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2021 Annual Report

Tools for Hope Inc. 2021 Review


We are grateful for your continued support for Tools for Hope.  The small-holder farmers we mentor made significant advances in their overall welfare.  We, in the USA, and they in Rwanda learned some important lessons in 2021 on our journey to their sustainable, stable lifestyle.

They continued to make improvements in agricultural productivity as well as in food / crop preservation techniques.  Intercropping, mulching, no-till farming, and rotational crop planting are now commonplace with our farmers.  Their access to clean water has dramatically improved.  Despite the problems presented by COVID-19 they are still in good, overall health.

We ended our relationship with Frank Mutesa because of failures related to candor in his monthly reports and, to his fiduciary responsibilities to the farmers.  The farmers, under his guidance sold their motorcycle taxi at a loss and without TFH knowledge.  We are still investigating the issue(s).  In 2022, in response to this issue, TFH will institute an in-country audit function to ensure proper process are being followed.  Additionally, taskings will be detailed and in writing.

Our new Rwandan staff-member, Diane Uwamahirwe, took over mentoring the Twisungane Cooperative in mid-year.  She is an Agribusiness and Environment Specialist with a BS (honors) in Agribusiness and, is completing her master’s degree.  She has helped us to find important challenges that need to be addressed.  Additionally, she is preparing the farmers to meet those challenges.

We are developing a new website (  Our goal is to help keep you better informed of our activities.  Please send your suggestions for improving the website to


In January, at its quarterly meeting, the Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) Board of Directors decided to extend repayment of the loan for the twenty-two goats to eleven Twisungane families until March 2022.  They will have an extended time in which to raise more goats making loan repayment easier for them i.e., each family will sell two of their goats to repay their loan.

The loan, as all such TFH loans, is interest free and we exercise no recourse for non-payment.  Their loan repayment funds are directed to a local bank account to be used for future loans for the farmers’ projects.  Therefore, it benefits the farmers to repay their loans as best they are able.

The no-till farming trials were successful.  Now the farmers are using the technique where workable.  The technique is particularly helpful to the farmers because they lack powered agricultural machinery such as tractors, plows, planters, etc.

They are reviving and using traditional preservation methods such as sun drying, salting, and cooling by digging a hole to store crops like cassava and potato and milling some crops into flour to be used later.  

Food preservation for the farmers is critical to their well-being.  Rwandans, in general, do not favor preserved foods.  Consequently, more food spoils and is discarded than is consumed annually in Rwanda.  Immediately after crops are harvested food is plentiful and inexpensive.  Without effective food / crop preservation techniques as time passes the reverse is true.  Food preservation helps the farmers’ families have affordable, proper nutrition between harvests.

Diane is working to help solve a fundamental cause for subsistence farmer poverty.  The farmers we mentor do not own their farmland.  They rent.  A fundamental precept in wealth creation is to make / grow products at an overall cost below market value.  Effective free enterprise dictates that the farmers own their means of production (i.e., their farms) to help control their costs.  

The TWISUNGANE group don’t have their own land titles.  This is an enormous problem because without collateral such as land titles they are not allowed to apply for a loan at the banks for larger business projects. 

Additionally, because the group does not have one large farm that they share, each family has their own separate plot.  This presents added challenges because family plants, sows, fertilizers, and harvests individually which results in lower yields.  This makes it difficult to follow up on their activities because each family is working independently, if they had one common farm they shared, the follow up would be easy and the outcomes would be better.

In recent years, the government of Rwanda has taken steps to make the purchase of small farmland plots much more available to the small farmers.  The process of titling and title transfer has been modernized.  The government has gotten much land from owners with questionable titles e.g., people who claimed ownership of land after records were destroyed during the 1994 genocide.  The government is making such land available for sale to legitimate owners such as the farmers we mentor.   

After significant discussions with the Twisungane group about the best business ventures for them they decided upon the business of buying and selling farming plots.  This business is good because land or plots have shown higher returns in their village.  It is an excellent money-saving investment which will guarantee higher returns in the future.

