Ambassador’s Remarks for the Special Self Help Fund Grant Signing

Good afternoon.

Thank you for joining me here today for the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund Grant Signing Ceremony.  I want to thank Mr. Apollo Munanura, Director General for the Rwanda Cooperative Agency for being here today.  I am excited to join with you as we welcome nine (9) new cooperatives to the list of 171 Self-Help grant recipients since 1999.  These grants represent an important component of the U.S. Government’s partnership with the Rwandan people.

The Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund is one way the U.S. Embassy promotes economic growth in Rwanda.  Through the Fund, the U.S. Government provides the jump start that many of the cooperatives need in order to grow into sustainable business.  The Fund supports small-scale projects characterized by two key elements:

The first element is that the projects are devised by Rwandans, often from rural parts of the country, who have submitted an innovative and sustainable plan to address their own specific health, educational, or socio-economic needs.

Second, every Self-Help funded project requires a significant contribution by the beneficiaries’ local community or organization, whether in the form of land, labor, or materials.  In other words, these grants help Rwandans to help themselves, and in turn, reward those communities or associations that have worked together to meet the needs of their people.

The cooperatives that are represented here today were awarded these grants because they have demonstrated a strong degree of commitment to their communities.  The grants signed today are distributed in four different provinces and total $50,000 or 40 million Rwandan francs.  This year’s projects include beekeeping, shoe making, garlic cultivation, raising livestock, sewing, and the making of electrical coal stoves.  I am pleased to note that this year, the Self-Help Fund supports community groups that serve Rwandans with disabilities, HIV infected groups, and widows.  Half of this year’s funding is awarded to agricultural and animal husbandry projects, which are essential to strengthen the rural economy.  The Fund is also supporting projects that encourage entrepreneurial activity.  All of these projects are a testament to the heart of the Rwandan people and their desire to find ways to earn income and give back to their communities.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier this year that “new ideas can evolve anywhere, at any time. And they can have an impact anywhere”… the Self-Help Fund is a true reflection of that statement.

I am also pleased to see that these projects will enhance the lives of over 1,600 beneficiaries; not to mention an untold number of community members.  I hope that this Fund will continue promoting small business growth and economic and social development in Rwanda for the years to come and I highly encourage you to share this unique opportunity with other groups in Rwanda as we start to consider projects for next year.

On behalf of the Embassy of the United States of America in Rwanda, I congratulate you on your successful solicitations to the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund.  We are committed to continued partnership with the people of Rwanda and look forward to sharing in the successes of your projects.