Rwanda: Young Agri-Preneurs Seek to Drive Up Adoption of Climate Smart Farming
In response to challenges in the affordability of climate-smart farms and related equipment for Rwandan farmers, a local agri-business group, Innovation for Impact (Infim) is using innovation to find alternatives.
This vision has earned them ‘best youth-led agricultural organization across Africa’ in the Foundation of the Year (FOYA) Awards 2021.
The awarding ceremony that was held in Nairobi on August 31, awarded Infim team a non-monetary prize of mentorship and matching the team with potential investors in agriculture.
Climate smart farming is an approach to farming that increases productivity and resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Having graduated their high school in 2018, four agriculture students, Mugisha Ernest, Eric Sibomana, Benjamin Ntihemuka and Jean Damascene Kubwayo, identified a need to improve, develop and elevate innovative ideas to improve the health sector through agriculture.
To pursue their goals, they initiated Innovation for impact agriculture for transformation project (Infim) in 2019 with a strong belief of developing ideas from fundamental research to make a remarkable impact on Rwandan agriculture.
“During that research, we realized climate smart farming will be one of the solutions to the problems facing Rwandan agricultural system, because most of our farmers think that agriculture is all about digging and harvesting, but our research went further,” said Ernest Mugisha, head of Infim, citing that they wanted to educate farmers on the modern methods of farming.
Unfortunately, Mugisha noted, that these farmers who are concerned solely about digging and harvesting get little in return and hence their improvement of standards of living remains low.
Upon adopting the improved farming styles of climate smart farming, the group rented up to two hectares of land to cultivate and apply the innovations they had brainstormed.
They embraced horticultural farming, concentrating on tomatoes, onions and chili among other products.
Apart from embracing the new farming style and raising the farmers’ standards of living, the local startup also sought to change the bias that the agricultural sector is a low-income earning sector by raising awareness especially to the youths that this sector is also a sector of survival.
“We also wanted to open the eyes of the youth, inspire them and showcase the opportunities present in the agricultural sector,” added Mugisha.
With limited skills, capital and the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic, Infim Agricultural Transform Africa settled its first premises in Gashora sector, Bugesera district, and started looking for funding for the project.
The team presented to different groups, individuals and organizations and managed to raise Rwf 5 million as the capital, to commence their horticultural activities.
“In our first agricultural seasons, we have managed to produce more than 700 kilograms of onions but our go-to-market plan was drastically hindered by Covid-19, hence the profit was not the maximum as projected, but we are dealing with the supply of horticultural products with chili being exported to china,” commented Mugisha.
With their activities, more than 500 casual workers were employed in the previous agricultural seasons since 2019, who the group claims have improved their standards of living owing it to the wages they make from Infim.
Apart from horticultural production, Infim also provides agricultural consultation services.
In 10 years to come, according to Mugisha, the team envisions Rwandan farmers having embraced smarter climate farming techniques like crop rotation and mulching among others.