Building sustainable Nature-Based Community Enterprises (NBCEs): KOAUKI resilience during COVID-19 Pandemic

Back in 2018, The Albertine Rift Conservation Society donated ten cows to a Banana Farmers’ Cooperative (KOAUKI) in Kigarama Sector of Kirehe District, Eastern Rwanda. Even though COVID-19 has been a great challenge to the operations of this cooperative, KOAUKI has tried to keep the momentum of practicing sustainable agriculture and improving livelihoods of its members.

Back in2018, The Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) donated ten dairy cows to KOAUKI, a Banana Farmers’ Cooperative based in Kigarama Sector of Kirehe District, Eastern Rwanda. This donation was under a 12-year Sustainability Agreement from 2016 to 2028 that ARCOS signed with the cooperative and the local government aiming to improve community livelihoods and environmental sustainability in the area where KOAUKI operates. 

KOAUKI is one among 650 NBCEs that build ARCOS community network in the region. Through this partnership KOAUKI members acquired a lot of knowledge in sustainable cooperative management, natural resources management and sustainable agriculture based on four pillars of ARCOS’ BEST Approach. It is now five years since this partnership came to existence. What has been the progress of this cooperative so far? How are they coping with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

In a beautiful evening of 18th August 2021, almost 5 pm past some minutes, a team made by four ARCOS staff members and its Executive Director are heading to KOAUKI’s office. The aim of this visit was to learn how their cooperative has been progressing and how it is adapting to the COVID-19 era. 

A quinquagenarian man with a smile on his face, stepped out of his team standing on the walk side of the KOAUKI’s office to welcome the ARCOS team. The man was the vice-president of the cooperative and is called Ruhamiriza Bernard. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 prevention measures, neither the vice-president nor his mates could hug or shake hands with ARCOS team. KOAUKI’s members alongside with the vice-president, welcomed the ARCOS team to their office and gave some updates on the status of the cooperative. 

“We are thankful to the existing partnership between us and ARCOS. Through it, we have achieved a lot. For instance we have managed to build ourselves an office for our cooperative and procured a piece of land of 1ha. In addition to that, 70 among 80 members are now registered in the long term saving scheme, Ejo Heza.” Said Ruhamiriza.

Even though COVID-19 has been a big challenge hindering the operations of this cooperative, KOAUKI has tried to keep producing banana. Ruhumuriza mentioned also that last year, every member of the cooperative was given a goat and now they started to reproduce. This has been a paramount achievement of KOAUKI as the members now access easily organic manure and health insurance for their households. 

Dr Sam Kanyamibwa, the Executive Director of ARCOS was happy with the improvement of the cooperative. He added that during this COVID-19 era, collaboration among members of KOAUKI should be key towards their development.