How Shirimpumu used a salary loan to become a model farmer, employer

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The entrepreneur has found 'gold' in pig farming, amassing assets worth Rwf 250 million in six years. (Photos by Emmanuel Ntirenganya)

It’s 11am and Jean Claude Shirimpumu is inspecting his piggery project in Kageyo sector, Gicumbi District in Northern Province. The farmer can be seen stroking a sow as he feeds it.

Shirimpumu rightly calls pig farming his ‘gold mine’ as he has been able to amass assets worth over Rwf250 million in about six years, thanks to the project.

The farmer rears the big, long type of pigs that weigh up to 350 kilogrammes each. The sow he was feeding is worth about Rwf1 million in monetary terms since a kilogramme of pork is Rwf3,000, according to Shirimpumu.

“Pig farming is a gold mine and a money-spinning business when one practices it effectively using quality breed, proper feeding and ensuring proper care,” the farmer told Business Times.

Starting out

Shirimpumu said he started pig farming in 2009 as a side income generating project to complement his salary while working at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).

That is what gave birth to Vision Agribusiness Farm, which is also involved in other farming activities. He was earning Rwf900,000 per month then. The farmer, who holds a master’s degree in project management, said he started piggery business with a salary loan of Rwf10 million from Bank of Kigali that he used to buy five pregnant pigs and feeds, as well as build shed. The entrepreneur had engaged in poultry farming previously.

“Through needs assessment study, I realised that people need eggs and meat to improve their nutrition,” said the 45-year-old father of three.

Over the years, the piggery project expanded to about 600 pigs (though the number changes as he keeps selling some pigs and more are born). Of these, 45 are sows, which ensure project sustainability.

With the growth of the project, Shirimpumu was able to repay the bank loan with ease, and even quit his job at RBC in 2013 to concentrate on pig farming.

“I realised that pig farming was earning me far much more than my job. However, it needed more time for better results. So, I decided to quit my job to dedicate all my time and energy to the project,” Shirimpumu told Business Times  in an interview at his Gicumbi farm.

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Shirimpumu helps his piglets breastfeed. 

Production and marketing

Shirimpumu sells three category of pigs, including adult or pregnant pigs for breeding (about 10 per month), piglets (about 150 per month), and old pigs for meat estimated to between 10 and 20 per month.

The entrepreneur is the chairperson for the Rwanda Pig Farmers’ Association established in February 2017.

He said he advocated for the establishment of the association as a means to solving issues of low prices of meat (about Rw1,200 a kilogramme) that farmers largely get, leaving the middlemen to pocket hefty profits at the expense of farmers as they resell a kilo at Rwf2,000.

He said the other challenge that needs to be addressed is lack of modern abattoirs to process pig meat in the country. The issue of high cost of animal feeds, ranging from Rwf200 and Rwf250 a kilogramme, is also a hindrance as it is not affordable to pig farmers, he added.

Achievements

Shirimpumu has gotten many assets from the project, including a five-hectare piece of land worth Rwf60 million, which he uses for his agriculture activities. His pig farm sits on a three-hectare piece of land; the farmer is also involved in agro-forestry, and acquired two cars - one for the family and another to facilitate his farming activities.

Investment and profit compared

He said people have a misconception that pigs consume a lot of food, noting that ‘modern’ pigs consume only three kilogrammes per day.

He said pig farming is a good business that ensures return on investment in a short period of time.

Alexis Ndayambaje, the production officer at the farm, explained that three kilogrammes of quality feed (worth about Rwf600) translate into a kilogramme of meat or between Rwf1,200 and Rwf1,500 per kilo in monetary terms.

Ndayambaje is a graduate of rural development.

Using the money from the piggery project, Shirimpumu bought a five-hectare piece of land where he grows vitamin A-rich yellow maize. The farmer harvests about six tonnes per hectare.

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The farmer joins local elderly women near his piggery to thresh maize cobs.

Contribution to community

Currently, he employs 12 permanent workers and about 30 casual labourers in his farming activities.

He said he pays some of his workers more than Rwf900,000 per month.

After six years since the establishment of his business, Shirimpumu said he has helped over 200 entities (including farmers and cooperatives) get improved pig breeds. Ndayambaje said apart from good pay, he has gained skills in job-creation and project management.

He added that he wants to pursue post-graduate studies using his salary.

Alexis Mbaraga, a farmer, told Business Times that he bought three pigs from Shirimpumu at Rwf150,000 each three years ago but now has 200 pigs. The City of Kigali resident whose pig farm is in Nyanza District, Southern Province, said Shirimpumu’s pigs are productive, multiply quickly and are not prone to diseases.

“I earn about Rwf10 million per year from piggery. What is good with Shirimpumu is that he trains farmers and make follow ups to ensure they profit from the pigs bought from Vision Agribusiness Farm,” he said.

In fact, Shirimpumu’s company also trains other people interested in piggery on how they can best do it to get desired profits. Vision Agribusiness Farm also offers internships to both secondary and university students who study veterinary and agriculture courses.

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Piglets at Shirimpumu’s farm. 

Setting up a breeding centre

The farmer plans to set up a breeding centre that will offer many services, including artificial insemination and farmer capacity building. It will also have a fattening lot to increase meat production to satisfy the market, especially for export. He said the centre will employ more youth particularly those with requisite technical skills.

Pig population

There are about one million pigs in Rwanda, according to figures from the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).

According to Worldwatch Institute, a US-based development research organisation, pork (pig meat) is the most widely consumed in the world followed by poultry, beef and mutton.