Making a decision to venture into the unknown is perhaps the hardest step to take in life. “Better the devil I know,” is often the overriding principle when confronted with hard choices.
And for that reason, most of the time what stands between a person and prosperity in nothing but fear of the unknown.
When Eugène-Charles Sindayigaya, a former Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) combatant was demobilised from the military in 1998, he felt as if the end of the world had dawned. Little did he know that in life, one thing will often lead to another and in the process, nature does not allow a vacuum.
“Leaving the military was very tough for me because I thought I would never touch money again,” said the ex-combatant who joined the liberation struggle at 18 and lost his legs in the fighting.
While in the army, the institution he served for 13 years, he was always assured of his monthly salary and other benefits that come with being a service man. Therefore, civilian life was something hard to fathom especially for a man with little basic education and no skills.
But before being demobilsed, Sindayigaya received basic training in agriculture and animal husbandry under a programme sponsored by the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC), a state institution that prepares demoblised soldiers for civilian life.
It is while during the training that he started seeing some light at the end of tunnel. According to Sindayigaya, optimism in him grew stronger when RDRC handed him a reintegration package of Rwf150,000. “With my newly acquired skills in farming, I decided to plant Irish potato and onions in Musumba village in Kayonza District. After just six months, I had a harvest of 30 tons of both potatoes and onions,” he said.
According to Sindayigaya, in 2008 he opened another garden of onions and today, he owns three hectares of potatoes and onion in a farm worth about Rwf 20 million.
Interestingly, the pieces of land he established his farm was considered infertile and had been abandoned by the entire community as they believed nothing would ever grow there, Eugene noted.
“I am now in my late 30s and I harvest 1,000kg of potatoes every season; and this season I harvested 6,000kgs of onions—the harvest keeps increasing every season.” He markets his produce in different parts of Western Province, but is now eyeing the City of Kigali.
Proceeds from farming have enabled Sindayigaya to build himself a house and to support a number of dependants, some them people living with disability like him. Sindayigaya moves on wheelchair.
“I employ 20 workers on my farm, including four students who earn pocket money to take care of their needs at school.” Some of those Sindayigaya has extended a generous hand is his own sister for whom he has built house.
He intends to expand the business by diversifying into other activities. “I am planning to buy a pickup truck for transporting produce to Kigali, especially to Nyabugogo market.”
Advice to others
Sindayigaya recently bought another piece of land in Kayonza town where he plans to start fish farming. Another project on his mind is rearing rabbits. The idea is to have these projects up and running in two years, reveals Eugene. He says focusing strongly on what he chooses to do and dreaming big, is what has made him achieve the little he has today.
“I am an agriculturalist who specialized in animal husbandry and crops, so rabbit and fish farming [fall within my area of expertise].” He hopes to use the two projects to create jobs for unemployed youths in the area.
In a word to fellow ex-combatants, Sindayigaya says it is possible to succeed using very little resources, but only if they shunned social vices such as excessive drinking of alcohol. Drinking, he said, reduces the time one needs to thinking of ways and means to improve life.