Niyonsaba Mukasakindi is collecting eggs at her poultry farm when we arrive for the interview. The farmer seems to relish the job at hand.
The resident of Mbugo in Rulindo District is a farmer like no other, as we were to learn later. The farmer rears over 6,000 layers in backyard, and collects more than 2,000 eggs daily, bringing in Rwf4.2 million per month. For a person that never went to school or knows how to read and write, her immense achievement is the talk in the area and across the district.
How she started
Mukasakindi, however, says though poverty and illiteracy were her biggest challenges, they inspired her to work hard and become successful. She says her parents in Nyamagabe District were so poor and therefore could not afford sending her to school thus killing her dreams of becoming an accountant.
“My childhood dream was to become an accountant, but unfortunately never got a chance to step in school, she said adding that the situation was very hard that even putting food on the table was difficult,” notes the 29-year-old mother of two.
In 2004, she moved to Rulindo in search of green pastures, where she landed a job as a house help. When she got married later, she knew her life and that of her parents would improve. The marriage provided her resources and space to bring her enterprising spirit to the fore.
“As house wife, I realised I was wasting a lot of time at home doing small house chores. So I decided to start some income-generating activity to use my time more profitably. This is how the idea of setting up a poultry project was born,” she narrates.
Mukasakindi turned her backyard store into a poultry house to kick-start the project, which sought to ensure a sustainable source of income. The farmer started the venture with less than 50 birds.
She says rearing birds is more convenient, profitable and worth investing because of the good rate of returns and does not require a lot of startup capital.
Mukasakindi rears layers (for egg production). “I realised that the market for eggs in the country was constantly increasing, giving farmers like me a huge opportunity to expand and maximise returns.”
Like with other sectors, Mukasakindi was soon to face stiff competition from other farmers that almost kicked her out of business.
She had not done enough research in the area, which made her believe she was the only poultry farmer in Rulindo.
“It was a big mistake which I only realised when I started marketing my eggs. That was a big lesson for me, in case I want to start a different enterprise,” she notes.
To have an edge over the competition, the farmer decided to expand the project so as to ensure sustainable supply that most of the other local players could not manage. The gamble worked. However, her efforts were almost derailed due to limited capital.
Mukasakindi’s to get a loan from commercial banks came to naught with the financial institutions saying her business is risky.
Unguka Microfinance Bank, of which she is a client, also refused to give her the Rwf8 million loan she had applied for because she lacked collateral.
“It was not until Business Development Fund (BDF) agreed to guarantee the loan with Rwf2 million that the bank agreed to give money,” she explains.
Despite securing the money, Mukasakindi still had to deal with other challenges to make it in the poultry farming business.
One of the major challenges is disease outbreaks and the cost of treatment.
The entrepreneur says that to minimise this threat and gain from the venture, she selects the best breed and ensure constant monitoring of the project.
However, selecting the right breed was not an easy task, she says, advising farmers and other people interested in rearing chicken to always ensure they procure “the right breed to get better results in terms of egg production.
Embracing smart farming
Mukasakindi adopted ‘smart’ farming technologies to ease operations and spur profits.
“For instance, we can tell when clients need more eggs by simply tagging the farm to buyers via mobile applications and other ICT innovations.”
The business woman is also able to stay in touch with both her farm and the market using ICT innovation. Her main buyer is Urwibutso Enterprises, commonly known as Nyiragarama. She also supplies supermarkets in Northern Province.
Mukasakindi’s relentless efforts as poultry farmer have finally paid off. The former house help now earns millions.
She has managed to expand her farm from 50 birds to over 6,000 birds, making her one of the biggest poultry farmers in Rulindo District. She has used her profits to construct a modern residential house for the family, and also set up some rentals to expand her income streams.
Mukasakindi owns a brand new Toyota RAV4 worth Rwf14 million. She attributes her success to the peace and stability Rwanda enjoys under President Paul Kagame and the timely help from BDF.
The farmer has her eyes on the regional market and is already constructing more poultry houses to realise this dream.
Mukasakindi advises women to be confident and seek funding from banks and SACCOs to start or expand their enterprises, arguing that this contributes to poverty reduction.
“Women have a role to play in efforts toward poverty reduction and fast-tracking Rwanda’s economic development. They must, therefore, take advantage of the existing facilities and initiatives to become more resourceful,” says Mukasakindi.