explains the reason for this:

“Tea has a great value to us because it’s the only farm product that has helped to solve most of our social and economic problems.”

Tea is a solid foundation allowing Marthe to evolve the VSLA – fostering economic independence, community well-being, and gender equality.

Financial understanding among women

Most important for Marthe is supporting the women of Kitabi. As a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated sector, she is evidence of what’s possible for others. Seminars promoting equality have paved the way for women to take leadership roles.

“Women are now respected in our country,” she explains, adding: “Seeing mostly women attend that school was amazing to me. When a woman receives money, and knows how to invest it, her life starts improving.”

Marthe envisions a legacy beyond her tenure, shaped by the power of women: “My greatest wish would be to be replaced by a woman”.