Located in Kayonza District, along the main Kigali - Rusumo highway, Urugo Roadside Café attracts travelers in need of coffee and quick bites. The café is also popular with tourists en route to the neighboring Akagera National Park.
A stopover at the roadside joint will most likely tempt you to spend your money on more than aromatic beverages and snacks. Specialty food items, including yoghurt, fermented milk and peanut butter are also available. These products are processed, packaged and branded by women from the local community. Their gifted hands are also responsible for the creation of a wide range of handicrafts displayed in the gift shops set up on both sides of the café.
The coffee shop and the craft market are outlets of the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center. This coffee break was followed by a tour of the entire center. The facility was built by Women for Women International, courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies and other donors.
Women for Women International supports vulnerable women in post-conflict countries. In Rwanda, the nonprofit organization has groomed more than 76,000 entrepreneurs since 1997. The beneficiaries of the center’s yearlong program are equipped with what it takes to access and utilize resources.
When it comes to the utilization of resources, Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center walks the talk. For starters, its roofs are structured to harvest rainwater. The collection of this precious resource is done by the large canopy rooftops and funneled to the underground cisterns through a network of pipes. A solar pump is used to propel the water to the tank and eventually dispatch it to users in different parts of the facility.
Training workshops are uniquely designed and the interior of the meeting room is creatively decorated but it was the site’s safari tents that attracted my attention. Deluxe camping has become a popular phrase in the travel industry lately. Also known as glamorous camping, or simply glamping, this trend fuses luxury and simplicity. It appeals to travelers seeking a camping experience without compromising the comfort of their own bedrooms. Unlike traditional tents, the center’s deluxe ones have Wi-Fi, en suite solar-powered hot showers and verandas.
With this upscale dimension of camping, luxury meets simplicity. Less is more. Touring the facility feels like following a presentation on a model of the eco-friendly ethos of responsible tourism.
By capturing rainwater and taping into renewable energy, the establishment meets sanitation and energy requirements while contributing to a cleaner and healthier atmosphere.
The composting toilets used on-site save water. Stringent daily and weekly maintenance routines are observed to ensure a risk-free management of human waste in the absence of sewers or septic tanks.
Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center operates workshops from which the aforementioned products are produced. It is in those workshops where acquired skill sets are put to good use. In addition, numerous graduates of the programs offered are currently running successful businesses in their respective communities.
Helping women to develop skills needed to transform available raw materials into marketable products has proven to be a game changer in the process of poverty alleviation.
The empowerment of women is a prerequisite for the socio-economic transformation of societies. When enabled, women are capable of improving the welfare of not only their families but also their communities and the entire nation.
The author is an adventurer on a tour of all 30 districts and 416 sectors of Rwanda. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @GeoExposure.