Greetings, Kungabu Fan Club ~
and will soon be headed to Kungabu!
The Cyangugu region in southwestern Rwanda is one of the poorest in the country. The people depend on subsistence farming and the meager wages they earn working on tea plantations owned by Indian companies to survive. In an effort to lift themselves out of poverty, 30 families in the area near Lake Kivu decided to pool their labor to form a farming cooperative in 2008. They had a vision to start a business that would sustain all of the members: the farming of Tilapia fish. They named themselves, “Kungabu” which means “The Fish Farmers.”
Under the leadership of community elder Callixte Sebakungu, they collected a small amount of money from each cooperative member and were able to purchase the land they would need for 16 massive fish ponds.
Betsy Kain’s “Goats for Life” gave Kungabu $9,000 to purchase the tools, materials, and enough baby Tilapia needed to start the project. The co-op members dug the ponds by hand – an extraordinary accomplishment. They also constructed a rabbit house at the end of each pond – the rabbit droppings feed the young Tilapia corralled under the hutches with an underwater fence. The community managed the money wisely; grow their business and build a tiny office and store where they sell the fish.
In 2013, World Dance for Humanity inherited the Goats for Life program and made a commitment to Betsy to continue her work in Rwanda. We visited Kungabu for the first time in June of that year, and were present for their first Tilapia harvest. We helped them cut the ribbon in front of their new store, and watched them sell their very first fish.
One of our supporters and Rwanda travelers, Linda Lorenzen-Hughes, sponsored Kungabu member Jean Nsengumuremyi to attend a Fish Farming course in Uganda. Linda offered this gift in honor of her late husband, Bill Hughes, an avid fisherman.
A year into the project, the Tilapia were providing a good source of protein to the community, but they weren’t getting big enough to sell commercially. The Kungabu members learned that the adult Tilapia require special food available only in Uganda at a price they couldn’t afford. The food is made from locally grown crops – sorghum, soy, and cassava – but a special machine is needed to turn these grains into edible pellets. There is no machine of this kind in Rwanda.
Learning of this predicament, in the fall of 2015 Betsy decided to try and raise the money needed for this Fish Food Machine – while World Dance for Humanity focused on funding education, livestock, training, and business projects in the other 19 cooperatives. In December, Sadie Leventhal, a bright, energetic, and globally-conscious 12 year-old student from Santa Barbara Middle School, decided to help Betsy raise the funds through her Bat Mitzvah. Collectively, Betsy and Sadie raised $16,089!
With no Fish Food Machines available for purchase anywhere in Africa, Justin Bisengimana (WD4H Rwanda Program Director) set out to have the machine built in China. The machine construction was completed last spring, and by June, it had set out on the high seas, bound for the port of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. After a month in transport, on July 28, 2016 the machine arrived safely in Dar es Salaam. Justin is now working on arrangements to transport the machine through Tanzania to Kigali (Rwanda’s capital), then down to the Kungabu. We have worked out an arrangement with an experienced Ugandan technician who will assist the Kungabu with installation, production, and maintenance. He will be visiting Kungabu on August 8th to meet the Kungabu, review their plans for the machine, and come up with a scope of work and budget.
Once installed, this machine will be the first of its kind in Rwanda. We will be engaging a business consultant to make sure the enterprise starts out on the right track and progresses well, as there is great potential to take this community a long way in their development and set a model for other Rwandan communities.
We are so grateful to Betsy, Sadie, and all of their donors for bringing an important resource to the Kungabu community and to the people of Rwanda!
Thanks to a generous grant from one of our supporters that covers our modest administrative costs, 100% of each donation made to Kungabu will be utilized in the service of this community.