The ‘New Times’ team recently visited Nyagatare district in the eastern region of Rwanda, and encountered a lady farmer, Kansiime Alice. The group met the charming and remarkably welcoming woman, Alice Kansiime, at her business place, in the heart of a beautiful mushrooming town of Nyagatare. She is indeed one of the few successful farmers in the country. They had a long chat with her. Here she narrates the story:
“The idea of farming came to me when I was still young. I love cows and their products. You do not need to toil so much, yet you earn enough to keep you and your family going.
I have two children; one is studying in India and the other one has just finished high school. I manage to pay for their schools fees and feed them with relative ease. The money I get from selling milk makes it all.
I started this business many years ago. I had to construct a semi permanent house, to enable me do my business when enjoying the real economies of scale. In other words, the house is mine, the milk comes from my cows and I do not employ anybody to sell the milk. This has therefore helped to enjoy maximum profits-real economies of scale.
Another important thing that has actually boosted my milk retail business is the uniqueness with which it is sold to customers.
My clients are offered the famous tradition containers (Ishongero), and I guess it explains why I am the best milk retailer in this town. People from all walks of life come to this place to buy milk, so that they may get the chance to drink from these containers.
The milk in these containers tastes good. It has a nice ardour originating from the smoke, which is got from burning a special grass, degenerated for the same purpose. The smoke too stops the milk from going bad for quite long time.
Yeah, because I have been getting profits from some good years, I have decided to go another mile in widening opportunities.
My cows increased in number and generally, we as farmers do not have big land, on which we can grow and graze our cows.
I have therefore, decided to sell some of the cows, so that I am left with those that can be managed on the land I have. It indeed gave me chance to think about increasing my investment in other fixed assets, like houses.
I am busy constructing two modern houses, which will be used for residential and commercial purposes respectively.
I think I am getting rich and richer, a thing of course that is unique of a woman, in poor countries (she laughs). It is on record that women tend to depend on men for purposes of survival, and very few think of farming anyway.
Of course, there are others with cows like me, but the vision and the zeal with which they do their farming, is quite different from the one they I have.
Remember I am an uneducated peasant (smiles)! I however, do not believe that I have to have a man on my side, to be great- I can be so on my own, though I will not push away a man’s hand that comes in a positive way.
One of my houses is about to be completed without real big difficulties, yet it is a big house. The house has six bedrooms, seating room and dinning rooms, kitchen, store and a large veranda.
The plot is of course big enough to offer me an opportunity to prepare a good garden of flowers. I like flowers for they beautify even the ugliest environment, and make magnificent the good one.
After the project of the houses, I will think of going to banks, so that they may give me money to expand my business, to more satisfying levels. You see I do not have any loan and I have achieved so much, a thing that puts me in a more advantageous situation.
I used to shy away from the loans, but I think time is now ripe for me to try them. I have seen some of my neighbours in the town centre doing well after obtaining loans from the banks.
I will do everything to keep the most modern cows on my farm. This is because I want to maintain the current milk business I am doing”.