Kara Pecknold and Covaga - Rwanda
Covaga began in 2004 in the Bugesera District in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. Their ultimate goal has been to reach the mandate set out when the cooperative was founded: to fight poverty in their community. What they did not realize, was how they would also help to alleviate an environmental problem that was wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes Region of East Africa.
Their current work utilizes various fibers in order to create products such as baskets and hats. While they work with banana leaf and sisal, the most notable development has been the work they have begun with the water hyacinth plant (amarebe). They craft products made from this plant that can be used as a means to create income while also helping to sustain and protect their environment.
Initially, the government created a community development plan to extract the water hyacinth plant and compost it because of its negative effects. But the plant continued to grow back causing lakes to dry up and precious fish to die. This cooperative went further and began to extract the plant so as to create products that could be useful to their daily lives. The government assisted in capacity development by offering training in weaving skills. Additional support was provided by REMA to community-based organizations such as Bamporeze, who came to train them to weave chairs, waste baskets, plate mats, and provide further quality control.
They want to be able to improve the quality of their lives and make sure that during this process of poverty alleviation, they are also doing something to benefit the environment. As they improve the quality of their lives, this revenue will allow them to invest in their community. They will be able to feed their families and make further contributions.