COABA (Bamboo Handcrafts Cooperative) is one of ARCOS’ community partners. It operates in Rutsiro District, Rwanda. COABA produces different materials from bamboo. COABA is composed of 32 members, 17 men and 15 women and it aims to work with more than 200 local community members of Tuwubungabunge (translated as “Let’s conserve Bamboo”) in Kamberi, Kabona, Murengeri cells to promote bamboo domestication and bamboo products, in Rutsiro district and at country level. COABA’s activities focus mainly on bamboo handcrafts making including hats, chairs, spoon holders, plates, light covers, etc.
“We produce quality materials and environmental conservation is one of our key guiding pillars. Bamboo is good at protecting against erosion”. COABA plants bamboo along the rivers and in farmland along the anti-errosive tranches, therefore contributing to erosion control and river bank protection. The local farmers are also motivated in domesticating bamboo in their farms because of a regular market for their bamboo.
COABA’s activities contribute much to the economic development, health and livelihoods of cooperative members. “We earn money from the materials we produce and from that, we are able to buy food, take our kids to school, pay medical insurance for our families and save some for future investments,” said one of cooperative members. It is not only cooperative members who benefit from the cooperative activities, COABA activities are also important for the village’s members in which it operates and in the whole district because in addition to the bamboo planted by the cooperative, COABA buys more from surrounding communities. Added the cooperative member. Again, local community can buy cooperative products at a low price comparatively to others, and COABA is committed to deliver training to any local person who wants to learn more about bamboo crafts making. The trainings target mainly youth and hence contribute to job creation and development of the surrounding community.
The big challenge for COABA’s activities is the lack of modern equipment that would help to produce high quality materials that would compete at international level. Limited financial resources for marketing our products is also a challenge. For instance, marketing our products through national exhibition is beyond our ability as hiring the booth during the exhibitions seems a bit more expensive to us. Another challenge is the low price given to our products which is far different from the time we invest in ensuring the quality products we make.
COABA produces quality materials good for Rwandese and foreigners. “Looking at the materials we use and the production process, our products are of good quality. Bamboo itself is one of plants that helps to protect and conserve the environment through erosion control”, UGEZIRWANDA Celestin.
COABA invites, individuals and institutions with interest to improving livelihoods and environmental sustainability to join in and support the cooperative in achieving its goals. COABA thanks the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network) for providing some equipment and renovation of COABA office as well as the trainings provided in cooperative management and environmental management. We trust that COABA will build its name in Rwanda and in the region because of the quality of its products.
By UGEZIRWANDA Celestin,
President of COABA