Friday, 20 February 2009

Many family members and friends have received traditional Rwandan baskets, called "agaseke" (the ones with the conical lids). This is a condensed article from the "New Times" which shows you just how useful and important the handicraft industry can be to individual Rwandan families.

Agaseke (Rwandan traditional basketry) is currently considered as one of Rwanda’s hottest export commodities. Also known as “Peace Baskets”, they have become a critical economic lifeline to many families. For example, in Ngoma, there are 15 cooperative societies of Agaseke weavers with about 150 members, 62 of them women.

The cooperatives are organised as a co-operative called Covepaki. Covepaki is the point of sale where they take their finished products for onward transmission to the export markets. This, according to the members, is the best way to sell their final products as it enables intending buyers to access the products from a centralised place.
Most of the members view Covepaki as an answer to their prayers, as it has helped them support their families with basic necessities and eradicated poverty in their homes.

“Compared to the situation I and my family were living before joining Covepaki, I now see a big step forward in development,” says 34-year old Cecile Mukamusoni, who has been a member since 2000 when the cooperative started its activities.
Mukamusoni, who says she started as a student, now earns between Rwf50, 000 and Rwf70,000 monthly. She has managed to buy land and a house for herself and her mother, the only surviving parent. She has also managed to pay school fees for three children, two of whom are her younger sister’ daughters.

Like any hardworking person, Mikamusoni has targets and aspirations. She hopes to own a cow and bring piped water in their home before this year ends. At 34 and still single, she also looks forward to getting married and raise her own family before the year’s end.

According to John Ndayisenga, 33, Covepaki has made his dreams come true. “I had never thought of owning a house not until I started working with Covepaki,” he says.
“It is until you try something that you know how beneficial it can be,” he added, disclosing that he had all along refused to learn how to weave Agaseke because he never thought of getting the best out of it. “I have now realised that everything is possible if you do it with one heart and love it.”

Another resident who gave his name as Ndayisenga, a bachelor, has managed to build a house worth Rwf.1m and he earns Rwf.50, 000 monthly.

Charles Ntezimana, a father of two says being a member of Covepaki has helped him buy land and iron sheets. He hopes to build his house before the year ends. “I see very many people out there who say they are jobless even when they never went to school. I urge them to join this industry and they will know the better side of it if they have not seen it when they get started,” he appeals.

According to Pascal Bazatsinda, the cooperative president, many members of the society appreciate what they do and the returns of their labour. He says every member earns approximately Rwf50, 000 a month.

Started in 1989, Covepaki stopped its activities in 1994 during the Genocide and it resumed its operations in 2000. It has since trained about 200 students most of whom have become members.
Bazatsinda, said the cooperative however still faces some shortcomings which include lack of a large market to sell their finished products and a shortage of skills among the members.

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