Cooperative Development and Gender Inclusion

Originally published on February 21, 2019.

Our passion for cooperative development stems from our roots with Land O'Lakes, Inc. We believe cooperative development works because it is democratic and inclusive. Join us in celebrating these empowered women during Women's History Month in March. 

Land O’Lakes International Development has been working with cooperatives in Rwanda since 2008 in a series of agricultural and cooperative development programs with USAID.



​Pictured Above: Fabiola Umuhoza checking quality of member milk as a Milk Collection Center Technician for IAKIB. 

Through the work of the USAID-funded CD3 project, Land O’Lakes International Development worked with farmers and cooperative leaders in Rwanda to teach cooperative governance, business strategic planning and gender integration over numerous training sessions and exchange visits. “There has been a significant increase in women membership, in women staff and women leadership,” says Celestin, chairman. “They are more involved and making the decisions.” By July of 2018, all CD3 supported cooperative organizations had at least one woman in a leadership role, increasing diversity of perspective and better representing the interests of female members across leadership.


Pictured: Beatha Ntabanganyimana outside of the IZMGM cooperative office. 

IZMGM cooperative had been losing membership for years – members were becoming discouraged by lack of outreach and poor-quality services. Incoming leaders were looking to fix that. “I was confident that there were skills in mobilization we could bring to the farmers. I promised that we were going to minimize losses, increase profits and bring gender balance if I was elected,” says Beatha Ntabanganyimana, the current vice chairperson for IZMGM. Beatha’s promises held true: the membership of IZMGM has grown from 100 to 468 members and over half the members are female; in addition, women are actively represented at all leadership levels. To support IZMGM’s vision, Land O’Lakes International Development facilitated trainings on capacity building and gender integration through the USAID-funded CD3 projects.  



PIctured: Rhoda and her husband Moses, who both teach at UNILAK.

Rhoda Kayongo devotes her research to agricultural cooperatives. As a faculty member at University of Lay Adventists Kigali (UNILAK), she encourages her students to enter the agriculture industry because it is a high potential job market for youth in Rwanda. Through the support of Land O’Lakes’ CD3 project, she recently worked on a major research project about inclusion in rice cooperatives. “We need young people in cooperatives in this country,” says Rhoda. “The study with rice cooperatives drew me closer to it all – how we can make inclusion possible. I’m teaching our findings to my students, and the best part is the students are becoming excited about it.” CD3 and the newly awarded CD4 project, implemented by Land O’Lakes, will fund additional research initiatives that engage women and youth.