Cheese for Rwanda

July 04 2018 | by

LA LUMIERE cheese dairy in the Diocese of Ruhengeri, has been a success all over Rwanda since it began production in February 2015. Its opening was made possible with help from St Anthony’s Charities in conjunction with the Association Jardin de los Niños and the Association Mondo Giusto. The initial project started with 82 farming families each with the mother as head of the household and a high number of children in the family – each family was provided with a cow for milk production. At the beginning, the dairy worked with 100 litres of milk per day, which quickly rose to 150, and had reached 600 when Abbé Théoneste Munyankindi, Director of Caritas Diocésaine de Ruhengeri and project supervisor, contacted St Anthony’s Charities with a further request for help.

“After having obtained a standardisation certificate, demand on the market for cheese from La Lumière increased greatly because the other cheese factories had been closed for not fulfilling the standardisation requirements,” he explains. “The cheese factory was unable to meet the demand because our production was lower, and it was impossible to stock the cheese due to the lack of high capacity equipment.” At that time, although the dairy building had the capacity to work up to 2,000 litres per day, the equipment had a maximum working capacity of 600. With 12 people already working there, the project proposed employing a further 3 people which would, with the purchase of new equipment, increase the working capacity by 1000 litres.


Scenic location


La Lumière is located in Nyakinama, which is about 7km from Ruhengeri. At the time of the initial request in 2013, it was an almost abandoned rural area. Today, it has undergone considerable development, and has its own administrative infrastructure, a technical school, military academy, hotels under construction, and many new families. The nearby city of Ruhengeri is visited by many tourists due to its geographical position, and the possibility of visits to mountain gorillas and the volcanoes in the area.

Rwanda, however, remains a relatively poor country, having few natural resources, and an economy based largely on subsistence agriculture by local farmers using simple tools. Typical crops include potatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, wheat and maize, while coffee and tea are major export crops. Although 90 percent of the workforce is engaged in agriculture, this contributes only 33 percent to the national GDP. Wealth inequality and widespread food insecurity continue in spite of rapid economic growth. Food production is not keeping pace with population growth, and food imports are often required to supplement the home-grown produce.


Grant of €19,000


Caritas Diocésaine de Ruhengeri asked St Anthony’s Charities for support in order to buy the equipment and materials necessary to expand the production of La Lumière cheese factory. This included the purchase of a five-hundred-litre capacity pasteuriser, 8 fifty-litre cans for milk transport, a whey press with the capacity for 60 pieces, and 50 one-kilogramme cheese moulds. “I have the pleasure to send you our greetings and many thanks from Caritas Diocésaine de Ruhengeri for your presence and your support in the charitable works for which Caritas has its main mission,” wrote Vincent Harolimana, Bishop of Ruhengeri, at the time of the request. “I commend this project to you as it will not only increase the functional capacity of the cheese dairy, but will also subsequently improve the lives of many vulnerable families. I trust in a favourable result, please accept this expression of my highest recommendation.” The total cost of the project was € 22,730, however, Caritas Diocésaine de Ruhengeri was able to provide some local funding and St Anthony’s Charities agreed a grant of €19,000. This was paid in two instalments, the first in October 2017 and the balance in January 2018.

The only problem encountered during the project was a delay: “The equipment we purchased did not arrive on time,” Abbé Théoneste explains. “This was because the supplier did not respect our delivery times scales. He had promised to make the delivery between six and eight weeks of the order placement, but in the end was 25 days late. He stated that the delay was due to unloading problems at the airport.” In spite of this, the project to supply the equipment was completed on the 28th January 2018 and production has been increasing since then with the expected direct and indirect benefits.


Successful project


“Seventy-seven new farmers have already started supplying milk to La Lumière,” reports Abbé Théoneste. “These families are in a mountain village situated at over 2000 metres, in Gishwati, 35 kilometres from the dairy. Every morning a truck goes there to collect 500 litres. The milk is paid for on a monthly basis, and the income from the first month, in January, allowed each family to buy its own steel container.” These additional families added to the previous 58 bring the total number to 135 families, and as a consequence 675 direct beneficiaries. Since January, a large fridge has been supplied in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, with the capacity to hold 400 cheeses, which helps to ensure a good supply to customers. There are also three new workers: 2 at the dairy and 1 person at Kigali to distribute the cheese to the point of sale in supermarkets. This means that there are now 15 people employed directly by La Lumiere who in turn support their families, providing a further 75 beneficiaries. “And finally, customers’ requests are slowly being satisfied,” continues Abbé Théoneste. “And they, of course, benefit from a greater supply of cheese! There is a big positive change and everyone is happy!”

The profits from the project will ensure that the cheese dairy will continue to be self-financing in the future. “Next to the dairy there is a farm with 14 cows and 173 pigs which consume any cheese whey from the production: nothing here is wasted,” adds Abbé Théoneste.


Deam day


“This is the day we have long been waiting for in our dreams,” says Simeon, a technician at the cheese factory. “This pasteuriser and its attachments will help us to work quickly in safe and hygienic conditions. It will help us to increase functionality and efficiency, and improve the quality of our products. We obtained the S Mark (the standardisation certificate obtained by the dairy) without the new pasteuriser, now we hope that in the coming days we will also get an HACCP certificate, a level above that of the S Mark. (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point is a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards which could otherwise cause the finished product to be unsafe). We will make good use of this equipment for the good of our suppliers and customers. Thank you.”

“Our thanks go to St Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony,” concludes Abbé Théoneste, “and to all those who have contributed to the increase in capacity of our cheese factory.”

Updated on July 04 2018