The Rubaya Program at the Engineers Without Borders New York Professional Chapter has partnered with Goodneighbors, a maize farming cooperative out of northern Rwanda, since July 2015. The goal of the partnership is to support Goodneighbors’ economic development activities by elevating existing small-scale agricultural practices into a sustainable business.
The maize storage facility is intended to house the future mill plant, as well as, store harvested maize in dry conditions so Goodneighbors can sell at a premium price when maize was not widely available, months after the harvest season.
The Rubaya sector is located in the Gicumbi district in Northern Rwanda and its residents’ livelihoods are mainly derived through agriculturally-based vocations, including maize, dairy, and tea farming. Currently, the farmers practice subsistence farming with highly variable yields and quality, with little opportunity for economic growth. Farmers in Rubaya decided to focus on maize for their cooperative for three main reasons:
The Rwandan government’s crop regionalization program focused on maize for the northern region, so in Rubaya, a farming cooperative would have additional resources to begin growing maize with reduced start-up cost
In parallel, the Rwandan government’s ongoing efforts towards reducing dependency on maize imports and increasing domestic produced provided a relatively stable market for maize producers
Seasonal variability in prices of raw and processed maize provided an opportunity for a well-organized cooperative to capitalize on this differential during high-demand periods
The EWB Rubaya program’s first project is aimed to enable Goodneighbors to sell its raw maize to large-scale, highly quality-controlled mills in the country. This will create a stable market for cooperative members to sell their harvests, and put Goodneighbors on the map in the maize industry in Rwanda.
Started meeting in 2014 and applied for EWB assistance
Started with working with EWB in July 2015
Formally incorporated in end of 2015
Been working as an agro-dealer in 2016
Currently has 70 members
Women’s Development Connection (WDC)
As local NGO, part of the application to EWB
Supports communication and coordination between EWB and Goodneighbors
The Project So Far
July 2015, EWB-NY adopts the Goodneighbors / WDC program from the EWB-USA database. Original scope of work was request for industrial-scale mill.
January 2016, Assessment trip took place and six EWB-NY members travelled to Rwanda. Based on the capacity of the cooperative and increased government regulation, the project was split into Phase I and Phase II as part of the formal MOU established during the trip. Phase I is focused on building a 300 ton storage facility and Phase II is when the mill will be built.
October 2016, following nine months of research, it was clear that the financial resources were not available for either EWB’s capital costs or Goodneighbor’s operating costs. Grant and loan making institutions expressed limited confidence in the success of Phase I given Goodneighbors’ administrative capacities at the time and their lack of business activities to date. EWB and Goodneighbors decided to revisit and revise the Phase I and Phase II strategy.
- February 2017, EWB began to host regular conference calls with Goodneighbor to discuss project alternatives
July 2017, EWB and Goodneighbors decided to build a pilot storage unit as a first project. This facility would be designed to store 30 tons based on the capital available to Goodneighbors.
- May 2018: The EWB-NY Rubaya team and their Rwandan partners, Goodneighbors Cooperative, completed Phase 1 of the Rubaya Maize Program in 2018 with the completion of a maize storage facility. In order to complete the second and final phase of the maize program, Goodneighbors needed to cycle through two harvest seasons. Goodneighbors and EWB-NY decided that two harvest seasons was adequate for the EWB-NY Rubaya team to collect data and complete the design of the mill plant.
- 2019: Goodneighbors conducted two successful harvest seasons in early spring and late summer, yielding 18 tons and 32 tons of maize, respectively. Goodneighbors has a MOU with a neighboring mill plant, Coopte Mulindi. Coopte Mulindi has purchased all of the maize from Goodneighbors.
- May 2020: The Team intended to travel to Rubaya in May 2020 to complete the assessment phase of the maize storage facility. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the trip was postponed until further notice. Upon this postponement, EWB NY advised Goodneighbors to operate as they did in 2019 and collect as much maize as they can. EWB-NY team and Goodneighbors continued to communicate through email and Whatsapp.
- November 2021: With EWB-USA lifting travel restrictions on a country by country basis, our team looks to start up again and prepare for the continuation of the assessment phase for this project
Future of the Program
Short Term Goals
EWB-NY’s short term goals are to implement the pilot storage facility, and then focus on monitoring the impact of the facility through check-ins from New York and at least one monitoring trip in early 2019.
Long Term Goals
EWB-NY’s term goals are to continually support Goodneighbors’ through their business developments and agricultural practices at a minimum through January 2021, when our initial five-year partnership will lapse. With the Phase II flour plant still possibly many years away, the EWB-NY team will continue to evaluate for potential medium-term projects that will be appropriate next steps for Goodneighbors while keeping their original dream of having their own industrial flour mill in mind.
The Rubaya team consists of a PMEL team, a technical team, and a fundraising and marketing team:
The PMEL (planning, monitoring, evaluation, and learning) team is focused on the international development and sustainability aspects of the program. They evaluate current and planned activities for viability and appropriateness, and monitor progress with Goodneighbors to determine what our real impact is.
The technical team develops our design, schedule, budget, and construction documents taking into consideration available local materials and technical knowledge in Rubaya, Rwanda.
The fundraising and marketing team turns the program plans into reality by procuring the financial resources and volunteer manpower required to execute projects.
EWB-NY Rubaya team meets as a whole team monthly, and the sub-teams meet in between on an as-needed basis. Join us if you are self-starting do-gooder with a can-do attitude who wants to volunteer for a great cause. Contact the project lead, Paroma at email@example.com today!