Shaw sold his California home to invest in fish farming in Bugesera

57-year-old Roger Shaw, a resident of Bugesera sold his house back home in America before relocating to Rwanda in 2011. The American sold the house to invest in fish farming in Bugesera District. In 2011 he relocated to Rwanda and settled in Bugesera together with his Rwandan wife.
Shaw feeding fish in Bugesera. (Pontian Kabeera)
Shaw feeding fish in Bugesera. (Pontian Kabeera)

57-year-old Roger Shaw, a resident of Bugesera sold his house back home in America before relocating to Rwanda in 2011. The American sold the house to invest in fish farming in Bugesera District. In 2011 he relocated to Rwanda and settled in Bugesera together with his Rwandan wife. It’s a venture that has paid off as he is one of the most successful fish farmers in the country.

“I recall my wife and I became more excited every time we visited Rwanda,” he says adding that the decision to sell off their only house in San Jose, California before moving to Bugesera was the best decision ever.

 It was not so easy to get started. There was no house, no fence, no running water, no electricity, no internet, and of course, no fish farm,” he says of his early days in Bugesera.

With proceeds from the sale of his home, Shaw says he managed to buy more than16 hectares of land next to Lake Mirayi in Gashora Sector which he used to establish the fish farm. He says he put in place more than 30 fish ponds and other facilities to kick start the business.

He started with tilapia and catfish brood stock species which are on high demand.

His passion for fish farming started during his secondary school days. This passion saw him push for his dream until he graduated with a BSc in Aquaculture and Fisheries Management from Auburn University in USA.

Armed with skills after graduation, he worked on several fish farms in USA, Europe and Israel before venturing into IT.

In 2010 he came across Rwanda’s Vision 2020 and was inspired by the country’s commitment and desire to transform itself into a middle income economy. That marked his journey to invest in Rwanda’s fish industry.

Shaw says his first thought was to venture into Rwanda’s ICT sector, but because of the demand of fish and his passion for fish farming, he opted for fish farming.

He says the country’s zero tolerance to corruption; excellent business environment and political stability also motivated him to invest in Rwanda.

Economic opportunities

Fish farming presents a lot of opportunities. Shaw estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, the average fish consumption is 6.6kg/fish per person per year which presents a huge business opportunity.

“So it is reasonable to assume that as a nation, we would consume 80,000 tonnes of fish per year if it was available,” says the fish famer.

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Shaw also rears chicken on his Bugesera farm. (File)

According to Shaw, the combined output from aquaculture and capture fisheries in Rwanda is a fraction of that amount.

There is therefore a tremendous opportunity for anyone who is willing to get into fish farming or the management of natural fisheries, he advises.

There are 28 fish producing lakes here, yet their yields of wild caught fish are very low. If these lakes were to be skillfully managed by concessionaires, then capture fisheries could potentially meet 20% of the demand; that would leave 80% to be met by aquaculture, Shaw says.

Achievements

Apart from fish farming, Shaw is now offering technical training and English language lessons to his more than 20 staff in Gashora.

With his wife they have established a primary school that offers a quality education for the children of employees and locals.

And besides fish farming, he has branched out into agri-tourism, many farmers flock his farm to acquire more skills. Also, parents from as far as Kigali bring their children to visit, he says.

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Shaw feeding his Friesian cows in Bugesera.

Despite a rough beginning, Shaw has invested heavily in infrastructure, training and marketing.

He now boasts of more than 13,000 broodstock fish in his ponds and has also diversified into dairy farming, poultry and piggery among other activities.

Challenges

Shaw says, fish farming in Rwanda has been constrained by a lack of feeds, fingerlings and skills.

According to Shaw the lack of premium commercial quantities of fish feeds is a big set back to the industry.

The  biggest constraint  farmers face include among others lack of access to financing, he says adding that banks  are not so willing to lend to fish farmers. “They generally require more than 100% collateral and two years of profitable operation.  They prefer to lend for tangible capital items, yet most of the money required by a fish farmer is for working capital. But even if a fish farmer did qualify for a loan, then startup fees and high interest rates will place a heavy burden on the business,” Shaw explains.

Future prospects

 Shaw says he wants to tap into the growing demand of fish across the country and provide the best quality.

It is obvious that the country still needs hundreds of fish farms to be able to match the demand; it is therefore my wish and plan to put the business at the heart of this growing market, he says.

“Value addition is yet another area we want to concentrate on going forward to be able to maximize on our profits; he says adding that the plans to export fish can never be ruled out.

 

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