“They said: You can do it”

As President of the IABM cooperative in Muhanga, Alphonsine Mukankusi is not simply focused on the figures. She has learned how to deal with people and how to take on responsibility. At the same time, her work helps her to come to terms with the past

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Alphonsine Mukankusi, 54, President of the IABM cooperative in Muhanga. © Karin Desmarowitz/Brot für die Welt

When Alphonsine Mukankusi laughs – and she laughs a lot – then you see the slight gap between her front teeth. But it is not just Alphonsine’s smile that immediately wins people over – it is also her quiet, deep voice, as well as her gaze: fixed, clear and warm. It is with this gaze that she studies the visitors to her sparse, sun-bathed office, as well as the entries in the thick folders next to her on the table. Earnings and outgoings, balance sheets, member details – Alphonsine knows all of the names and numbers. And so she should, because the 54-year-old is President of the agricultural cooperative IABM.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Fortinue Uwizeyimana with members of the cooperative.

Over the last five years, Alphonsine has risen to her task – and so has the maize cooperative that she leads: It now has around 800 members, 100 of whom are women. Alphonsine’s cooperative is supported by UGAMA, a local partner organisation of Bread for the World in Rwanda.

 

UGAMA has taken on the job of supporting the development of cooperatives so that the lives of rural families can be improved in the most effective way possible. Through its work, the organisation reaches around 220,000 people.

 

“It’s a good life today. Very different from the past."

 

Together, the members of Alphonsine’s cooperative farm the land that they lease from the government, using it to grow maize and soy. They sell a portion of the crops and distribute the rest among themselves. With her share, Alphonsine recently bought rice, sugar, oil, fruit and a small amount of meat at the market, and paid her first power bill – her house now has electricity. “It’s a good life today”, says Alphonsine. “Very different from the past."

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
The women support each other and work together.

 

For Alphonsine, the past means the years before 2007, before she joined the cooperative. “It was a bad time for me and my children”. When this tall, slim woman talks about those times, her voice loses its vibrancy and the smile disappears from her face – and so does that gap between her teeth. Alphonsine became a mother to five boys and three girls. She was married, but unhappy. The family had a goat but it belonged to her husband, as did the piece of land behind their hut – and he even considered his wife to be his property. “I had no rights whatsoever”, says Alphonsine. Neither she nor her children ever really had enough to eat. “We did grow potatoes, cassava and beans, but it was nothing like enough."

 

Work is like therapy

 

Her husband has since disappeared from her life. And so has the hunger. Since she became a member of the cooperative, Alphonsine and her children eat healthily, and there are vegetables on their plates every day. And there is enough money to buy clothes and pay school fees for the three youngest, who are now almost grown-ups themselves. But what is just as important to Alphonsine as the income and the work that she does through the cooperative is the fact that the group has helped her to regain her independence and her smile. Working there is a form of therapy for her. And the cooperative itself is a place of reconciliation in a country where, 20 years ago, a massacre led even to neighbours and relatives slaying each other with machetes, and where almost a million people were killed in three and a half months, with many more still traumatised today. After the genocide, the collective work in the cooperative gave Alphonsine hope again, and guided her back to her life. “The workers from CSC and my brothers and sisters in the groups showed me the way out of suffering after the civil war”, she says, pausing for a moment. Alphonsine managed to talk to other women about what they had experienced. And to share their grief for what they had lost. They learned to have faith in themselves again in this deeply divided country and to build a new society.

 

“I have raised eight children. A few hundred new members don’t scare me.”

 

“Today”, says Alphonsine, “I am a confident person." She gained this self-confidence in the cooperative, first in the field and then in her job as President. “The people from CSC said: You can do it." And they still say it now. Alphonsine is set to put herself forward as a candidate again. She is likely to win the vote. And that means her life will still be hectic. Appointments, meetings, conferences, searching for new members – and early every morning, she heads out into the field in front of the office. But none of this frightens Alphonsine. Quite the opposite: She would miss this job. Like her own children. Five of the eight now have a family of their own, and the house is slowly emptying. And that is another reason why Alphonsine is staying with the cooperative. It has become like her family. “I have raised eight children. A few hundred new members don’t scare me”, says Alphonsine, throwing her purple shawl over her shoulder as she gives a glimpse of that charming gap between her teeth.

