An expert was once a beginner!

09-12-2020

My name is Pacifique Ndayishimiye and I am from Rwanda, Muhanga district. I have a bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness from University of Rwanda, College of Agricultural and Animal Veterinary Medicine. I work for Agriterra Rwanda as junior consultant, but started as an intern. Getting some kind of practical work experience after graduation is always a challenging period for most of Rwandan young people. Last Year I was among the luckiest young people. I got a professional internship at Agriterra.

My journey at Agriterra started in 2019, with scoping and assessing various cooperatives to be supported by HortInvest project, which is a horticulture project implemented by five consortium partners including SNV, Agriterra, Holland Green Tech, IDH and Wageningen University. After serving as an intern for six months, I was officially appointed as a  junior consultant based at Ingabo Syndicate office in Muhanga on 13th July, 2020. The  internship did not only offer me a chance to work with professionals, but also enabled  me to translate the theory learned in the classroom and put it into practice.

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As junior consultant, I have the mission of strengthening the fruit and vegetable value chain in Muhanga, Rutsiro, Ngororero and Karongi district. Our responsibilities include:

  • Support INGABO syndicate in the follow up of horticulture Farmer Field Schools (FFS) demo plots established in the assigned area as well as helping lead farmers to establish new FFS,
  • Coaching and advising lead farmers on GAP,
  • Provide business, financial management and governance advisory services to cooperatives in Muhanga, Ngororero, Rutsiro and Karongi district
  • Follow up of fruit tree seedlings planted in 2019 by INGABO syndicate on support of Agriterra for 166 households in Songa village, Mbare Cell, Shyogwe sector in Muhanga district.

It was a good journey, where I have learned and advised the assigned cooperatives and lead farmers. I have also attended two trainings (My.Coop and Financial literacy & record keeping), where I learnt about the methodology used in training the adult people and how they are conducted. I am feeling more confident than before!

Strengthening fruit and vegetable value chains

The agricultural sector is a large contributor to Rwanda’s National economy where Horticulture has a significant share. Government of Rwanda has strengthened the production and is simultaneously supporting the export market. The domestic horticulture sector in Rwanda provides great opportunities since the domestic and regional consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is increasing. Export of fruits and vegetables can be further developed since some crops produced in Rwanda are in high demand at international market.

Good agricultural practice of banana

FFS is described as a platform and school without walls for improving decision making capacity of farming communities and stimulating local innovation for sustainable agriculture.

In 2018, INGABO syndicate trained 50 farmers from 4 districts on good agricultural practice of banana, who were tasked to train local farmers in their respective locations. Banana has carried significant importance to Rwanda’s dietary for long time now. It is one of highly consumed staple crop in Rwanda. Banana production in Rwanda averages 2.5 million metrics tons per year. It is grown on about 165,000ha and occupies 23% of all arable land in the country (Seasonal Agricultural Survey report (SAS), NISR). An average Rwandan consumes 227kg per year.

We have reached 18 lead farmers in Muhanga and Kamonyi district. Since being trained, they were able to train 564 local farmers on ‘Good agricultural practices of Banana’. Four farmer groups namely Duhuze Ibikorwa (34 members), Kundumurimo (29 youths), Abunzubumwe ba Ngarama (7 members), Abatiganda (15 members) were founded.  95% of lead farmers brew Banana fruit into local beer called “Urwagwa”, as their main value addition and commercial.

The pandemic (COVID-19) has suspended many activities, including a meeting. The lead farmers are struggling in their mobilisations, as well as supplying their brewed bananas due to the shut off of the bars. My colleague Fabrice and I urged them to keep assisting their respective trained farmers and help them to found farmer groups in order to harmonise their efforts and reach common goals.

Currently, Fabrice, I and INGABO syndicate’s agronomist are setting up a model on how INGABO syndicate will establish vegetables FFS on sustainable basis. Already onion FFS has been set where 11 farmers are learning from it.

Follow up of fruit seedling provided in Songa Village

In 2019 INGABO syndicate, supported by Agriterra, provided fruit seedlings to 166 households in Songa Village where each household received three tree seedling including papaya, mango and orange. So far, we have visited 60 households and found that most papaya trees have been completely dried, because it failed to resist in dry season.
On 4 November 2020, Fabrice, I and INGABO syndicate team provided 332 tree seedlings to 166 households of the same village, where each household received a papaya and tomato tree.

Follow up of the assigned HortInvest cooperatives

I advised category 2 (small) cooperatives on Good Agricultural Practices and showed them the opportunities surrounding and how to benefit them in finding sustainable market. My portfolio includes also three category 1 cooperatives which I advise ceaselessly. Among the category 1 cooperatives I visited, they told me to have enormously benefited from Agriterra trainings. They indicated that the trainings and advisory services have changed their mindset in their governance structure, financial management, marketing techniques and members have shifted from subsistence to commercial farming. Category 2 cooperative stressed the desire to work closely with Agriterra and expressed their main challenges such as limited knowledge on Good Agricultural Practices, financial management and marketing techniques.
During this time, I realised that Agriterra partnership with our cooperatives is very crucial in professionalising the agricultural sector.

However, COVID-19 has negatively affected many of small holder farmers’ activities as well as agricultural cooperatives. The meetings have been suspended and postponed, the scarcity of the inputs, lack of the market, the absence of storage facility and the price downfall were the main challenges amongst others in the vegetables and fruit value chain.

Technology dissemination that could improve the competitiveness and quality of fruit and vegetables value chain is needed, since most of the fruits and vegetables fresh produced is marketed through public local market. The fresh produce of fruits and vegetables destined for markets is mainly sold through wholesale traders, who purchase from producing farmers, rural smaller markets and along the road in rural areas.

The fruit and vegetable value chain is very interesting and promising. Though, there is much more to learn, and I would love to keep learning from Agriterra team. There is also much more to offer to our farmers and cooperatives such as advices on Good Agricultural practice, financial management and good governance. Personally, I am just enjoying working with farmers and Agriterra!

Pacifique Ndayishimiye 


Also read the blog of intern Fabrice Niyonkuru


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