AS LONG as human beings continue to need and have at least three meals a day, agriculture will remain one of the most relevant sectors, because food is a necessity. That alone is enough to motivate anyone to consider an occupation in the agriculture sector, including young people. Many young people, however, consider agriculture a ‘dirty’ and burdensome vocation, and would rather roam the streets job hunting than try agriculture. Not for Florence Sifa Sangwa. The22-year-old student of Rwanda Institute for Conservation and Agriculture (RICA) is not only studying agriculture, she is also practicing and wishes to see more youth join. Born in Rulindo District, Northern Province, Sangwa grew up seeing people struggle to put food on the table as children got malnourished, and she made the decision to venture into agriculture to contribute towards making the world more food secure. “Being born and raised in a village where I saw people malnourished and hungry, I would get sad and so I asked my father, who is also a smallholder farmer, what I could do,” says Sangwa, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in conservation agriculture. Like many farmers, Sangwa’s father still faces challenges of low productivity and his advice to his daughter was that she needed to study agriculture as a profession for it to work better. “He said what I can tell you is you can go and pursue agriculture studies and then come back and make an impact in the community,” she recalls. Upon finishing O-Level, Sangwa went on to study animal health at A-Level and when she finished high school, she went back to the community to apply the knowledge she acquired but noticed that she still wanted to learn more since she had dwelled on things like prevention of diseases in livestock. “I asked myself what else I can do because when I was going to university, I had many options. Some were saying that I should go and pursue veterinary studies, others pharmacy but I knew what I wanted,” Sangwa says. Luckily, she got into RICA which offers a course on agriculture conservation and that is what she wanted to do. The rest is history. Venturing into farming Sangwa normally uses social media, especially Twitter, where she has a considerable following, to talk about and create awareness among the young generation. It is on social media that she found an opportunity to venture into agriculture. One day while scrolling through, she saw a post from Steven Musafiri, an ‘agri-preneur’ rearing black soldier flies and also involved in plantain banana farming. Upon inquiring, she found that the owner of Walker Farm is based in Rwanda. Since she was intrigued by the whole idea of rearing black soldier flies and worms, she asked for an appointment to visit. “I came here and saw the amazing job he was doing and then asked if it is possible for him to give me shares,” Sangwa says, pointing out that farming requires some capital and she didn’t have any at the time. Musafiri agreed to offer Sangwa shares at a subsidised cost and in the farm and in return she would be responsible for the farm and take care of it as her own. A hands-on vocation Sangwa believes agriculture is a hands-on profession one has to go to the field, get their fingers dirty and get in touch with the people who are doing farming—the farmers themselves—from whom you will get experience and learn how they go about their work. “You have to be hands-on and practical in what you do for it to be successful. In fact, the sector is so ripe, you can do the same thing and you all get a market for your produce,” she says. Sangwa joined Walker Farms in June 2022and since then she has been seeing the full benefits of doing commercial farming. Every day she goes back home with something new she has learned about agriculture value chains. Today their mission is to educate people about black soldier flies, how they are a good source of protein and affordable animal feed than other available options. “Yes, we are making an impact and also making some money but most importantly we are teaching farmers how they can get involved in professional farming and get profit out of it,” Sangwa says. This is the impact Sangwa says she was looking to create and when she met Musafiri, with whom they share a vision, and easily conjured up a partnership. Impact in the sense that many farmers they talked to said animal feeds were turning out to be a major expense to them, taking up to 70 per cent of their production costs. When they did a quick research on the internet for alternatives it showed that rearing black soldier flies was less costly and took less time than for example soya-based feeds. Growing soya takes up to three months yet black soldier flies need about 21 days or less than a month to fully mature and they also provide enough protein compared to other feeds. Besides black soldier flies farming, Sangwa engages in pig rearing and plantain banana farming. She spends most of her days on the farm supervising activities. Because they use organic fertilisers, they put a lot in following up and ensuring that all is well. Revolutionising the animal feeds industry Through her work at the farm together with her colleagues, the young agriprenuers are coming up with alternative and affordable animal feeds which local farms can afford to produce or at least afford on the market. “Our pigs are fed on feeds manufactured by Walker Animal Feed Factory. We manufacture the feed ourselves out of various ingredients, including black soldier fly as an alternative source of protein for our livestock,” “Black soldier flies are harmless flies that feed on organic waste and supply us with protein and high-quality fertilizers. We've seen improvements in growth, performance, and weight gain after feeding BSF-containing feeds, and I'd encourage other farmers to give it a try,” Sangwa says. They use fertilizers obtained from farms are used to fertilize plantain bananas, and the kitchen garden, and the results are very encouraging. Word of advice Though today some youth are seeing an opportunity in agriculture, Sangwa says that the pace at which it is happening remains very slow. Sangwa encourages young people to venture into agriculture because that is where the money and assured employment is. “What I can tell young people who are afraid of farming is that now is the time they should be in it because it requires technology and innovations which the youth are able to use. If we left it to older people who do not know how to use technology, especially modern, we will always face the challenge of lower productivity. “But if we, the youth venture in farming and come up with technology and innovations, then apply our skills and knowledge in farming, we will be able to improve the overall farm productivity,” Sangwa says. Sangwa believes that if parents or guardians don’t teach young children agriculture, they will raise a generation that imports food, and that will be bad because Africa doesn’t need to spend a penny importing food that can be grown locally. She says agriculture is a very lucrative business and young people need to figure that out sooner rather than later.