What a difference a year makes in Gitesi. At the end of a bumpy track, the village is miles from the main road and far away from the bustle of Kigali, capital of Rwanda.
I am in the country as part of the Conservative Party’s Project Umubano, where I am offering business mentoring advice to small businesses.
With an annual GDP growth of around 10%, Rwanda grows from strength to strength - and trade is one of the key success factors in lifting Rwandans out of poverty.
Last year, I visited the village co-operative here, and saw the ActionAid funded primary school being built. This year I returned to find that, not only had the school been completed, but the classrooms were full of children in their smart uniforms.
The village co-operative in Gitesi also runs a business, which makes woven baskets. Handicrafts are a staple business for Rwanda’s co-operatives, but there is a real desire to expand and develop into different business with different products; after all, there are only so many baskets that can be sold.
The co-operative in Gitesi has found that it could add more value to the community, and make more money for its own development, by expanding from handicrafts into growing maize and then processing it into corn for sale.
The co-operative plans to brand the corn and, rather cleverly, market it in smaller bags to increase the sale value and make more money for the all-women’s co-operative.
To put the co-operative on a stronger footing they are forming a limited company.
When I return next year I know I’ll see a flourishing business.
David Millican is Conservative Group Leader on the London borough of Ealing council