The SPHI Seed Systems and Crop Management Community of Practice held its 9th consultation meeting on 15-17 May 2018, at the Hotel Villa Portofino Kigali, Rwanda. The theme of the meeting was “Engaging youth for improved sweetpotato seed and root production”.
The meeting was attended by 55 participants from 12 countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Burkina Faso, the United States and Rwanda).
The meeting was officially opened by Dr. Charles Bucagu who is the Director General Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB). In his remarks, he noted, “Rwanda’s vision for agricultural transformation and development is to achieve food security and attaining per capita income of US$1240 by year 2020. As the average age of farmers in Rwanda is 55 years old, we cannot move forward and faster without working with the most energetic wing of our labour force, the youth”.
The keynote address was delivered by Jean Baptiste Hategekimana, Chairman, Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF). His remarks highlighted “Challenges and opportunities: Youth involvement in the agriculture sector in Rwanda”. He noted that “We want the youth to be organised under platforms to ease their access to capacity building training and financing opportunities”.
One of the highlights from the meeting was a Talk Show with youth who shared their motivation and engagement in sweetpotato seed and root enterprises (Paola Giriwanyu, Serge Ganza, Francine Uwibambe, Mubaraka Habimana, and Jean Francois) and their experiences on the challenges and opportunities of sweetpotato seed and root production in Rwanda.
Paola Giriwanyu who was the youngest agripreneur on the panel explained that being a youth in agri-business has exposed her to many opportunities although most youth in Rwanda still do not believe that agriculture is profitable. She condemned this perception adding that with more support from the government towards the existing youth in agriculture, this will increase the numbers of youth joining the sector.
As for Mubaraka Habimana, who is reaping big from selling Orange-fleshed sweetpotato leaves to the Democratic Republic of Congo, he recommended the youth in agriculture to learn and use different marketing strategies for the success of their businesses. Moreover, he believes that lack of enough capital is not the biggest challenge faced by youth in agriculture in Rwanda but rather lack of technical knowledge in agribusiness for some youth; hence requested responsible organisations and the government to intervene.
Another highlight of the meeting was the field visit to Serge Ganza’s and Paola’s farms. During the learning journeys, participants had a chance to visit, and get one on one sessions with the enterprising youths to answer questions on how they successfully run their businesses.
Some lessons from the visit to Serge Ganza:
- Serge has benefited from good working relationships withother
- actors e.g. partnerships with RAB, International Potato Centre, Catholic Relief Services and One Acre Fund among others. The partnerships have provided ready markets for his vines and have also availed opportunities for training.
- Serge is open-minded to continuously learn and try out new things; he walks out of his comfort zone to achieve his results e.g. started with OFSP vine multiplication, and now has ventured into multiplication of other seed and other value chain activities such as root production and coordinating the roadside collection and marketing centre shown in the picture.
- He has worked within the reality of his context i.e. knowing that Rwanda has no natural resources beyond land for agriculture, he has focussed his business on using the two readily available resources, land and labour.
- Serge supports the community around him through reasonably priced planting material (Rwf 3 per 3-node cutting) to ensure root production throughout the year for household consumption and for uninterrupted supply to processing plants.
Some lessons from the visit to Paola Giriwanyu:
- The power of a well-written business plan to get land and implement sweetpotato activities in Kigali. The business plan won Paola a free plot of land in the Kigali marshland to start her vine multiplication business.
- Being a young lady was an advantage in the competition. She hopes to encourage other young ladies to venture into agribusiness.
- No need to have everything to start a business, start small and grow gradually.
- Exposure to internships could be a way to motivate and train jobless youth to create their own job opportunities.
Overall the meeting was a successful learning experience. Some media highlights from the meeting.
Let’s keep motivating youth to be interested in agricultural activities.