Investing in a plot of land is undoubtedly one of the best options for the group looking to gain high returns with minimal risk in their area.  Also, it will offer greater flexibility, initial investment is low and is estimated to be from 500,000-2000000 frw (~$580 to $2,320).  There is no time gap between purchase and possession (new governmental rules and processes allow for same day titling).  Lower property tax: the property tax tends to be much lower than it is for other businesses.  No maintenance costs: with a plot of land, there is no maintenance needed.  One of the biggest advantages of investing in land is that it will be an answer to their fundamental problem of owning the means of production.  After repaying the loans, the land will remain theirs and it will be easy for them to manage it easily because it will not require full time supervision.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Diane has two Twisungane Group business planning classes; the students of both classes are very committed.  Farmers who know how to read and write bought notebooks and pens to write down lessons.  For those who do not know how to read and write lessons are transmitted orally.  Through conversations, with both groups, Diane started to discuss the purpose of being trained as smallholder farmers about business plan development.  She shared with them the main purposes of business plan development; business plan development is also a plan of action.

Twisungane Goals

  • The Twisungane want to achieve sustainable agricultural productivity through maximizing the effectiveness of input use and through raising goats, pigs, and chickens to get manure for fertilization.
  • The Twisungane want to improve the nutritional status in their families through their own savings for raising livestock like chicken, at least 2 chickens per family, and through kitchen gardens for cultivating various vegetables and fruits.
  • The Twisungane want to be self-sufficient through implementation of their own small businesses.
  • The Twisungane want to have their own owned farmland / plot for their agricultural activities and, as their primary fixed asset.


Tools for Hope is on solid footing with both our capital and human resources.  Our overarching goal continues to be the same i.e., to accurately find and develop solutions to the generic problems causing wide-spread poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tools for Hope needs and appreciates your support.  Your donations are used to find sustainable solutions to poverty among the most vulnerable.  Our expenses are exceptionally low i.e., salary for our Rwandan mentor(s), annual travel to Rwanda (1 person, 1 week, economy), minor expenses related to our website, required legal filing fees, etc.  We pay no rent, utilities, administrative salaries, etc.

The Tools for Hope team is dedicated to continuing improvement, especially when we can learn from our experiences.  In the past year we have learned the importance of clear communications with our staff in Rwanda as well as the importance of oversight of our remote activities. 

2020 Annual Report

With your support, hard work by the Rwandan farmers, and the wide-ranging advice from Frank Mutesa, Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) achieved its primary goals for 2020 and made progress on an added goal toward sustainable development for the Twisungane cooperative.  Frank Mutesa, TFH Rwandan employee and mentor to the Twisungane families, led the way in incorporating no-till farming techniques, off-farm income producing projects, and crop and food preservation improvements.  Additionally, we made progress supplying adequate, economical, clean water to the cooperative members.  Too often they are using water from the river which is dirty, and this has affected their health for so long.

During April 2020 Rwanda implemented a nation-wide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  During the lockdown TFH supplied rice, corn flour, and cooking oil enough to sustain them for 2 months.  Normally, TFH does not give such free aid.  However, the COVID-19 problem is unique.  TFH supplied the (Rwandan currency) funds to the farmers to buy their food supplies from local Rwandan businesses.  Supplying free food to the farmers from outside their country (e.g., from the USA) would have the effect of undermining local businesses.  No Rwandan businessperson can compete with free goods and services.

In early 2020, Frank began a trial to determine the efficacy of no-till farming for the farmers.  He set up six plots, three using no-till farming and three using typical land preparation / farming techniques.  Each plot was planted with the same crop (beans), used the same fertilizers and other inputs.  The farmers did all the work, TFH guaranteed that the farmers would not lose income if the no-till technique failed, and Frank oversaw the process.

The results of the trial showed the superiority of the no-till technique.  More food was produced with significantly less labor (the farmers have no farm machinery), lower costs of inputs, and soil fertility was improved.  Through 2020 and into 2021 the farmers are now using the no-till technique.

Frank has thoroughly trained them in how to sustain this significant improvement to their farming.  He also teaches them how to calculate rainfall distribution data from METEO-RWANDA, and how to plan which crops to cultivate and which agricultural system to use as regards the amount of rainfall predicted for the upcoming season.   Frank introduced the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach.  The PICSA approach evaluates historical climate information and uses hands-on tools to develop and choose crop, livestock, and livelihood options best suited to individual farmers’ circumstances.

In February 2020, Frank and the farmers held discussions on their up-coming goat purchases through loans from Tools for Hope (TFH).  The goats were delivered the first of March 2020.   Eleven farmer families agreed to the terms of the TFH (one-year+, no interest) loan and each family received two goats (~$60.00 per goat).  Their goat project has been going very well, all their goats have given birth.  Their goats are being kept in good conditions.

