Trócaire Blogs


December 13, 2016

Encouraging entrepreneurial spirit in Rwanda

By Maria Cleary, Institutional Funding Advisor

Ten years ago Consilde Mukamudodo had nothing: no home or access to income. Today, thanks to her amazing entrepreneurship and determined work ethic she has her own thriving business, established with an initial loan of just €11.

consilde mukamudodo outside her homeConsilde outside her house in Huye, Southern Province, Rwanda. November 2016

As we drive toward Huye in the Southern Province of Rwanda, I begin to notice changes in our surroundings. The area looks and feels different from the rest of Rwanda. 

Everywhere are stark reminders that in the Southern Province the poverty rate is almost one and a half times higher than the national average, with a massive 57% of people living below the poverty line, and 31% living in extreme poverty. 

As a strategy to tackle this poverty, Trócaire has partnered with women-led local organisations promoting economic empowerment in the region, supporting women to purchase livestock and set up their own small businesses. 

One such partner is Duterimbere Microfinance SA, which has given support to Consilde Mukamudodo, who we are visiting today.

As we walk up the hill to Consilde’s compound, we find that she is not waiting to receive us. She is working. In fact, while we are there, she doesn’t stop working.

The only time she stops is to take out her microfinance book, where all loans and repayments are recorded, and again to pose for one quick photo! 


Rwanda uses ‘Ubudehe Categories’ to classify income levels for the purpose of social welfare support. 

In 2006, Consilde would have been assigned to Ubudehe Category 1 – the lowest out of four categories, based on her household’s economic status. 

People in Category 1 are defined as: ‘Families who do not own a house and can hardly afford basic needs.’ 

At that time for Consilde every day was a struggle to survive, to find work and buy food. 

But, thankfully she did find a job serving sorghum beer.

Through that work, she saw the high demand for sorghum and came up with the idea to set up her own sorghum processing microbusiness.

Through membership of a community solidarity group, she secured her first loan for 10,000 Rwandan Francs – the equivalent of € 11. 

consilde mukamudodo at workConsilde hard at work to fill a new order. November 2016.

Consilde set up her first business and clients started coming to her for sorghum. She soon found that the demand for her sorghum was higher than what she could produce herself, so she hired a helper. 

Since then, with the help of Duterimbere Microfinance SA, Consilde has successfully taken and repaid 10 loans. 

With this she has bought chickens, a pig, and a cow, greatly improving her family’s food security. 

Consilde has also been able to buy a home for herself and her husband, who now works as a guard in the local medical centre, and their three children all go to school.

In addition, Consilde has bought another property in her compound, which she has renovated and is now going to rent out. 

Consilde manages the sorghum business, the livestock, and the property for rent... but she also has new ideas for other businesses. 

She and other community members have established their own community savings and lending group, which provides microloans to three different member of the group each week. 

The members of the group are committed to this work and they are happy to do it independently of Duterimbere Microfinance SA – a testament to their individual empowerment journeys and the overall sustainability of the microfinance initiative. 

By the end of my visit I am utterly in awe of Consilde, who continues to work away as she speaks to us. Her strength, resilience and energy are inspiring. 

Consilde proudly informs us that she is now in Ubudehe Category 3, which is defined as including: ‘Those who have a job and farmers who go beyond subsistence farming to produce a surplus which can be sold. The latter also includes those with small and medium enterprises who can provide employment to dozens of people.’

What a transformation she has experienced!

Trócaire’s work with microfinance institutions in Rwanda is a pillar of our Women’s Empowerment and Resource Rights programmes. With its activities Trócaire supports the empowerment of poor and marginalised people, enabling them to claim their rights and live free from poverty. 

You can support inspiring women like Consilde this Christmas with the Trócaire Gift of Support for Entrepreneurs.

December 13, 2016

Ceann Comhairle launches the ‘Project for Africa’ with Trócaire

Ceann Comrailhe, Ethiopian Ambassador, Mary KennedyCeann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, Lela-alem Gebreyohannes, Ethiopian Ambassador to Ireland, and RTÉ broadcaster Mary Kennedy at launch of  ‘Ceann Comhairle Project for Africa’ at Newbridge Silverware Visitor Centre on 12 December.

The Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, last night launched the ‘Ceann Comhairle Project for Africa’, a special fund which aims to raise an initial €50,000 for Trócaire to tackle drought and urgent need in northern Ethiopia.
RTÉ broadcaster Mary Kennedy officially launched the Project at Newbridge Silverware Visitor Centre in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and urged local businesses to support the fund.

The Ceann Comhairle, Sean Ó Fearghaíl TD, said that he hoped the fund would allow Trócaire to bring support to 7,000 people in drought-affected areas of Ethiopia.
“I have seen for myself the devastating effects on millions of people facing extreme food shortages in communities vulnerable to drought and so, as sponsor of this project, I am pleased to launch this new and innovative ‘Ceann Comhairle Project for Africa’,” he said.

