The role of rural subsistence farming cooperatives in contributing to rural household food and social connectivity : the case of Mwendo Sector, Ruhango District in Rwanda
Subsistence agricultural cooperatives play an important role in improving household food security among rural households. In Rwanda, as in many African communities, traditional systems encompassing the concept of Ubuntu including ideas related to co-operation, solidarity, mutuality, reciprocity are evident in both the society and subsistence farming ideologies. The majority of the population resides in rural areas; mainly rely on subsistence farming in their smallholdings and participate in subsistence farming cooperatives. The main purpose of this article is to determine the rural subsistence farming cooperative success factors; highlight the benefits of participating in farming cooperatives and find out why some people do not participate in any farming cooperatives. This article focuses on maize, pineapple and peas cooperatives in the Mwendo Sector in Rwanda. A random sampling was used to select cooperatives and questionnaires were administered to 150 cooperative members in the study. Both key informant interviews and focus group discussions were used for data collection. Data was analyzed using crosstabulation and content analysis. The results revealed that the factors influencing productivity of cooperative and household food security are the availability of agricultural equipment, agricultural inputs, age and level of education of cooperative members, training of cooperative members, cooperative organization government assistance and provision of extension services. The research also shows that cooperative members have an increased agricultural production, income, government assistance, easy market access and agricultural training. Increased agricultural production and income are both important to access dimensions of food security. Agricultural cooperatives also promote culture and unity in the locality through social and religious activities among cooperative members. Findings show that the unwillingness to be part of cooperative mismanagement; punitive measures and fear of seasonal hunger lead to non-participation in agricultural cooperatives. This is significant as it indicates departure from Ubuntu and co-operating principles that often characterize rural communities. Therefore, improving above-stated factors would improve participation in farming cooperatives.