People who invested in chia seed farming with a promise that this crop was a money-making venture – the ‘black gold’ as its promoters dubbed it – have told The New Times their property is at risk of auction by banks that lent them money. This crop was introduced in Rwanda in 2018 by Akenes and Kernels Ltd – a company owned by three Rwandans who came from the diaspora. Attracted by the view that they could get revenue that is double their investment in three months – as chia takes three months to give yields – a sizable number of Rwandans, both within the country and the diaspora, said they scrambled to invest in the ‘lucrative crop’. But, now, Emmy Nsengiyumva, the president of the committee of chia seed farmers in Rwanda told The New Times that some 30 people who ventured into chia farming, have failed to repay loans after the company failed to pay farmers due to delays in accessing organic chia seed farming and trade certification. He added that Akenes and Kernels Ltd owes over Rwf21 billion to some chia 3,000 farmers. One woman who spoke to The New Times on condition of anonymity, said she had invested Rwf11 million in chia farming, on eight hectares, and that she was expecting to use the proceeds from this crop to help her repay a bank loan. She explained that she was due to get Rwf30 million if she factored in the profit she was expecting to get from the chia seed investment. “I invested into chia seed farming which was considered a reliable and money-making venture. I was expecting to get profit that I would use to repay a bank loan of Rwf22 million that I used to buy a house,” she said. But, she said, things are not well now since the venture I was relying on turned out not to be paying off.” “I have three school children – one in secondary, two in primary education – for whom I have to pay about Rwf600,000 (per term). But, I have not yet gotten such amount,” she said, adding that she also has to repay over Rwf500,000 per month to be able to service the bank loan in question. Another investor, who also preferred to remain anonymous said he invested Rwf23 million on 10 hectares and that 70 per cent (or Rwf16.1 million) was a loan from a bank. “We are getting impoverished; our hope for fortune has been wrecked ... I am unable to pay a bank loan. I am beseeching the bank to bear with me so that it gives me more days to pay it back,” he said, adding that their property risks being auctioned over default. Claudine, not real name, also invested Rwf15.5 million in chia farming on 10 hectares and says that the situation of not getting income from such a venture is making her struggle to get money to pay back the loan she got from the bank, and worsening her living conditions. Meanwhile, a Rwandan based in Senegal, said he gave Rwf47 million to Akenes and Kernels so that it grows chia seeds for him on 30 hectares under contract farming, is also frustrated that the company has not paid them, yet chia seeds are lucrative abroad, estimating that a kilogramme of these seeds was 16 Canadian Dollars (about US$12). The investment-profit ratio that excited people According to Nsengiyumva, before the problem of not paying started in February 2022, farmers were getting profit from this crop, expressing that during the 2018-2020 period, Akenes and Kernels paid farmers well. He explained that a farmer was spending around Rwf1.5 million on chia farming per hectare, and they were getting paid Rwf3 million from the firm for their produce at the end of four months, indicating that a farmer had over Rwf1.2 million as profit, after deducting all the investments. The investments, he indicated, include Rwf90,000 a farmer had to pay to get a kilogramme of seeds to grow on a hectare from Akenes and Kernels, and pay Rwf200,000 to the company per season for agronomic services including monitoring the organic farming for the crop. After harvesting, Nsengiyumva said, the company was buying a kilogramme of chia seeds at Rwf3,000 from the farmer, which means that a farmer was harvesting Rwf3 million within four months – because 1,000 kilogrammes were produced per hectare.