 

 

Ruanda: Praesidentin Mukankusi erhielt den Preis für gute Kooperativenleitung der Africa Farmer Organisation. © Karin Desmarowitz/Brot für die Welt

Ruanda: Frauen der Kooperative "IABM" beim Auflockern des Bodens in den gemeinsamen Maisfeldern. © Karin Desmarowitz/Brot für die Welt

Die Frauen der landwirtschaftlichen Kooperative "IABM" auf dem Nachhauseweg von den gemeinsamen Maisfeldern. © Karin Desmarowitz/Brot für die Welt

Alphonsine Mukankusi soll als Präsidentin erneut kandidieren. © Karin Desmarowitz/Brot für die Welt

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'It has never been more possible'

Interview with Carin Smaller (Ceres2030)

Over a period of two years, the Ceres2030 team spent researching answers to the questions of how much it will how much it will cost to realize SDG 2 and where that money should be spent most effectively. IISD Senior Advisor and Ceres2030 Co-director Carin Smaller about small farmers, machine learning and women empowerment.

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Support for sustainable start-ups

Companies in Africa that need financing between $20,000 and $200,000 find relatively few investors, as this sector is too large for microcredit and too small for institutional investors. This creates a "gap in the middle" where companies have limited options. A project of the World Resource Institute provides a remedy with the Landaccelerator 2020.

A World Resources Institute project

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"Agricultural research unties the Gordian knot"

Interview with World Bank Vice President Voegele

The CGIAR agricultural research organization is systematically repositioning itself. We spoke with Juergen Voegele, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, about progress to date - and discuss what needs to be done collectively to stop global hunger in ten years.

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Video: 4 Questions to Claudia Makdristo

A video clip by Seedstars

Startups are booming in African agriculture. What are the current trend and challenges – and can other regions benefit from innovative approaches? A Video-Interview with Claudia Makadristo, Regional Manager of Seedstars  

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(c) Katapult/GIZ

The digitised farmyard

An interactive graphic Jan Rübel

Lots of apps are entering the market, but what really makes sense? For African agriculture, some of it seems like a gimmick, some like a real step forward. So this is what a smallholder farm in Africa could look like today - with the help of smartphones, internet and electricity. 

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Africa's digital disruption

Graphics

What Africa is experiencing in the course of digitisation is a disruption. Here three steps are taken in one, there you remain. In any case, the changes are enormous and bring some surprises. A graphic walk.

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Building our food systems back better

A contribution by Jes Weigelt and Alexander Müller

What is required to make food systems provide sufficient, healthy food while not harming the planet? How should food security be maintained given the threat posed by climate change? Our authors look at some aspects of tomorrow’s food systems against the backdrop of the corona crisis.

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(c) Klara Palatova/WFP

A global signpost: What way is the market, please?

A contribution by the World Food Programme

There is a clear global task: We need to feed nine billion people by 2050. We, the people of Earth, must produce more food and waste less. That is the top priority of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), too - the description of a challenge.

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Gender equality: Essential for food and nutrition security

A contribution by Carsta Neuenroth (BfdW)

The majority of producers in developing countries are women. Although they contribute significantly to the food security of their families, they remain chronically disadvantaged in male-dominated agriculture in terms of access to land, credit, technology and education.

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Not waiting for a savior

An article by Lidet Tadesse

While Africa is the least affected region by Covid-19 so far, the number of confirmed cases and deaths on the continent is quickly rising. Despite the challenges many African countries continue to face, the African response to the coronavirus pandemic displays innovation and ingenuity.

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A partnership to fight hunger

A contribution by GAFSP

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) was launched by the G20 countries in 2010 in response to the 2008-09 food price crisis to increase both public and private investment in agriculture. An overview of the programme's approach, results and impact.

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What do you expect from this Pre Summit, Mr. Haddad?

Interview with Lawrence Haddad (GAIN)

Nutrition experts from all over the world are coming together in Rome. They are not only distilling 2000 ideas to improve food systems - they are also preparing for the big UN summit in New York in September. An interview. 

