From Rwf30, 000, Muneza has built a multi-million business empire

  • August 16, 2016

Modern agriculture was hitherto seen by most residents of the Eastern Province as preserve of the well-to-do; those with ‘waste’.

But this was before Jean Bosco Muneza, a model farmer in Karubungo cell, Gitoki sector in Gatsibo District, demystified this myth seven years ago. To many Gatsibo District residents, Muneza’s name is “Farmer”.

Whenever one talks about commercial farming in the district and Eastern Province, generally, most residents will direct them to Muneza’s farm.

Takes on President’s challenge

Like most successful business people, Muneza says he was inspired by President Paul Kagame’s speech on job-creation.

“I was listening to Radio Rwanda (now RBA Radio) when I had the President challenging Rwandans to stop lamenting about poverty and unemployment when are not doing anything to change their situation,” he says.

He adds that afterwards, he reviewed his living standards and asked himself if he had done enough to improve his livelihood.

“But I was shocked that I was largely to blame for the poverty I was wallowing in. Since then I resolved to do something to turn round the situation,” he notes.

“I had always dreamt of becoming a big farmer. Naturally, I was inclined to the agriculture sector, in which I believed I had some basic skills to do a decent job,” he adds.

Muneza points out that a few months after the President’s speech; he started a pineapple growing project.

He says he used his small savings of about Rwf30,000 to buy 1,000 pineapple suckers, which he planted on a two-hectare piece of land.

Shot in the arm

Around the same time, he was seconded by local leaders for assistance earmarked for the less privileged residents by World Vision. He says the assistance involved World Vision paying for his children’s education, as well as farmer training programmes.

“I was relieved and glad that my children would access quality education. This strengthened my resolve to pursue my dream in farming,” he explains.

He says World Vision extension staff trained him and other farmers in modern farming, which improved his crop husbandry skills.

“With the skills, I passionately looked after the plantation and waited patiently. I was always calculating how much I would earn when they start production… This was my first step to a better future, so I could not take any chances,” he points out.

Sky is the limit

He says World Vision also supported him with 111,000 pineapple suckers, which he planted on four hectares of land.

“I could now see my dream taking shape…I could see myself as the biggest farmer in our locality. I was determined to make commercial farming a pedestal for a better future for my family,” Muneza says.

He says after a year, the pineapple suckers had multiplied to 63,000, which he sold to World Vision at Rwf6.4 million.

“In my entire life, I had never saved Rwf200,000, but now I was a millionaire. I was overwhelmed, and started planning the things I could do with the money,” says Muneza.

He notes that he pushed aside temptations to use the cash for luxuries and decided to expandthe project and diversify into banana growing.

He says he had been studying banana farming over time and was impressed by the returns from, improved breeds of bananas. “I decided to give it a try,” he says.

“I used some of the money from pineapple sucker sales to buy three additional hectares of land at Rwf3 million to grow improved bananas. I also bought two Friesian cows because I knew that besides selling milk, I could get manure for my banana and pineapple plantations,” he says.

Muneza says that he has since expanded the banana plantation to six hectares, while the dairy project boasts of seven dairly cows.

National model farmer

He says his hard work was noticed by the Ministry of Agriculture, which has nominated him on several occasions to participate in various national agricultural exhibitions.

As they say, knowledge not shared is as well as useless. So, Muneza says he has outreach programmes where he helps other farmers in the area to improve their farming methods and acquire improved seeds.

“Muneza’s transformation is a lesson to all Rwandans,” says Joseph Munyarukumbuzi, one of his neighbours.

“He was among the poorest people in the sector, but he now owns the most beautiful house in the entire village. His children are studying in one of the best schools in Kabarore town.”

Munyarukumbuzi says all these are fruits of hard work, commitment and passion that Muneza has exhibited. His success has inspired Gitoki residents to engage in farming as a business and a means to fight household poverty among the community.

Fruits of hard work

Besides crop agriculture, Muneza is also a prosperous dairy farmer, with seven Friesian cows to his name. He sells the milk to the community and nearby towns.

“I have been able to buy two Fuso trucks, which take my produce to Kigali, and ferry fertilisers and manure to the banana and pineapple plantations. I also hire them out, bringing in more income,” Muneza notes.

His wife owns the only pharmacy in neighbourhood, which saves the community from walking long distances to get medicines.

He employs 14 permanent workers who help him in the plantations and dairy farm activities.

Muneza says he saves about Rwf750,000 a month on average.

He has not forgotten that knowledge is power, and a few years back he enrolled for studies and recently graduated with a bachelor’s of education degree, majoring in economics, from the Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Education (INATEK).

“Although I achieved my other dream of being a university graduate, I won’t be moving around looking for jobs…I am a job-creator,” he says.

Challenges

Muneza says challenges still exist despite his success. “We still face shortage of fertilisers and pesticides, which sometimes leads to poor yields. Low produce prices also affect growth of the sector as farmers lose morale and under produce or abandon agriculture,” he notes.

He, however, says he has put in place measures to overcome some of the challenges.

“I have increased the number of cattle so as to get enough manure and I am working with the local agronomists to help me fight pests and diseases,” he says.

He adds that he is in negotiations with different buyers to widen his market and get better prices for his produce.

He urges the government to help farmers get improved seeds, access extensional services in their locality and put price caps on all crops to safeguard farmers from unscrupulous middlemen.

“The government should also find better markets for us in the region and internationally, help farmers get loans and agro-training, especially in commercial farming,” he says.

One for all

Every Friday, people who are interested in modern farming converge at Muneza’s farms to learn from his winning tips. He also gives free improved suckers to those who wish to engage in banana farming.

This has enabled some to start their own commercial farming projects.

Majyambere, who owns a promising banana plantation in Gatoki sector, is one of the beneficiaries.

“Muneza is our inspiration, a trainer and a model farmer that we owe a lot in our community,” he says.

Winning formula

Muneza advises farmers to always plan their projects well and be focused. He adds that only those that dare to dream big and take that extra-mile achieve goals.

“Besides embracing modern farming practices, seeds and technology, be passionate about what you do and give farming additional time.

“The size of your farm should depend on the size of your dream, creativity and innovation. Avoid taking on too much than you can ably handle financially and in terms of personnel,” he counsels.

Source: New Times

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