Rwanda’s Cheese Makers Take a Step in the Right Direction

Originally published on November 6, 2014.

Cheese makers in Rwanda encounter many challenges, such as outdated equipment and practices. But, the good news is that there are growing opportunities for increasing production and expanding sales – both domestically and regionally – thanks, in part, to the American people. To help transform the sector into one that meets both international standards for quality and Rwanda’s existing demand for cheese, the country’s cheese makers are expressing an enthusiasm for learning, which is contributing to their success.

In May 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Rwanda Dairy Competitiveness Program II (RDCP II) invited a South African master cheese maker and trainer to conduct a two-week training on upgrading cheese processing practices. Implemented by Land O'Lakes International Development, the program trained 17 Rwandan cheese makers to improve how they manufacture Gouda and mozzarella cheeses. They also learned how to make feta and cheddar, which is currently not made in Rwanda.

“The training was very important and timely given the need to be competitive in both domestic and regional markets. If we adopt what we have been taught, we will surely improve our cheese quality, meet required standards and export to the region,” said Innocent Karuranga, President of the Rwanda Cheese Makers Association.

RDCP II emphasizes collaboration among different actors in the dairy sector to increase the sustainability of the program. Program staff garnered support from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to host the training. RDB provided the training facility and equipment that is housed in its Business Incubation Center, which they recently established to support entrepreneurial initiatives. RDB business incubation programs are developed to prepare and nurture entrepreneurs to start and grow successful businesses.

Implemented by Land O'Lakes International Development, the program trained 17 Rwandan cheese makers to improve how they manufacture Gouda and mozzarella cheeses.

Eusebe Muhikira, RDB’s Head of Manufacturing and Trade, expressed his gratitude for such partnerships and pledged RDB’s continued support in uplifting the local cheese industry: “We pledge to help the entire dairy sector take advantage of Rwanda’s growing airline sector to access regional markets. It’s challenging, but achievable.” By accessing airlines, Rwanda’s cheese makers have a great opportunity to promote their products regionally.

RDCP II facilitated the development of a Quality Management Plan (QMP) for the Rwanda Cheese Makers Association and will continue to track their progress in applying best practices. To provide lasting support to high-quality cheese manufacturing, the program will extend individual grants to fund new equipment for organizations that demonstrate compliance with the QMP.

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