“Through charitable donations, this project aims to put in place a long term response to the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities in the Enderta District in Tigray northern Ethiopia. People there simply do not have enough food to live and it is hoped that this project will directly benefit 1200 families, or 7000 individuals. It is about introducing sustainability for the most vulnerable communities in Ethiopia through building irrigation systems that will ensure that farmers have at least the minimum amount of water to grow and harvest crops.”

Sean Farrell of Trócaire thanked the Ceann Comhairle for his determination to support the organisation’s work in Ethiopia:
“There are currently over nine million people in Ethiopia facing food shortages due to drought. The Ceann Comhairle Project for Africa fund will greatly help us to build irrigation and supports that can ensure that people do not face this situation again. We are delighted that the Ceann Comhairle has chosen to work with Trócaire on this very special project and would like to thank everybody who has expressed an interest in supporting this initiative.”
To support the Ceann Comhairle Project for Africa fund please email [email protected]

December 10, 2016

Human Rights Day 2016 - Standing up for human rights

by Leigh Brady, Trocaire’s Global Governance and Human Rights Advisor

Today on International Human Rights Day 2016, I feel privileged that I get to defend human rights and support the fight for justice every day as part of my job.

In 2016, I became Trócaire’s Global Governance and Human Rights Advisor. It sounds fancy, right? I suppose you are asking yourself what it actually means though…

My job involves a lot of different things but in essence I provide support and guidance to Trócaire staff in 15 countries around the world who are in turn providing support and guidance to ordinary people, usually the most vulnerable and most marginalised, on the front lines fighting for their rights and the rights of others.

People like Rosemary and Stephen, Agnes, Peter and Albert, Edina and Moses, Eduardo and Berta who are active in holding their government to account for better services in their communities, speaking out against injustice, and trying to protect their natural resources and keep their environment healthy and safe.

Visiting human rights defenders in 5 countries

Trócaire’s human rights support comes in many forms depending on what is needed most, but can range from monitoring and documenting human rights violations, civic education, specialised skills training, mentoring, legal services, providing spaces for people to raise their voices, organise and make proposals, the chance to work as part of a wider network and physical accompaniment for those who are most at risk of being attacked because of their work.

This year I visited 5 countries where Trócaire is providing such supports – Uganda, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Kenya.

They were inspiring and enriching trips where I learnt a lot and probably received more than I gave. I met with women and men, young and old, who have learnt through Trócaire about their rights as citizens and how to put that knowledge into practice by demanding better services and protections from their governments.

I heard firsthand about their hard-earned achievements, borne of perseverance and immense courage.

West Pokot County, Kenya

West Pokot women, Kenya

Photo caption: Women from West Pokot, Kenya, who use dance and songs to educate the community against FGM.​

In a tiny rural town called Psigor in West Pokot County, Kenya, a group of local residents managed to achieve real improvements to their local hospital by carrying out a survey among patients, patient caregivers and health care professionals and discussing the findings with the hospital directors.

They also sent a petition to the local parliament asking their representatives to ensure the improvements were sustained.

The group of residents behind the initiative call themselves “Bunge La Mwananchi” – the Citizen’s Parliament and include women and men representing different interest groups, such as youth, people living with disabilities and the elderly.

This is just one example of some of the amazing stories I had the honour of hearing in 2016.

El Paraíso, Honduras

Community Human Rights Defenders Honduras

Photo caption: A group of trained community human rights defenders in Honduras, who make up a network of human rights defenders for their province, El Paraíso. Second from left is José Alfredo Coto, from Trócaire Honduras.

I met another inspiring group of human rights defenders in the east of Honduras, in a border province called El Paraíso, which in English means “Paradise”.

Ironically, this province could be more aptly described as “hell” given its context of daily violence, entrenched corruption and impunity for crimes.

This group of residents have been trained as a local network of human rights defenders – they monitor and document incidents of corruption, violence and criminal activity. They submit formal complaints to the local authorities and come together to discuss cases that may need to be taken up with the authorities at national level.

These brave individuals face many threats as a result of this work.

Three thoughts on human rights from 2016

Looking back over the year and reflecting on the human rights work that Trócaire supports and enables, three thoughts stand out:

1. We enable the most vulnerable people to fight for their basic rights, and defend themselves against threats to their homes, families, health, communities, livelihoods and environment. This is a job they do without pay in most cases and which is aimed at improving their lives but also those of others around them. What they do is not only a service to their community, but to humanity.

2. They can’t do it alone. They join forces locally to face powerful threats, gross injustice and a dangerous climate of destructive behaviour, violence, corruption and impunity. They know there is strength in numbers and they believe in people power. They call on us to support their struggle.

