Fourteen years ago, he was a well paid worker at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) earning a monthly salary of Rwf1 million.
Many in his shoes would not even think of giving up such a well paying job in exchange for the ‘hoe.’
But for Jean Claude Shirimpumu, a resident of Gicumbi District, after 8 years at RBC, he quit his job to start a new life as a farmer.
Now the managing director of Vision agribusiness farm in Gicumbi, Shirimpumu earns millions from rearing pigs, chicken, cows, goats and sheep. He also grows beans and maize on large scale.
The doctor says he has no regrets for the decision he took to join farming against advice from friends.
But what inspired him to quit his profession for farming?
“It all started as a side business to supplement my salary,” Shirimpumu recalls, adding that he started with only 5 piglets.
The biochemist says he had tried to venture into piggery while at university but was not successful due to lack of capital.
When he finished school and got a job, he saved as much as possible to be able to embark on the piggery project.
“On my return from India where I had gone to pursue a masters degree in project management, I decided to continue with the piggery project as a business generating enterprise,” he said.
He had conducted extensive research about piggery and established that there was enormous market within the country and the region at large.
“This presented a business opportunity and indeed in 2008, I decided to embark on the project well knowing its rate of returns in terms of profits,” he said.
And after nearly 4 years into the project, he decided to quit his job at RBC to focus entirely on his piggery project.
“I realised that the project needed a lot of attention and time to make it more successful, and therefore decided to tender in my resignation letter in 2013, to embark on a new phase as a full time farmer,” he explained before adding that the move gave him an opportunity to plan better on how to expand his piggery and also diversify into more livestock farming.
BDF offers him a timely shot
Meanwhile, despite working out a financial strategy on how he wanted to mobilize resources for expansion of his projects, many credit institutions were willing to give Shirimpumu credit to push the project forward.
It was not until he approached the Business Development Fund (BDF) that bank of Kigali accepted to give him credit worth Rwf30 million, which he used to expand his farm.
After securing the money, Shirimpumu constructed a modern piggery and imported more exotic breeds from Belgium and Denmark.
“Introducing new exotic breeds boosted my competitiveness and made the project more profitable,” he explained before tipping other pig farmers to embrace cross breeding as one way of increasing productivity.
From 5 piglets, Shirimpumu’s farm now has more than 600 pigs and has since ventured into poultry and cattle farming.
Apart from employing more than 20 people including veterinary doctors, his farm has now become a training centre with many universities rushing to book internship placement for their students.
He also sells more than 2000kgs of pork every week generating millions of cash from the project.
“We are thinking of selling every kilogramme of pork at about Rwf2000 because of the high quality we are producing,” he added.
The model farmer has also used money generated from his farm to buy more land where he is currently growing various crops to support his projects in Gicumbi District.
As part of a strategy to increase productivity, Shirimpumu mobilised fellow pig farmers and formed the association of Rwanda pig farmers.
Shirimpumu’s achievements have not come on a silver platter; the Gicumbi model farmer has had to endure challenges and tests to make the project a success.
“The biggest challenge farmers often face is the lack of knowledge about piggery as an economic activity,” he said adding that being able to select the right breed for the right purposes is still a big challenge which often affects production.
“The question of middle men along the value chain is also still un resolved despite the associated negative impact it brings to farmers,” he added.
According to Shirimpumu, the rate of growth in terms of pig production will depend on how fast commercial-scale units are able to replace the stock of pigs from disappearing backyard producers.
This should be looked at as part of the strategies to combat food insecurity in the country, he advised.
Shirimpumu plans to turn his farm into a demonstration farm where all farmers will be able to come and acquire knowledge and expertise about pig farming.
He also plans to venture into exporting pork leveraging on RwandAir’s current expansion to West Africa and Europe.