Huye: A closer look at how SPARK project transformed residents’ lives

On 10 February 2024 at 07:54

Residents of Kigoma Sector in Huye District express gratitude for the impactful work carried out by the SPARK MicroGrants project. This initiative has not only elevated their mindsets but has also been a guiding force in their developmental journey, empowering them to sustain the ongoing progress.

Huye District also commends the noteworthy contribution of SPARK MicroGrants, recognizing it as a valuable partner in the successful implementation of performance contracts and other government initiatives.

Despite being situated in Huye District, which lacks high mountains, Kigoma Sector has a unique history as it previously belonged to the former Gikongoro Prefecture in the former Kinyamaka Commune. Although characterized by mountainous terrain, the area experienced delayed development.

Historically, the residents engaged in agricultural activities, yet lacked a stable vision, particularly due to the acidic nature of the local soil. In 2021, the introduction of the SPARK MicroGrants project marked a pivotal moment, aiming to inspire and actively involve the community in their development trajectory.

Two figures in the project, Jean Paul Byukusenge and Ernestine Umuhire, dedicated SPARK MicroGrants employees in Kigoma Sector, play a vital role in supporting residents in Kigoma Sector on their path to development.

Explaining their approach, Byukusenge emphasized, "In this Facilitated Collective Action Process [FCAP], the financial support we provide is preceded by a six-month training. During this period, village members are guided to contemplate their own projects, prepare comprehensive plans, and actively participate in the implementation phase."

Byukusenge elaborated that once the community selects a project aimed at enhancing the quality of life and development in their village, Spark Microgrants provides a grant of $8,000 (over Rwf8 million) to the partnered village. Additionally, the District extends support equivalent to 5% of the project.

Ernestine Umuhire emphasized that the choice of projects within the village is entirely based on the ideas of the people, ensuring that selected initiatives are beneficial and contribute to their development.

Umuhire highlighted the diverse range of projects undertaken, including the purchase of motorbikes, acquisition of cows, initiation of pig farming, loaning projects and more. She emphasized that these projects are bringing tangible benefits that positively impact the lives of all villagers, irrespective of age or gender.

"Even women, who are traditionally constrained by household duties, actively contribute valuable ideas for the village’s development," added Umuhire.

The positive transformations witnessed in Kigoma are mirrored in Kabingo Village, where village members express Gratitude to the FCAP model in their village. Appolinarie Mukanyabyenda, Kabingo village leader, credited SPARK Microgrants for awakening their perspectives and providing a platform for collaborative planning.

Mukanyabyenda explained that through guided meetings and advice from the community based facilitators (CBFs), the community analyzed their challenges, rediscovered their capabilities, and identified areas requiring intervention. She stated, "Entering the FCAP program allowed us to truly understand our village from every perspective. Knowing our position, we set the vision for ourselves."

This newfound clarity enabled Kabingo Village to utilize the grant effectively. They invested in pig farming, distributing pigs to over 50 residents and saving over Rwf3 million. The savings were then utilized to provide loans to locals engaged in various development projects.

Cyprien Ntakirutimana, a resident of Kabingo Village, shared his success story. After receiving pigs from Spark Microgrants in 2022, he diligently raised them, leading to successful breeding and the subsequent sale of piglets. With the proceeds, he purchased a cow, which he still owns today.

Ntakirutimana didn’t stop there; he utilized a loan from their village to establish a shop, demonstrating the ripple effect of community-driven development initiatives.

He expressed, "I’m thriving now because my business is growing with just a 2% interest rate. I’m truly succeeding in business and turning a profit. I recently bought a plot of land in the village and built a house. I haven’t been living here for long, but I’m improving, thanks to Spark."

Sebanani Innocent, another resident of Kabingo, shared his story of progress. Working at a barber shop in an area with limited electricity, he took initiative upon learning about the SPARK grant.

Sebanani requested a loan of Rwf30,000 from the village to purchase a solar-powered hair clipper.

Operating as a barber for five months, he offers affordable haircuts, charging Rwf100 for children, Rwf150 for boys and men, and Rwf200 for women. Sebanani serves 10 to 15 clients a day without the need for electricity expenses, using solar power.

Sebanani expressed his ambition to establish a modern barber shop, hire additional barbers, and continue contributing to the development process.

Overall, SPARK grants have enhanced agriculture in various villages, providing livestock to generate compost and foster healthy crop growth. Increased production has improved living standards, ensuring children have access to milk and other necessities in both Kigoma and Gishamvu sectors in Huye, where SPARK has current interventions.

Huye District administration highly commends SPARK MicroGrants for its impactful approach, beginning with the transformation of beneficiaries’ mindsets.

Mayor Sebutege Ange of Huye District acknowledged that SPARK support has reached 85 villages in Kigoma and Gishamvu sectors, leading to noticeable economic changes in the community. He emphasized the uniqueness of SPARK’s approach, where projects are derived from the ideas of the people, fostering collaboration and community-driven development.

Mayor Sebutege highlighted the commendable aspect of SPARK in uniting all residents, regardless of age or socio-economic status, to collectively embark on the journey of development.

He noted that wherever SPARK intervenes, the district’s performance standards rise, with residents gradually saving and gaining means to subscribe to Mutuelle de Santé. The project serves as a model, demonstrating that poverty eradication among residents is indeed possible.

The SPARK MicroGrants project, originally initiated in the United States of America, has been operational in Rwanda for nearly 14 years. Presently, it operates in six districts across Rwanda, including Huye, Gicumbi, Gakenke, Burera, Musanze, and Nyabihu. Additionally, the project extends its impact to other countries such as Uganda, Malawi, Burundi, Ghana, and Liberia.

Mayor Sebutege Ange of Huye District acknowledged that SPARK support has reached 85 villages in Kigoma and Gishamvu sectors, leading to noticeable economic changes in the community.
Spark Microgrants is a Community Driven Organization. All its work is guided by decisions made by community partners.
Loaning scheme projects helped village members to launch small businesses.
Loaning scheme projects helped village members to launch small businesses.
Cyprien Ntakirutimana, a resident of Kabingo Village diligently raised pigs, leading to successful breeding and the subsequent sale of pigs. With the proceeds, he purchased a cow, which he still owns today.
After unleashing her determination and putting in diligent effort, Cyurimpundu is now venturing into rental houses. Positioned strategically near a health facility and school, this initiative aims to generate income through rental payments.
Mukanemeye's banana plantation flourished following the acquisition of cows through the SPARK initiative, showcasing a substantial increase in production and highlighting the remarkable positive impact of the program.
The manure from livestock has enhanced crop production.
In the village of Kabingo, devoid of access to the main electricity grid, residents have taken the initiative to address the issue, opting to invest in solar panels to light their homes.