3. We can’t do it alone. We need as many people joining the fight for justice as possible. Keep supporting Trócaire so we can keep supporting Rosemary and Stephen, Agnes, Peter and Albert, Edina and Moses, Eduardo and Berta and countless others, whose courage and commitment are an inspiration for us all.

December 06, 2016

Honey money: Beekeeping provides new livelihoods in drought-prone Kenya

Members of Mwasuma beekeepers in Kitui

Photo caption: Mwasuma Beekeepers; Tabitha Komu, Dorcus Kenyatta and Nzomo Musyoka from Kitui, Kenya.

Dorcas Kenyatta (pictured above, centre) lives in Kitui County, one of the most arid areas in Kenya. Following her husband's death, she struggled to support her family.

Many Kenyan’s are reliant on subsistence farming and more than 43% are living in poverty. Many are also affected by long periods of drought. Trócaire has been working with local communities in Kenya for the past 40 years to encourage and enable sustainable livelihoods.

Beekeeping is a livelihood that offers strong benefits to people like Dorcas. Not only is it a sustainable activity, it has the additional positive impact of helping to pollinate crops.

Give a sustainable Trócaire gift to someone like Dorcas this Christmas

Dorcas kenyatta with her honey

Photo Caption: Dorcas displays her honey produce, Kitui, 2016

Dorcas, her family and members of her community received training in beekeeping and the necessary supplies to get started. Soon, Dorcas became the Chair of her local beekeepers group, who call themselves Mwasuma. 

Each of the 20 Mwasuma beekeepers have been trained in hygienic methods of honey production and processing. They have five hives each from which they can harvest around 10 kilograms of honey annually. Beekeeping has become an important income generating activity in Kitui and supports the community by the sale of honey, beeswax for candles and soap. 

Dorcas said: “Members have been maintaining their hives and the quantity and quality of honey harvested has improved. We eventually hope to open a honey processing factory in our area.”

honey bees

The introduction of the freestanding, low to ground, ‘Langstroth’ hive, which can be placed on a small patch of ground close to home, has also made beekeeping far more accessible to women as, previously, the work involved climbing trees to access hives - an unacceptable practice for women in Dorcas’ culture.

Dorcas added: “More women are involved in decisions about harvesting, selling and the use of honey money.  Now we are part of this, not just watching the men from the side-lines.”

“The beekeeping and honey harvesting is carried out during the day along with household chores. This means I can support my family as both a mother and a provider.”

honey bees

Photo caption: Annabel (3), Jess Walker (4) and James (2) help to promote the Trócaire Gift of Beehives in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

The Trócaire Gift of Beehives provides a family with training, bees, hives, flowering plants and water. Once the bees move in, families can earn money selling honey and beeswax for candles and soap.

Find out more about giving an ethical gift this Christmas to support people in developing countries.

December 02, 2016

Water for everyone - Supplying water in rural Africa

The Trócaire team from Malawi, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, presented their innovative and sustainable work on supplying water, at the rural water supply network forum (RWSN) this week.

The RWSN Forum is the foremost global event on rural water services and takes place every 5 years. The 7th RWSN Forum, held in the Ivory Coast, explored the practicalities of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Human Right to Water in rural areas and small towns.

The team contributed lots of valuable innovative experiences and sustainable technologies to the discourse, including rainwater harvesting technologies and community solar systems.

Community Solar Systems in Malawi

Trócaire Malawi is providing water to homes using community solar systems. Salome Mumba, Trócaire Water Field Officer in Malawi presented our work at this global forum, attended by over 600 participants.

Salome Mumba from Trócaire Malawi

Caption: Salome Mumba, Trócaire Water Field Officer, Malawi explains our work on Solar systems for community domestic supply to RWSN visitors.

Supplying water for drylands in Zimbabwe

Nelly Maonde and Melody Makumbe explained Trócaire Zimbabwe’s sustainable systems for supplying water for growing dryland in Zimbabwe.

Nelly Maonde and Melody Makumbe Trocaire Zimbabwe

Caption: Trócaire’s Livelihoods Programme Officers Nelly Maonde (Zimbabwe), and partner field officer Melody Makumbe sharing knowledge on sustainable ground water development.

Rainwater harvesting in Rwanda

Trócaire Rwanda presented an 18-month pilot project in nine villages in upland Rwanda, which provided technologies for rainwater harvesting from roofs, and from the ground. Families in the villlage used the harvested rainwater to water and maintain small vegetable gardens. Read this short paper prepared for the RWSN.

New ideas were gathered to help solve specific existing challenges. The team are going back to Rwanda with ‘Tulip’ water filters for families to trial purifying the water in their new rainwater tanks.

Emmanuel Karulinda and Janvier Ngabo Trocaire Rwanda

Caption: Emmanuel Karulinda and Janvier Ngabo,Trocaire Rwanda and Trócaire partner water Field Officer glean new ideas from posters at the RWSN Forum, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

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