|Bette UWIMANA - Ejo Heza member and leader.|
|Interview during a visit to the Ejo Heza community plot. L to R: Uwimana, Church and Kayitare.|
Q (Ruth): Tell us a little about yourself:
A: I am 28 years old, married with two children, 8yrs and 4 yrs old. Together with my husband we own and farm 1,650 coffee trees, plus we have other crops, like banana and I earn a salary as a staff person at Kopakama.
Q: How did you first "find" the Ejo Heza group? What made you want to join?
A: I first heard of the group in 2012 while I was working at Kopakama as a coffee receptionist. I realized there was this group, and these women were improving their lives. Meanwhile, my own farm was not productive. Finally in 2017, I joined as a member. Now I am the Documentation Officer and Manager of Loans & Credit for Ejo Heza.
Q: What activities do you do now because you are an Ejo Heza member?
A: There is a group meeting twice a week during the season [to work together on the community plots.] For example, we do harvesting, pruning and weeding. When production is very high, we may even meet three times a week. When the season is over, the savings and credit group meets. This is very helpful for overcoming problems after the season ends [and the coffee money is gone].
Q: How much do you save in the Ejo Heza microcredit program?
A: Shares were 500 RWF ($.57) each, now they are 1000 RWF ($1.14). We meet once a month and each member saves at least 1 share, but we can put more in if we would like. At first there wasn't enough money to give big loans to members (in the first months after they started the savings group in 2014). Now we are able to give members loans of up to 200,000 RWF ($230).
Q: Have you taken out a loan? If so, what for?
A: Yes, I purchased a cow. Since I have trees in the area of Sure, where we are growing organic coffee, I wanted to buy a cow that would produce manure to help fertilize the trees.
Q: Have you been able to pay back the loan?
A: The loan comes with two installments. I've paid the first and will pay the second next year.
Q: You have coffee as one source of income. How important is coffee income to your household?
A: Coffee is important. When you calculate it, you see that it is helping. When my husband and I got the plots near Sure, we needed to move closer. We used coffee money to buy the land for the house, and then build the house.
Q: Artisan Coffee paid a premium of $.30/KG green coffee to Ejo Heza for the coffee last year and it was distributed at the general assembly. How did you feel about that and what were you able to do with that bonus?
A: I didn't receive it because I wasn't a member yet! I only became a member after the 2017 season. This year I can receive a premium.
Q: Ha! Understood. What did other members do with the bonus. Do you have some idea?
A: Yes, they buy animals depending on the amount of money they get, for example, cows, goats, chickens. Some pay for Mituel, the health insurance, others pay school fees.