Fruits of Hope and Success Cooperative (FOHSC) was formed by seven students following their graduation from the Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program (YETP). In partnership with the Association of Student Genocide Survivors (AERG), YETP provides entrepreneurship training to student survivors, culminating with a business competition and access to a loan.
The program was initially funded by the Kattan Family, and resulted in 150 students being trained last year. Based on its initial success, another 150 students were trained again this year through funding from the Alan & Babbette Sainsbury Charitable Foundation and Inspire!Africa. And the hope is to extend the training to a further 150 students next year.
The members of FOHSC were in the first cohort of training, and have since developed a thriving mushroom farm. Although the farm is relatively new, the members of FOHSC have already established partnerships with 15 buyers and supermarkets, and have begun to scale up the amount of mushroom they produce.
When asked why they decided to start a business, the head of the cooperative, Fortunatus, responded:
We started this business because it is not expensive to start, and you can harvest the mushrooms in 7-14 days. There is much need and demand in Rwanda for mushrooms, but not a lot of competition. It takes very little land for a lot of mushrooms too – this was important in Kigali because there is very little land available to buy. Right now we are planning to harvest 300 pieces within 3 months, and will make an estimated 1 million RWF.
FOHSC was able to start the business through a loan of RWF 778,500 (about £800) from a loan guarantee fund SURF has established in partnership with AERG with the youth empowerment bank, COOJAD. Prior to receiving the money, all of the members were required to invest their own capital and build the structure that would house the mushrooms. It is one of the first six businesses that has so far been funded through the program to date.
Fortunatus and his team have big dreams of expanding the business into exports and processed goods. When asked if they were confident in running the business Furtunatus explained that because they come from different backgrounds, they’re able to leverage one another’s skills. Within their cooperative are agronomists, a lawyer, and economists.
Fortunatus explained his hope for the project, thanks for the program, and ambition to help others through FOHSC’s success:
The project is just now starting, but we have a dream and a hope to have good production. We hope to keep our AERG connections and continue to adapt if things are different than planned. This training opened our minds. Through school and after school, AERG accompanies us through life. They helped us to move from one life to another. We hope that this project can help more people too, like AERG did. Maybe through its success, we will also save others, and not just ourselves.