Rubaya, Rwanda


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 New York based team’s current objective is preparing for the construction of a 30-ton pilot maize storage facility in February and March of 2018.



The view en route from Kigali to Rubaya

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:

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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.



Program Partners

Goodneighbors Rubaya Executive Board

Goodneighbors Rubaya

  • 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 Development Connection with EWB 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.

  • rubaya_partnership_dsicussion.png
    Discussion between EWB and Goodneighbors

    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.


Future of the Program

Short Term Goals

Children from Rubaya

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

A maize milling facility located in Muhenge, in south Rwanda

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 Team

The Rubaya team at a recent fundraiser

The Rubaya team consists of a PMEL team, a technical team, and a fundraising and marketing team:

  1. 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.

  2. The technical team develops our design, schedule, budget, and construction documents taking into consideration available local materials and technical knowledge in Rubaya, Rwanda.

  3. The fundraising and marketing team turns the program plans into reality by procuring the financial resources and volunteer manpower required to execute projects.


Join Us!

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. Find a meeting HERE or contact the project leads, Mira and May at today!