The off-farm project of their motorcycle transportation business is doing very well.  Their revenue is good, and they continue to pay the loan as agreed upon.   So far for repayment of their (no interest) motorbike loan (~$2,600.00), every two weeks they deposit 42,000 Rwanda Francs (~$43.85) into a local TFH bank account.  However, their business was suspended during the COVID-19 lockdown.

In May, the lockdown in Rwanda ended but with some restrictions still in place.  With the end of the lockdown TFH employee, Frank Mutesa, was able to verify the farmer’s activities, to hold meetings, and to give technical support as usual.

Because their farms cannot produce enough food and income our smallholder farmers depend on informal day-work.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic measures to minimize travel.  Our farmers could not travel to find work.  Without income from day-labor and while waiting for their primary crops to mature they were down to one meal or less per day.  Crop and food preservation therefore took on added importance.

We emphasize the necessity of growing vegetables and fruit trees in their back yards (kitchen gardens) to ensure they get the proper food and thus improve their immune systems as one of the measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food preservation is one of the most critical problems that the farmers need to solve to combat hunger.  Most of their crop yields are lost or were sold at minimum market prices because farmers had no suitable techniques for food preservation.  With focus on proper harvesting, effective post-harvest techniques, implementation of preservation techniques such as drying and converting some crops to flour the farmers have been able to significantly extend their food supplies.  We will continue to pursue acceptable and practical techniques to further secure their food supply.

For the farmers, obtaining clean water is among the difficult issues that they experience all their lives.   We bought ceramic water filters to evaluate the viability of ceramic water filtration (ceramic pot-shaped filters with silver embedded in the porous ceramic).  We need to find out if this technique will work in our farmer’s area.

The Twisungane group families, Frank, and the Tools for Hope, Inc. Board of Directors thank you for your support.  We continue to operate with no administrative overhead (no rent, no utilities, no website fees, no USA employees, etc.).  Annual Rwandan travel, Frank’s salary, and zero interest loans to the farmers form ~95% of TFH expenses.  With you support TFH continues to improve its ability to help more subsistence farmers.  The current group has grown from ~15 to ~100 members.  We anticipate expanding the group or adding a new group in 2021.


Tools for Hope

2019 Annual Report

Tools for Hope, Inc. 2019 Annual Report

Tools for Hope Inc. (TFH) is a Tennessee corporation with IRS 501 c 3 status organized to help identify Rwandan issues impeding the typical Rwandan subsistence farmer’s advance toward increased prosperity; and to find and aid in implementing Rwandan approved solutions to those issues. TFH offers expert Rwandan mentoring to subsistence farmers. TFH lends farmer cooperatives funds to advance helpful projects. TFH does not give away physical assets, or money. 

2019 Summary

  • Rwandan Subsistence Farming, Challenges and Solutions 

Subsistence farmers in Rwanda spend 80% of their annual incomes on food. Consequently, little or no money is available for savings, investment, health care, or education.
Their farms are small because of Rwanda land laws. Lack of food preservation techniques causes more food to be discarded than consumed – nationwide. High national unemployment rates cause off-farm work to be low paid.
TFH Solutions include inter-cropping, composing, no-till farming, crop and food preservation techniques, irrigation equipment, links with government soil analysis programs, right crops, and improved planting / harvesting techniques.

  • Off-Farm Enterprises

Limited incomes from their farming activities and extremely high national unemployment rates drive the need for off-farm enterprises i.e., small businesses. TFH supports the development of small businesses for the farmers through interest free loans and business administration mentoring.
TFH sold the basic utility vehicle (BUV) which TFH bought in December 2017 through the Institute for Affordable Transportation. The BUV was not working in our area and the farmers complained about its safety. Our employee Frank Mutesa and the farmers successfully managed the sale of the BUV.
Because of the need for powered, mechanized transportation in the area where the farmers live the issue of a replacement for the BUV was important. They found that the farmers will be better served by getting a standard (Rwandan) motorbike for use as a taxi. The motorbike taxi has many advantages, which include, working daily (transporting goods and people), its proven ability to easily handle the mountainous and rough roads, and it is likely to be profitable.
The price for a new motorbike is $2,600. To repay the TFH loan, we all agreed that the Twisungane group should be depositing 21,000frw ($23.00) each week, starting September 25th, 2019 into an account in a local bank.
Thus far, their efforts have been successful. There are a few more such enterprises planned for 2020 e.g., development of a cooperative goat herd, clothing making and repair, small retail businesses.

