In 2008, a group of 74 women received training and equipment from the Millennium Villages Project to start a machine-knitting cooperative in Mayange, Rwanda.
Today, the cooperative supplies sweaters for school uniforms to four large schools in the district and has also won a contract to supply Rwanda Knits, the country’s leading exporter of knitted products. Since its launch, membership in the cooperative has grown, and members have upgraded its equipment. Knitters who belong to the cooperative can earn more than what they could through casual labor.
Lydia Mukamusoni (44) is a member of the cooperative. Lydia is married with nine children. She owns no land and she used to eke out a living as a casual laborer on neighboring farms. The seasonal nature of the work made it difficult to feed her family year-round. Working in the knitting cooperative, however, has enabled her to earn enough that not only can she feed her family, but over time she has been able to build a house, pay for health insurance for her family, purchase a goat, and start saving money in a bank account.
Community-owned businesses like the machine-knitting cooperative form a cornerstone of the foundation for sustainability in the Millennium Villages.