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Mr. Campari, how do we create sustainable food systems?

Interview with Joao Campari (WWF)

Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Joao Campari ahead of the UNFSS Pre-Summit. The Chair of Action Track 3 highlights key challenges in transforming existing food systems towards sustainable production and shares his expectations for the Summit.

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Investing in Healthy Soils: Curse or Blessing?

A Contribution by WWF

How investing in healthy soils provides incentives for more sustainable agriculture even as it demonstrates the need for far reaching changes in the agrisector.

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Successful Blueprints for African Agriculture

A Contribution by GIZ

At the 8th German-African Agribusiness Forum (GAAF) representatives from business and politics discussed successful investment models to improve living conditions in Africa.

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Together towards Sustainable Development: Private Sector Cooperation

A Multimedia-Toolbox by GIZ

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through responsible investments in the agri-food sector of emerging countries.

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"Human capital will play a pivotal role in the transformation of African economies"

A contribution by Ben Leyka

The potential the African food sector holds is still far too strongly associated with the continent’s natural resources, Ben Leyka maintains. He seeks to change this with the African Agri Council.

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5 Questions for Jann Lay: What is Corona doing to the economy?

Interview with Jann Lay (GIGA)

The Corona pandemic is hitting economies around the world very hard - but developments in African countries are quite diverse. There are different speeds, resiliences and vulnerabilities. What are the reasons for this? Apl. Prof. Jann Lay of the GIGA Institute provides answers.

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CompensACTION aims to reward farmers for climate performance

A Contribution of the Initiative

The CompensACTION Initiative for food security and a healthy planet, launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in 2022, is gaining momentum. It aims to financially compensate smallholder farmers for their contribution to preserving ecosystems. Initial successes have been achieved in Ethiopia, Lesotho and Brazil.

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Innovative donor approaches and sustainable finance – A Review of UNFSS+2

A contribution by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development

Two years following the UN Food Systems Summit, the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development and the Shamba Centre for Food & Climate hosted an official side event at the UNFSS+2. The event explored how public donors can increase the impact of their investments.

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KLAUS WOHLMANN / GIZ

Wanted: German investment in African agriculture

Interview with Stefan Liebing

Stefan Liebing is chairman of the Africa Association of German Business. The manager calls for a better structure of African farms. Jan Rübel asked him about small farmers, the opportunities for German start-ups and a new fund.

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Developing countries hit doubly hard by coronavirus

A contribution by Gunter Beger (BMZ)

In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

A report by Stig Tanzmann

Time to dig deeper: We can only benefit from technical progress if we have a solid legal framework for everybody. But so far, none is in sight - in many countries. Instead, international corporations grow ever more powerful.

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Frank Schultze / Agentur_ZS

The communicator

A contribution by Jan Rübel

What do electrical engineering, telecommunications and agriculture have in common? They arouse the passion of Strive Masiyiwa: Thirty years ago, he started an electrical installation company with $75, later riding the telecommunications wave as a pioneer. Today he is committed to transforming African agriculture.

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(c) Privat

Borderless food security

A contribution by Christine Wieck

Enabling smallholders to trade across regions and borders promotes food security and economic growth. Although everyone is calling for exactly that, implementation is still difficult

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© GIZ

Actual Analysis: The locusts came with the crises

A report by Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)

The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.

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Our Food Systems are in Urgent Need of Crisis-Proofing: what needs to be done

An Artikel by TMG

Based on a scientific study by TMG Think Tank, the authors highlight various challenges in the fight against the hunger crisis. The findings show that climate change, conflict and covid-19 are increasing food and energy prices.

 

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2022, a year of crisis – What does it mean for African trade and food security?

A Contribution by Ousmane Badiane

The Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor 2022 (AATM) was published by IFPRI and AKADEMIYA2063. The report analyses the short- and long-term trends and drivers of African agricultural trade flows, including regional policies and the role of global markets.

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COVID-19 and Rising Food Prices: What’s Really Happening?

A Contribution by IFPRI

Taking a look at the data (as of February 11th 2022) what the current price hike means for world hunger and what can be done to prevent from another food crisis.