  • TFH Goals for 2020

We developed three primary goals and a few secondary goals for 2020. These include: No-till farming to increase farm productivity while decreasing costs and manual labor requirements. Implementation of improved food and crop preservation techniques based in indigenous skills to extend food supplies. Small business activities to improve incomes and overall community welfare. Secondarily, we will address the need for clean water.

  • Your Support

With your support TFH in Rwanda has become very well respected and enjoys the support of the local government(s) and community leaders because of our effectiveness in solving problems that have lingered unresolved for decades. In the communities that we serve there is a large and growing request for our services. Your support makes an enormous difference in the lives of the farmers.
To donate please go to to donate via PayPal, or you may mail your donations to Tools for Hope Inc., 1540 Robinson Rd, Knoxville, TN 37923.

  •  TFH Management

A Board of Directors now govern our corporation. Our new team and new structure will fundamentally improve our decision-making and administrative capabilities. The Board members are Father Laird Bryson, Clare Roop, Bill Edwards, Rick Shipley, Father Doug Floyd, and Richard Trevillian. The Board along with Frank Matuesa, our Rwandan employee, make up the TFH management team.
In 2019 TFH income was approximately $12,500 ($4,500 from the sale of the BUV); major expenses were $5,500 our Rwandan employee’s salary, $2,000 to bring Frank to the USA, and $2,600 for purchase of the motorbike taxi.

2019 Annual Report

Farming Challenges and Solutions

Twisungane cooperative subsistence farmers are extremely poor and, in the past, have had no hope for a better future. We have found that for many of them everything they do centers on their struggle to eat, and this hampers other activities that would enable them to live in more dignified conditions. TFH is trying to eradicate this mindset of hopelessness by helping them to imagine a brighter future for themselves and for their children.

These farmers usually plant pumpkin, maize/corn, beans, cabbage, cassava, sweet potato, banana (already planted), and sorghum. Frank Mutesa, our Rwandan employee, encouraged the farmers to cultivate chili peppers because chili peppers are a high-value crop. Frank Matuesa has been giving technical help on how to harvest using proper methodologies. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 40% of the agricultural yield is lost during harvesting time. The principal reasons are insufficient or improper facilities for harvesting, and inadequate post-harvest handling management and methodology. Frank found that some of them were not taking diligent care of their cassava, for example some did not weed on time, which hinders production and reduces yield. Some weeds release toxic chemicals that are harmful to the surrounding crops.

The picture above is of Frank inspecting a typical farm. Too many farmers do not perform weeding on time, and this can reduce their yields up to 40%.

Frank showed them how to start preparing for harvesting before they started planting. For example, for corn they should first prepare a place to keep the corn for drying purposes, prepare proper and clean transport sacks (minimize mold and insect infestations), and plan for the equipment needed to remove kernels from the corn cobs.

Additionally, he trained the farmers in determining the right time for harvesting corn. We provided them with a moisture meter which Frank borrowed from the Rwandan Agricultural Board (RAB), to measure moisture content of kernels. The correct moisture percentage of water must be below 14% for the (manual) harvesting process to begin. The farmers plan to find and buy their own such equipment in the future.

In their banana fields they have inter-cropped them with beans to maximize the use of the land. Beans can fix nitrogen to the soil and that nitrogen helps the banana crop. TFH has been teaching them how to best inter-crop using cereals and legumes, to get the best production.

TFH, in collaboration with RAB researchers, supplied cassava plants to the Twisungane farmers. Cassava can be cooked as it is, or it can be transformed into a flour form that can be cooked to make ugali (i.e. porridge). Also, the cassava leaves can be prepared as a vegetable and used to make soup.

Tools for Hope in May 2019 announced collaboration with a major new project sponsored by the Rwandan Agricultural Board (RAB). Under the project the RAB will conduct soil testing services for small-holder farmers. The purpose is to assess Rwandan soil so that farmers would have the knowledge of their soil fertility status.

