Kenya firm innovation pulls youth into agribusiness
For centuries, Rwandans have tilled land to grow food and cash crops with little success against poverty.
Yet according to a 2009 situational analysis report on the agriculture sector by the Rwanda Institute of Policy Analysis and Research, the economy will remain heavily dependent on agriculture—employing 90% of the population, accounting for 91% of domestic food supply, 36% of GDP and 70% exports revenue.
Despite the dominant role the sector plays in the economy, it is shunned by younger people flocking urban areas in search of white-collar jobs. Thus farming has been left to the elderly to grow subsistence crops.
Recent innovations aimed at modernizing agriculture to make it profitable and attractive may finally entice younger people into the sector.
One such innovation is the Amiran Farmers Kit, invented by Balton Kenya, a subsidiary of a British firm, with over 50 years experience in agribusiness.
The kit, invented in 1988 by Balton’s associate, Amiran-Kenya is now being promoted in Rwanda by the Balton-Rwanda office and targets the youth.
Bob Gatera, Bolton Rwanda country manager says the 8x15m greenhouse kit provides all the crucial parts for sustainable horticulture production with assured yields and profits to a farmer.
“In the Amiran Kit, we are not only giving a farmer a money-making machine, but are handing them the keys to full empowerment and economic liberation,” he said.
Kelvin Odoobo, Bolton Rwanda agricultural manager says the kit comes with inputs such as seeds and fertilizers as well as components like collapsible water tanks and drip system.
“Each kit also includes vital training on best farming practices instructed by our expert agronomists as well as a one-year agro support package, which give farmers a network in which to find solutions to on farm problems,” he said.
A farmer needs initial investment of about Frw 2.5m to obtain the kit. This includes costs of water, manure, a pruning machine and labor.
If the farmer for instance chose to grow tomatoes, they would expect the first harvest in just eight months.
According to Odoobo, on average, the green house garden can yield up to 4,000kgs in a single season. That can earn a farmer a minimum of Frw 2 million at the current price of Frw 500 per kilo.
The kit also comes with seeds for growing outside the green house, with those, the farmer could earn an extra half a million francs.
For starters, the farmer earns in less than a year with possibility of recovering the initial investment in the first harvest.
For a heavily populated country such as Rwanda, the kit doesn’t need lots of space hence, home owners in urban areas can practice green house farming in the backyards of their houses which could provide extra income.
There is ready market for vegetables in burgeoning hotel industry that struggles to find a reliable supplier of fresh items like cucumber and tomatoes. Even fresh beans are imported.
The fact that green house farming is immune to inconsistent seasons, a farmer can be assured of constant production on a regular basis and can win lucrative contracts to supply hotels and supermarkets.
The initial investment of almost 2.5 million is no small money for most Rwandans but according to Balton Rwanda; they are working with the Youth Enterprise Development Fund to lend interested youth groups the kit and give a grace period of five months.
The kit itself, the assigned projected sales and personal guarantees act as the loan collateral.
According to Gatera, over 100 kits have been sold by Balton Rwanda who launched their activities here in 2006.
Anicet Rukundo, a farmer in Rwamagana, in the Eastern Province of Rwanda is one of the beneficiaries and she says she can plan her income from the green house unlike in the past when she used to grow tomatoes in the ordinary.
Some of the challenges cited in this otherwise promising initiative include bacterial wilt disease, low sense of ownership among recipients, limited access to land (by most Youth groups) and reliable water supply.
As a condition for cooperation, land and water presence are compulsory factors for the AFK to work.