When Juvenal Kabagambe graduated from the University of Rwanda with a Bachelor’s Degree in agricultural mechanization, in 2016, he thought hard about how to leverage his newly gained knowledge and skills. The 34-year-old entrepreneur who previously got sponsorship for training in agriculture in Israel when still at university, is now running a multi-million francs urban farming firm. “After graduating I had no capital. I opted for designing food gardens which I would present to households in Kigali. Whoever appreciated my products had to buy materials and then construct the food garden for them to pay me,” he said. Kabagambe who founded “Urban and Rural Farming Development Company Ltd” said he started from 10 food gardens which he constructed for clients. These gradually increased. “I would produce brochures and flyers showing how I can construct food gardens, write my contacts on them and distribute them to households in Kigali. Whoever would be interested, I would then get a job to set up food gardens for them. That is the source of the Rwf1.5 million which I spent on expanding my urban farming business,” he said. Agriculture economists say that through urban agriculture it is possible to help poor people cope with food scarcity through the growing of plants, raising of livestock within and around cities, community gardening, rooftop gardening, urban forest gardening, green walls, vertical farms, animal husbandry, and urban beekeeping, among others. The firm, which focuses on providing farming and livestock services along the value chain, designs urban farming innovations and techniques which it sells to urban dwellers. “There is land in urban dwellers' homes that is not exploited. We design and implement agriculture and livestock projects for urban and rural dwellers. They can pay us for the service or get shares in their projects. We also provide small scale irrigation services.” Kabagambe manufactures affordable and small post-harvest handling technologies and machines such as drying and storage systems, storage facilities that can store potatoes for some months, storage techniques (cold-rooms) for fruits and vegetables, animal feed production machines, winnowing machines, juice production machines as well as irrigation equipment which he sells to farmers. “We also help people to harvest rainwater which can be used in irrigating crops in urban farming and rural areas. We have introduced a technique that uses wind speed to pump water for irrigation. We also manufacture irrigation pumping,” he said. He made a case for scaling small and affordable techniques for farmers to increase production. “We train people on small livestock farming in their homes in limited space without necessarily using ponds. These include fish farming, rabbit rearing among others,” he said. The entrepreneur advises on organic farming techniques which can be used by both urban and rural farmers to boost food gardening. “Food gardening involves different techniques. They include vertical farming that produces a lot of small space. We design the food gardening systems in a decorative way,” he said. Most of the food gardening systems he manufactures are movable. “This means that even if you rent a house in the city you can move with the food garden when you relocate to another neighborhood. We also make movable sheds for poultry, rabbits, pigs among small livestock.” Kabagambe set up farming gardens in urban homes’ backyards and apartment balconies for at least 150 clients, to date, in Kigali city. He uses wood, trees, container materials, clay pots, and plastics, among others, to design models that suit the needs of the households. Some are permanent; others are moveable, to cater for the majority of urban families living in rented homes. Kabagambe says countless tiny spaces available around urban homes, hotels, offices, schools, hospitals, touristic parks and all the buildings in the cities, could be converted into vegetables and fruits gardens. Flat rooftops of urban structures and all the little spaces left around sidewalks along the citywide road network are also good zones for his creative urban farming projects. He trains the youth and women on urban farming and gardening under an initiative dubbed Urwengero (food gardening training lab), who later help reach out to urban homeowners and tenants who are willing to grow their own food. So far, a group of 80 people, 40 youths and 40 women, are trained on how to set up different models of urban gardens. “Of these 65 have created jobs after the training,” he said. Rwf35 million needed to set up demonstration site Kabagambe said that the firm generates Rwf20 million as annual turnover. Most of the income is re-invested in expanding the business and developing more innovations and programmes. “I need Rwf35 million in cash to set up a large demonstration site that showcases all innovations. I need investors and stakeholders so that I establish a big demonstration site in Kigali city. People can visit and learn from it. Then if interested I can sell the products to them because there will also be a workshop in which I can manufacture machines and other technologies,” he said. He pays himself about Rwf500, 000 as a monthly salary. He was awarded best performing entrepreneur in Eastern Province by Africa Management Institute (AMI), in May, for the remarkable impact his agricultural initiatives have had. The food gardening system, in particular, was hailed for easing households’ access to food during the Covid-19 pandemic when movement restrictions obstructed food supply chains. He has also won several innovation awards, including the best innovator during the 14th national agricultural show, in 2019, the postharvest innovation (dryer and cold room) competition for reducing postharvest losses in Rwanda, in 2018-2019, and best innovation exhibitor (drying machine) for food and nutrition security assurance, in 2016. Kabagambe is among 24 Rwandan fellows who graduated from the African Food Fellowship programme that were trained on different food systems including sustainable land use. The African Food Fellowship is a continent-wide fellowship of African food systems leaders actively contributing to food systems transformation. The 10-month African Food Systems Leadership Programme, from which Kabagambe benefitted, brings together emerging leaders from the private, public, and civic sectors to shape the ambitions, agendas and market dynamics that are needed to transform Africa’s food systems. “I gained a lot to improve my business and plan long-term for the impact,” he said. According to Jean Claude Ndorimana, the Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, 24 Rwandan fellows including Kabagambe who graduated from the 10-month African Food Fellowship programme are allowed to develop proposals such as irrigation projects which can be funded by a $300 million project launched on September 30 to de-risk agriculture. The project dubbed Commercialization and De-Risking for Agricultural Transformation Project (CDAT) targets to boost commercialization among producers and agribusiness firms across the country and also increase the use of irrigation. It is expected that about 235,977 households will benefit from the CDAT's agricultural value chain and infrastructure development, 2,235 from agriculture finance, while 575,000 and 75,000 farmers will benefit from the project’s crop and livestock insurance, respectively.