The farmers well understand the advantage of combining their farming practices with livestock rearing. The benefits include manure which will boost their soil fertility so that they increase their production, and for improved nutrition. Frank emphasized to them the importance of using more organic fertilizers such as poultry manure for its high content of phosphorus, and ‘Farm Yard Manure’ which contains plant material (often straw), that has been used as bedding for animals. Frank will also train them on compost making. They could combine the organic fertilizer with a little inorganic fertilizer for the crop to be fed.

Four farmers do combine crop farming with rearing pigs, and they sell piglets twice each year. Also, two farmers do cattle rearing with their crop farming, and three of them have goats and chickens combined with crop farming. The rest of the cooperative members are just doing only crop farming. When we compare, we have seen the farmers who are practicing both livestock keeping and crop management are the ones doing fine with life, in terms of wealth at home and the health of the family members as compared to those practicing crop management alone.

The above is a pile of manure and compost that Frank is checking. Although the farmer is trying to collect manure to compost, this pile is not well kept, which decreases the quality of the manure.

When manure is exposed to the air as in the photo above, it loses its nutrient content. Its nitrogen escapes to the atmosphere because of heating of the manure by the sun rays. Because nitrogen is volatile can escape, and the farmer is left with manure that is not of decent quality for the crops.

Frank trained the farmers on how to make a good compost pile and encouraged them to find something with which to cover their compost to help improve the quality of their manure. In the past they did not cover their manure piles because they did not know the importance of doing so and now, they understand.

Off-Farm Enterprises

The farmers are planning to branch out into various business areas and to start working with banks. Bank loans are best way to expand operations for those that have assets like pieces of land that are well documented and those who have the property licenses which allow them to get loans. Others, without such assets, are still engaging in small holder farming and they rely more on TFH.

In mid-2019 we sold the basic utility vehicle (BUV) which Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) bought in December 2017 through the Institute for Affordable Transportation (IAT). The BUV had been our primary challenge for the previous year as the BUV was not working in our area and the farmers complained about its safety because of design issues. Frank and the farmers successfully concluded the sale of the BUV.

The issue of replacement of the BUV needed to be addressed. Considering the topography of their area, expected cash flows and profitability, vehicle maintenance, and overall operational issues they found that the cooperative would be better served by getting a standard motorbike for use as a taxi. The motorbike has many advantages, which include working daily (transporting goods and people), its proven ability to easily handle the mountainous and rough roads, and it is more likely to be profitable.

The price for the new motorbike was $2,000 plus $600 to get all the things and documents for the motorbike to enable it to start working as a commercial taxi.

Frank and the farmers had several discussions and training sessions about the motorbike-based transportation business. For several months Frank trained the farmers and their leadership on business operation basics such as: basic business plan development, SOTW analyses, lessons learned by other cooperatives in similar businesses, and other due diligence activities.

Frank discussed with them the importance of setting goals and developing the proper strategies to help them achieve these goals. Frank also discussed with them loan repayment strategies and options. He explained to them the conditions for getting the motorbike loan from TFH and explained to them that if they don’t follow the conditions, then TFH has the option to take the motorbike to other groups of farmers who are willing to use the opportunity.

The motorbike transportation business, with its loan agreement, licensing requirements, insurance policy, cash flow management issues, etc. is a completely new type of business reality for the cooperative.

Among the challenges that Frank faced was the belief by some cooperative members that the motorbike was a gift from TFH, and that no repayment was necessary. Frank explained again that Tools for Hope does not give free tools or equipment. Tools for Hope requires repayment for tools such as the motorbike to enable the subsistence farmers to show themselves as a trustworthy business organization with a strong credit history. This will help ensure their long-term success without constant monetary inputs from TFH.

This cooperative is very well known to the local leaders in the government therefore, Frank discussed the loan agreement with the local leader of the Kanzenze Sector. Frank asked that the sector leader (e.g. county administrator) be a witness on our loan agreement which says that when Twisungane group have paid the amount used to buy the motorbike then the motorbike will become their property.

The above photo is of the farmers’ committee.


TFH Goals for 2020

As a result of extensive meetings between the Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) Board of Directors and our Rwandan employee, Frank Mutesa, we developed three primary goals for 2020 i.e., improved food preservation techniques, implementing no-till farming techniques to improve agricultural efficacy, and generating more off-farm incomes.

