Twiyubake Cooperative

Jacqueline Musabyimana is the president of the Twiyubake Banana Leaf Cooperative. Twiyubake means “to rebuild ourselves” in the Kinyarwanda language. Musabyimana is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Her family, like many in the area, struggled to survive in the aftermath of the humanitarian crisis.

Genocide survivors were faced with difficult circumstances, including the loss of many (mostly male) family members. However, women were determined to lift themselves out of poverty with dignity and confidence.

The Twiyubake Cooperative is made up of master banana leaf weavers and other master artisans who have been making and selling banana leaf products since 2008.

Musabyimana and other women in the area learned to make hand-woven banana leaf baskets and jewelry to supplement family incomes. In 2011, U.S.-based Songa Designs International came to their village. The for-profit “socially conscious” fashion start-up was fascinated with the merchandise weavers were making and decided to help sell them.

Musabyimana was able to buy a plot of land, build a home, as well as purchase a cow and goat — all with the money she made by selling her products through Songa.

The Songa Designs website states that the dynamic in many areas of the developing world is for women to be entirely dependent on their husbands.

However, the company seeks to change the status quo by offering opportunities to under-resourced women so that they can “achieve economic independence by using skills acquired through everyday life to make a living. Songa Designs provides jobs for these women who negotiate their own salaries and earn fair wages.”

The Twiyubake Cooperative is one of the groups that belong to Indego Africa, a group whose mission it is to empower women artisan in Africa. According to the Indego Africa website, a cooperative is “a legally recognized form of association in Rwanda that was promoted by the government after the 1994 genocide.”

Following the genocide, the Rwanda population was 70 percent female and the economy was a disaster. Women were left to rebuild the country, but most lacked education and knew nothing about business or export markets. Indego Africa helps the cooperatives develop business and become sustainable.

The Twiyubake Cooperative employs female genocide survivors as well as the wives of genocide perpetrators. All the steps involved in making products for sale in the Twiyubake artisan line are done by hand — specifically, the metal working, beading, embroidery and sewing. In addition, the natural banana leaf and other fibers are grown locally.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

Mozambique entrepreneurs have created the award-winning social enterprise Mozambikes builds low-cost bicycles to improve the livelihoods of thousands of people in Mozambique. Affordable and efficient bicycle transportation can greatly impact the pace of development in a country with 54 percent of citizens living below the poverty line, especially in rural areas.

In addition to bringing economic opportunities, Mozambikes is committed to improving the lives of 50,000 Mozambicans by 2018. The company and affiliated non-profit Mozambikes Social Development intends to reach this goal through the sale and donation of affordable branded bicycles.

Mozambikes’ unique branding strategy has created three avenues of distribution. The first allows customers to brand and purchase bicycles for their own business needs, such as employee incentive programs. Other customers choose to brand bicycles sold to low-income markets.

Branding customers allow Mozambikes to sell the bicycles at a subsidized rate. For advertisers, it is an opportunity to tap into remote rural markets. Bicycles can also be donated through Mozambikes Social Development for about $100.

These bicycles are purchased at cost from Mozambikes and donated to those who still cannot afford a bicycle. Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Lauren Thomas said in an article published on The Guardian, “A bicycle may seem like such a small item to many, but it is quite literally life-changing in rural Africa.” Mozambique_entrepreneurs

The bicycles are specifically designed for use on the bumpy roads in Mozambique with large luggage racks for transporting goods. The design also accommodates traditional skirts with a diagonal crossbar. Local technicians assemble the bicycles and after-market maintenance has created a demand for more bicycle technicians.

In comparison with regional competitors, Mozambikes’ product is better quality and more affordable. The company hopes to improve the bicycle industry of Mozambique through these innovations.

Bicycles can have a significant impact in low-income communities and aid development. In Mozambique, two-thirds of people walk more than an hour to the closest health center. Bicycles provide increased access to education, health care and are a clean energy solution.

In five years, Mozambikes has sold or donated over 7,000 bicycles and plans to increase that number to 125,000 by 2020. In rural Africa, a bicycle is generally considered a household items aiding not only individuals but also entire families.

It is estimated that 70 percent of Mozambicans rely on income from what they can produce, largely through subsistence farming. Transportation is essential in this informal economy. Fetching water, maintaining crops and getting products to market are all made easier with access to bicycles.

As a Mozambique business, Mozambikes employs about 12 workers and pay salaries above minimum wage. The company also strives to empower women, provide training for bike technicians, and educate cyclists about safety.

Mozambikes hopes to benefit a million Mozambicans through low-cost, efficient transportation. Each bicycle improves another Mozambican’s livelihood.

Thomas affirms the company’s long-term vision: “Some people come and go, but we are really committed to making this an ongoing, sustainable business, and there is still so much more we can do.”

Cara Kuhlman

Sources: The Guardian, How We Made It In Africa, Mail & Guardian, Mozambikes, Mozambikes YouTube Channel
Photo: Wikimedia, Flickr

There are two major occurrences that can shake up the world of corporate philanthropy: sporting events and natural disasters. According to a recent study of over 2,500 organizations in 157 cities, popular sporting events such as the Olympics or the Super Bowl and natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes can bring out the best in businesses to an extent.

Although football games and hurricanes may not seem to have much in common, they both can encourage companies to donate more to the local community. According to the study, huge sporting events like the Olympic Games encourage companies in the host city to increase their charity to improve their public image. The study also states that although the corporate philanthropy is dramatic, it is also short-lived. The businesses are willing to ramp up their donations before and during the event, but gradually decline afterwards.

Natural disasters have a similar effect on corporations headquartered in the damaged city, but only to an extent. If the damage to the community is relatively minimal ($5 billion or less), businesses often step up and do what they can to help rebuild and recover.

But if the damage is more extensive, wouldn’t businesses want to help more by donating and volunteering more in the community?

The study showed that if the damage totaled more than $5 billion, companies instead took the “every man for himself” or “secure your own oxygen mask first” approach, and there were fewer donations from organizations because they were most concerned with securing their own future, and usually the community gets less help from local businesses than if the damage was minimal.

For short-term corporate philanthropy, it’s best to ask for donations shortly before or during planned events such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, or other major sporting events because it’s more likely that local businesses will do more to support charities and nonprofit organizations in the area. Immediately after a small or medium-sized natural disaster is another key time to ask businesses for their time or money, as they would be more likely to do what they can do help the local community during times of struggle.

Katie Brockman
Source: Forbes
Photo: Pacific Standard