The cooperative comprises of 55 farmers practicing agriculture on over 16 hectares using irrigation technologies under ‘Rwabicuma Project’ launched 2015.
Farmers say that ‘Diversity Venture Ltd’, a Kenyan company contracted to buy their produce did not pay Rwf 24 million worth of supplied produce, leading to the loss of chili in garden worth Rwf 78 million.
The company is locally represented by Mujawayezu Marie Immaculée.
Habimana Gérard, the president of ‘Jyambere Muhinzi Nyanza’ cooperative has told IGIHE that the contractor has only paid Rwf 2 of Rwf 24 million he owed them.
“He only paid us Rwf 2 million. Considering the unpaid balance and Rwf 78 million chili produce wasted in gardens, we count over Rwf 100 million losses,” he said.
Habimana has explained that agreements between the Kenyan company to buy produce were entered in August 2019 that supply started in February 2020.
“The contractor said she would pay in installments within two weeks and pay the rest on 30th August 2020. However, she only paid Rwf 2 million leaving the balance of Rwf 22,249,400 which she promised to pay upon return to take the remaining harvest. We ended up missing her that our produce was wasted in gardens,” he noted.
Habimana says the failed promise was made in May 2020.
Farmers appealed for support to different institutions including Nyanza district, National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) and the delegation of parliamentarians visiting the cooperative in November 2020 but efforts remained futile.
One of members called Batamuriza Martha has told IGIHE that he has left the cooperative due to underperformance emanating from the loss.
“I got discouraged and no longer participate in the cooperative’s activities because the contractor didn’t pay us. I can’t afford further investments,” she said.
Other members of ‘Jyambere Muhinzi Nyanza’ cooperative have appealed on leaders to help them recover the debts and find the right market for their produce.
“We would appreciate if we get direct access to the market without supplying to the contractor. We also request for support to process chili produce before selling,” said Habimana.
The mayor of Nyanza district, Ntazinda Erasme, recently promised these farmers to address the problem in collaboration with NAEB.
“People owing debts to farmers were summoned to explain how they will clear payments. We scheduled a meeting next week after Christmas for farmers to get details on how they will get payments,” he said.
Towards the end of December 2020, the contractor wrote a letter promising to visit farmers in January 2021 to discuss how to make payments in installments.
IGIHE has tried to speak to Mujawayezu representing Diversity Venture Ltd in Rwanda for comments on farmers’ accusations but declined to take phone calls.
Mayor Ntazinda said that they are designing a project that will set up a factory adding value to farmers’ produce to avoid similar risks.