Subsistence farmers in Rwanda discard more food than they consume because they lack proper methods of food preservation. Because of a nation-wide, general lack of food preservation in Rwanda, food is expensive once harvested crops have been consumed. This situation must be resolved because subsistence farmers often spend up 80% of their incomes buying food once the harvested crops are gone.

Land available to them for farming is limited because of governmental policies. They are not able, and will never be able, to generate a living wage only from farming. No-till farming technology will help them reduce the manual labor and costs that they now spend on farming activities and significantly improve yields while improving the fertility of the soils in the long-term. Frank and the Board determined that the farmers will need TFH help in developing off-farm incomes e.g., raising livestock, running small businesses, etc. as well as developing food preservation and no-till farming methods.

Of the food which they cultivate, they either sell all or half of the harvest and preserve limited amounts for home consumption. They are only able to use the food they grow for few weeks right after the harvest. Afterwards they are left with no harvested crops to preserve. They buy just enough for daily consumption for the fear of spoilage as they do not have adequate food preservation skills.
By having proper food preservation, they can store enough (inexpensive / plentiful) crops and use them during those periods when the price is high, especially during drought season. They can also preserve their harvested crops and sell the product when the price is good on the market.


Above (upper left) is the local and normal way of preserving cassava by making cassava flour. The upper right photo shows how to preserve sweet potatoes in a pit for use during drought periods when the food is scarce. Also show is how they store bean in sacks (lower left). They store maize/corn normally in their homes on the floor (lower right).

Your Support

TFH has also found other groups of farmers who are familiar with our work through the communication with Twisungane farmers, and they have been requesting us to give them help with their agricultural activities.

Please consider donating to help more subsistence farmers in the areas around the Twisungane farmers improve their food security.
TFH continues to be highly effective and efficient in resolving issues

    • small overhead, targeted recipients,
    • clearly identified problem and solutions that work,
    • on-going training and support,
    • recipient dignity self-sufficiency,
    • Our employee in Rwanda (Frank Mutesa) mentors and coaches those farmers on making improvements to their farming methods.

Our target fundraising amount for the year is $25,000.

  • Donations to TFH are tax deductible
  • The TFH website ( has a PayPal donate button that donors may use to make one-time donations or to set up small monthly donations.
    You may mail donations to Tools for Hope Inc., 1540 Robinson Rd, Knoxville, TN 37923.

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Donate today. Monthly donations made through PayPal are helpful in that they help us to plan and budget Tools for Hope operations better.
With your support and their hard work, the current group of small-holder farmers have drastically transformed their lives and the futures of their children in sustainable ways.

Tools for Hope, Inc. Management

A Board of Directors now govern our corporation. Our new team and new structure will fundamentally improve our decision-making and administrative capabilities. The Board members are Father Laird Bryson, Clare Roop, Bill Edwards, Rick Shipley, Father Doug Floyd, and Richard Trevillian. The Board along with Frank Matuesa, our Rwandan employee, make up the TFH management team.

Tools for Hope, Inc. (TFH) continues to grow and achieve its primary goals thanks to your kind and continued support. Management of TFH is changing to effectively manage this growth. The new management team will function per our charter and by-laws, as well as applicable state and federal laws. More importantly the new team and new structure will fundamentally improve our decision-making and administrative capabilities.

We sponsored Frank’s travel to the USA in October 2019 to help our supporters better understand the necessity of our work, to improve communications between Frank and the Board of Directors, and to transfer knowledge and operating experiences about agricultural best practices.

Frank Mutesa

University of Dar es Salaam, MSc in Natural Resources Assessment and Management. Kenyatta University, MSc in Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM. ISAE (Current known as University of Rwanda/ College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Undergraduate Degree in Agriculture engineering.


2018 Annual Summary

Tools For Hope and the Twisungane Cooperative

The Twisungane group is a group of smallholder farmers living in the Eastern Province of Rwanda, Bugesera district, in the Ntarama sector. Twisungane, the name picked by the farmers for their group means the “Hard Workers”. This group was founded in 2012 by 7 members, all men, who tried to share agricultural activities. They combined their efforts to support their families.

In 2015 when Tools For Hope (TFH) started working with the group, group membership increased to include 10 men, 9 women and 34 children. The farmers recalled that before starting working with TFH, the Twisungane group could barely afford to survive, many of its members had no shelter and were totally dependent on vending locally made beer to earn a living.