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Agricultural prices and food security – a complex relationship

A Contribution by Dr. Fatima Olanike Kareem and Dr. Olayinka Idowu Kareem

High agricultural prices affect developed and developing countries alike, but the problem is aggravated for the latter through the lack of or inadequate resilience measures. Dr. Fatima Olanike Kareem, AKADEMIYA2063, and Dr. Olayinka Idowu Kareem, University of Hohenheim, explain what can be done to mitigate the negative effects on food security.

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Earth’s well, all’s well!

A Contribution by Fairtrade Germany

With the annual topic "Earth’s well, all’s well!", Fairtrade Germany is focusing on the concept of agroecology at all levels - and is thus taking the next step towards achieving greater global sustainability. At the Green Week trade fair, Fairtrade Germany will show how this can be achieved taking the cocoa supply chain as an example.

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(c) Joerg Boethling/GIZ

"We are not Uber for tractors"

Interview with Jehiel Oliver

Jehiel Oliver was a successful consultant. One day, he quit his job in investment banking to become a social entrepreneur. His mission: tractors for Africa. Rental tractors. What gave him that idea? Find out in his interview with Jan Rübel.

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© AHA

The farmes themselves are the benchmark

A contribution by Andreas Quiring

Strong farmes are the key to a self-determined, sustainable development. Social innovations can help make the farmers’ actual needs the benchmark.

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How the self-help approach empowers smallholder women

A report by INEF and Kindernothilfe

Supporting groups of smallholding women substantially contributes to strengthen rural operations economically. The organisation and associated group activities can help to reduce extreme poverty and improve the food situation.

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How Smallholders became Commodity Suppliers

Small farmers are often left behind in African agriculture. Access to markets and improved competitiveness can only be achieved if the small farms join forces. But those affected in partner countries are often at a loss as to how to implement cooperative models. Here, the BMZ provides support through the SEWOH ONE World – NO Hunger initiative and the Social Structure Promotion (Sozialstrukturförderung).

A project by Deutscher Genossenschafts- und Raiffeisenverband e. V.

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'The Doors are Open - We Farmers are Ready'

An Interview with Shamika Mone (INOFO) and Elizabeth Nsimadala (EAFF)

At the UN Food Systems Summit, farmers organizations have been represented on the international stage for the first time ever. Two representatives talk about bridging personal aspirations with the representation of regional needs and international negotiations.

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How farmers are facing the crisis

A contribution by GIZ

Russia's war against Ukraine and its impact on food, energy and fertiliser prices is worrying farmers all over the world. Young farmers, farmer organisations and politicians from Kenya, Chad and Ukraine tell their stories and what keeps them in agriculture.

 

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“We have to focus on sustainability”

An interview with Karen Mapusua

Karen Mapusua, President of IFOAM Organics International Network, on the danger of the current fuel crises and inflation to loose track in sustainablity, why organic farmers should be heard and how the word “crisis” has a very different meaning where she lives in Fiji.

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Governor's Day with Farmers – For more discussion with local actors

A contribution by William Onura and Larissa Stiem-Bhatia

In agriculture it is important to include political stakeholders in the discourse. To build the bridge between practical application and political action, the think tank TMG launched the Governor's Day with Farmers in Kakamega County, Kenya. Now it took place for the second time. But what are the goals and benefits of the Governor's Day?

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Farmers' organizations want to be involved in designing agricultural policy

An interview with Kolyang Palebele

Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. "Women and young people need access to land. And they need financial support to cultivate this land." - says Kolyang Palebele, President of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO).

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Young farmers as custodians of transformation

An Interview with William Madudike

How can rural economies become viable and modern? William Madudike, youth representative of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) and a potato farmer himself, examines this question. He argues that the whole rural economy and actors from producers to consumers need to be considered. An interview on the initiative role of youth.

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Learning from Each Other

An Interview with Dr. Jacqueline Mkindi

Partnerships are needed to face the multiple shocks for food systems. This is what Dr. Jacqueline Mkindi, president of the Agriculture Council Tanzania (ACT) and CEO of the Tanzanian Horticulture Association (TAHA) states.

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