On the Ground is an FXB series that profiles people’s stories from the field. Anna Gage is a graduate student studying Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For the past two months, she has been working in the FXBVillages of Gisiza and Kigoma in the Southern Province of Rwanda. She reports back to us with her insights from the field.
What’s the one thing that sets FXB apart from so many other organizations? Its commitment to business training. This focus enables people to create an Income Generating Activity or an IGA. IGAs are the cornerstone of the FXBVillage methodology and help families create long-term economic independence and sustainability. So what exactly makes an IGA work? Thanks to my internship in the FXBVillages of Gisiza and Kigoma, I saw firsthand how participants successfully uplift themselves from poverty.
As participants progress through the FXBVillage program, they increasingly rely on their IGA to provide the funds necessary for expenses critical to their wellbeing, such as school fees and health insurance. FXB provides participants not only with the start-up capital to initiate these ventures, but also the guidance and advice necessary on how to begin a business from the ground up. But participants are faced with a difficult question: what type of IGA should they pursue?
IGAs vary from village to village in Rwanda, depending on the timing and the local context. In Mukingo, a rural FXBVillage in Nyanza district, 80% of participants chose to raise livestock during the first round of IGA funding, but in the second round of FXB funding, 50% chose to pursue commercial activities. However, in Gisiza , a village I visited that is located just outside of the town of Gitarama in Muhanga district, the majority of the participants chose to rear pigs.
Why are pigs so popular in Gitarama? There are many different types of livestock that Rwandans raise including chickens, turkeys, goats, cows and even rabbits. But pigs have a special place in the hearts of Gisiza Village participants’ for several reasons:
- Pigs are low maintenance. Most pigs are kept near the home, rather than being given free reign of the yard like chickens, turkeys or goats. Additionally like the stereotype, pigs aren’t picky eaters.
- They reproduce quickly. Sows can give birth to up to 2.5 litters per year, with 7-10 piglets per litter. In comparison, the gestation period for goats is about 5 months, and they only give birth to 1-3 kids at a time. A speedy reproductive cycle means the participants can sell the offspring more quickly and more often.
- The price is right. FXB provides participants with grants ranging from $40 – $65 for each round of the IGA. A pig costs about $40, and it typically costs about $15 to build a pen to house the pig.
- The market is there. When I discovered that so many of the participants would be raising pigs for their IGA, I was initially concerned that the market in the small village would quickly become oversaturated with their new piglets. However, because Gisiza is within an hour’s walk of Gitarama, a major town with a much larger market, there is still a high demand for pigs. This model would not necessarily work in each village, which is why FXB’s personal approach to support is so important. Tailoring support and guidance to the needs of each village based on culture, location, resources, etc. is critical to the ultimate success of an IGA program.
While pigs are right for many Gisiza participants, other individuals have chosen a repair business, or brick making. One advantage of the FXB model is that it allows individuals to decide and manage their own way to a self-sustainable future. At FXB we believe that poverty eradication isn’t just about monetary improvement, it’s about empowering individuals and giving them a space to not just survive but also thrive.