Now there are 68 family members of which 15 are men, 13 women and 40 children. Of the 40 children 29 are in primary schools while the remaining 11 are still young but in 2 years they will be all in school.

Twisungane Cooperative Progress

TFH has improved the standard of living of the Twisungane members through its support of agricultural equipment and training. Working with the TFH mentor (Frank Mutesa) in Rwanda the Twisungane have managed to learn and implement much better agricultural, administrative, and business systems.

Below are some of the benefits;

  1. Irrigation equipment which help them in agriculture production, such that on 0.99 acres they used to get only 220 pounds of produce but after getting the irrigation equipment and the technical support from TFH, they are over getting 2 tons of produce. The diesel pump and the pipes for irrigation are still in service and are very important in increasing their agriculture yields.
  2. They can now afford to keep their children in school and can afford to buy the necessary school materials. The number of children attending school has increased to 100% in 2018.
  3. They can afford to pay for health insurance. Previously only 4 families were able to pay for this service. Now in 2018, all members of Twisungane can pay for health care for their family members.
  4. Through the training conducted by TFH staff, now all the families have opened bank accounts for the group and their individual accounts. And 3 of them have already gotten loans to buy pigs and goats.
  5. Families are now able to cultivate and harvest vegetables even in their home gardens. This was made possible through training and support from the TFH agronomist, who encouraged and helped the farmers to plant what locally are called call kitchen gardens.
  6. TFH staff have also obtained for the farmers cassava seeds (from the Rwanda Agriculture Board) which they have now planted in their individual farms. Usually in their village each family / house has at least 4 trees of cassava planted, but the cassava trees they had were destroyed by diseases and they needed a new variety. Therefore, we negotiated with Rwanda Agriculture Board and managed to get the farmers the new cassava variety. This has also helped stabilize their food supply and peels from the cassava can easily be processed into high quality live-stock feed.
  7. Farmers have benefited from TFH training on how to record their activities. They are now able to calculate their assets and their profits, simply by calculating and recording every planned activity in a book and keeping track of all records and each activity. And in doing so they have adapted the culture of sitting down and planning together what they are going to plant and calculating all necessary costs for each agricultural activity from preparing the land, ploughing, planting, fertilization, irrigation activities, weeding, spraying of pesticides, harvesting, and storage up to transportation of the yield to the market.
  8. Now the farmers know when to use pesticide before it is too late. As this used to happen and they would lose all the production as a result of poor knowledge about pests and pesticides.
  9. Twisungane cooperative members are now respected in the community and the local leaders are highly praising them and promoting them to other villagers and encouraging them to keep on and encouraging other community members to join and work in similar groups.

Basic Utility Vehicle (BUV) Issue

Getting the basic utility vehicle (BUV) which we purchased from the (Institute for Affordable Transportation backed) manufacturer in Tanzania out to the farmers, without paying the normal taxes on imported vehicles, was our top priority in 2018. This took a long time and quite a bit of work with various Rwandan governmental agencies. Tools For Hope (TFH) wanted to get the BUV imported into Rwanda and then out to the farmers in the most economical way possible. Without tax exemptions the price of the BUV would have doubled from $5,000.00 to approximately $10,000.00.

This BUV was a new import ‘machine’ in Rwanda which meant the government officials were not acquainted with it. Therefore, the first step was to explain to the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) about the vehicle. We worked with the MINAGRI explaining to them how the BUV would work for the farmers and convincing them to recommend us to the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) /Customs services. This was very difficult as there is list of tools that can be exempted and our BUV was not on that list, originally.

Finally, on the 15th of May 2018 the RRA accepted our request and granted us the VAT exception that we requested. Our hope was that the BUV would add income to the farmers by performing multiple tasks. We believed that this BUV would be able to operate in their rural environment and improve the lifestyle of the farmers.

The farmers began trying to use the BUV for their agriculture transportation and to transport other goods from the market to their villages, as well as transporting water from the river for different uses. Unfortunately, the design of this BUV was challenged by the mountainous topography of this area. This BUV, based on our research on the ground, was designed and manufactured to work on flat terrain (e.g., it has no gears).

Given the vehicle’s limited performance, the farmers did not believe they could generate enough income to pay back a $5,000 loan in 5 years and keep up with maintenance. Frank became very familiar with the problems associated with this BUV because he was the one who was training the farmers to use it. This area is more suitable for a BUV that has gears and especially a reverse gear which are missing on this current BUV.

