There is one open market that operates at night in Kigali and that is the Irish Potato market on the outskirts of Kigali City. In the poorly lit night of Kigali suburb of Gitikinyoni competition played out as brokers and wholesale traders jostled for Irish potatoes. “Produce suppliers would spend the night at Rulindo so they could be at the market by two in the morning” says Ayinkamiye Marie Therese, one of the Irish potatoes traders in Kabuga Produce Market on the outskirts of Kigali city. “This was not easy for us especially mothers waking up at 2:00am because it required a lot of energy, we left our children unattended to and we were exposed to risks of our property and life.” 

Marie Therese (in the background) attending to customer in her premises

Brokers would inflate prices and offered low prices to the farmers. Produce suppliers would be stuck with unsold potatoes if they did not agree to the prices set by brokers and often would beg traders to take their potatoes at any price to avoid surcharges by the lorry owners who would be preparing to return to the countryside for more produce. Brokers took large amounts of money from traders as commission for ‘linking’ them to Farmers and farmers lost a percentage of returns on their produce to linkages to traders. The wholesale buyers dealt with the brokers and never met the farmers.

“Well, that was before the arrival of Farm Concern International, FCI under the Rwanda Domestic Markets Programme funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which created markets linkages between produce suppliers and traders” says Therese with a smile. “Through FCI’s market linkages and Village Business Forums (VBFs) where Traders and Farmers are partnered and hold regular meetings, dialogue and phone conversations either party gets regular information and updates on markets, prices and produce quality and volumes. 

Working with Farm concern International, has opened our minds,” says Therese. “We no longer depend on middlemen. Through regular VBFs organised by FCI, we meet farmers and agree on prices and quality depending on markets forces and produce availability. We have built trust and confidence with produce suppliers. I no longer wake up in the night to be at the market in dawn but I now wait for the suppliers to come with the agreed amount of commodities at the agreed price. 

Consequently, my daily sales increased because I save on what I should have paid to brokers. I used to buy approximately 5,000 kgs but I have tripled that per day. I built a new house and I am planning to build my own store in the city using profits from the irish potato business. I managed to do this because of the intervention by Farm Concern International’s through the Commercial Village Model. Thank you Farm Concern International for the simple solutions that change lives.

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FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.