Twisungane farmers have requested a BUV replacement which is suited to their terrain. The farmers have identified a BUV which is assembled in Rwanda and which costs $3,200. This BUV is now operating near their area, it can withstand the rough mountainous terrain, and it has all the power and gearing it needs for their tasks. They have told TFH this one can meet their needs and they would be able to repay the loan in three years. With the help of this BUV we believe the farmers will be able to get what they need from and to the market, which is very difficult without motorized transportation. The issue is still under investigation.

Twisungane – Formal Organization, Administration, and Decision-Making

The Twisungane group now has an elected leadership. They have a president, a vice president, a secretary, and an accountant (cashier).

The president (Samuel UWAMBAJIMANA,) oversees all the activities of the group and meets with Frank Mutesa from Tools For Hope (TFH), helps in partnering with other organizations whether governmental or non-governmental for the wellbeing of the group. He is charged with calling the group meetings which he chairs.

The Vice president (Venust KAMANAYO) is the advisor to the president and performs the role of president when Samuel is not present. The Twisungane group management meeting is twice each agricultural season and more when it is necessary.
The secretary (Claudine NYIRANDIMUBANZI) oversees recording all the important issues in the group’s record book and oversees informing the group members of all necessary information that comes from the group meetings and sees to it that all the effective agendas and schedules are known to the group members.

The accountant/cashier (Celestin GASENDWA) oversees the cash flow and looks for customers for the group’s harvests. She is also in charge of counting the profits and clarifying how the group members will share equally. Celestin is also in charge of collecting member contributions when they have decided a certain activity needs money, for example recently they wanted to buy some good quality irrigation pipes to replace the ones that had worn out. After the general meeting, they decided to raise 75,000 Rwandan francs to buy the pipes. Celestin collected the money from members.

Twisungane – Proposed Future Projects

For 2019, the Twisungane farmers have requested that TFH focus more on assisting them with projects and small businesses. TFH is working with the farmers to help them prioritize their proposed projects and to develop basic business plans for each.

Below are some proposed 2019 projects;

  1. Buying a used motorbike for transportation purposes. Good, used motorbikes are available in the cities, for between $700- $1200. This area is mountainous, and the roads are very rough and steep. This type of transportation is an effective way of transportation and is used by many. If TFH loans them $1000 for a motorbike, they will be able to pay-back the money in less than 10 months.
  2. Another high profit project is the goat herd project. This project can help start a business of selling goats and manure. Goats are easy to keep, and they need between $500-$1000 to start this project.
  3. Poultry keeping is another project that farmers are thinking of. The budget is approximately $1000 for startup. They would be selling eggs and older chickens for meat.
  4. There is a plan to teach our group members how to sew and make clothes. This is an important business and is very much needed almost everywhere. They are planning to give their members few basic skills trainings for less than 3 months and after that buy 3 sewing machines. The project is expected to need $1000 to start.
  5. Another project is a computer services business. Now in Rwanda many governmental services require an internet connection. For example, if community members want to pay bills for government services, e.g., taxes, obtaining certificates such as marriage certificates etc., they need to connect to the internet on the IREMBO services. Currently, village people need to walk for almost 6+ miles when they need these services. Twisungane can have one or two young men in their group trained on this solution and provide a desktop, printer and photocopy machine to start this project in their village/community. The budget is expected to be $1500 to purchase the equipment and rent a place from which to work.
  6. Pig raising is a project they are also considering. This will be for selling meat and manure as well. They may need less $1000 to start with just a few pigs.
  7. There are many other business proposals that may require $500- $1000, under consideration, e.g., a butcher shop, selling fruits, starting a grocery store, etc.


Twisungane farmers are now doing great, in fact we have received many requests from other farmers who need to join this group or begin new groups. Other local farmers are now waiting for proposed TFH plans so that they can know how to go about recruiting other members and partnering with other business people. Currently the Twisungane group is looking for partnerships with some business people in order to learn some business and market practices. This will help them in establishing the projects that would boost more their standard of living. TFH is willing to help them in linking with these business people and to help them in management of the project(s) and funding some of the proposed projects.

 copyright Tools for Hope, Inc. 2021

"Tools for Hope, Inc." is a 501(c) 3 non-profit Tennessee corporation.

1540 Robinson Road, Knoxville TN 37923

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