Local firm eyes small-scale irrigation schemes to spur commercial farming

John Bosco Murenzi is the brains behind Business Links Limited, a Rwandan company which also has water drilling and mineral exploration operations in South Sudan.

The company’s main area of interest is drilling underground water. It started in 2015 with an aim to boost access to clean water, especially in rural areas. In an interview with Business Times, Murenzi explains some challenges revolving around providing clean water in rural areas and the company’s future plans.

Below are excepts;

What compelled you to venture into this business?

I wanted to do something that leaves a positive impact on the people and I am sure that water challenges are common, especially in rural areas. I chose this business to make an earning but at the same time support my government in improving the welfare of Rwandans.

Tell us more about your company

We have hydro-geologists with equipment to identify the availability of underground water, its quantity, drilling depths to reach the aquifers and salinity.

After surveys and succeeding in obtaining a site with the sufficient water levels, we bring in drilling machines, test for quality assurance, install it with either solar pumps (for rural areas), electric pumps for areas which have access to electric power of hand pump depending on quantity required and budget available. Mainly this water is used for household consumption, livestock and irrigation.

In which areas do you operate from?

 In Rwanda, I operate mainly in Eastern Province (Nyagatare, Gatsibo Kayonza and Bugesera) and Southern Province (Kamonyi and Muhanga).

I also have operations in the Republic of South Sudan.

What kind of change have you brought to the local people?

It brings unimaginable emotional feelings the first day you bring water to the villages where women, girls and children used to go to fetch water in a distance between 4 to 5 kilometres, before they started their routine works like going to school, feeding their cows and irrigate their crops. Their celebrations and contentment makes me a happy man at the end of the day.

Do these local people pay you for your services?

No, most of my projects are funded by government institutions like the Ministry of Agriculture & Animal Resource, Water & Sanitation Corporation Limited (WASAC), and Ministry of Defence.

Where do you buy your materials for constructing boreholes from?

 I import everything, some from our neighbouring countries like Kenya, others come from Europe or the United States of America.

Any challenges you have encountered along the way?

Challenges are many but the main ones are lack of local skilled labour in the area of drilling and mechanics. We are, however, training Rwandans. All materials are imported which makes it expensive and time consuming. Some individual farmers find it costly to cover the payments of such a project. We are, however, engaging the relevant institutions to support such people in terms of loans or subsidies.

 What are your future plans?

 My future plan is to expand the project and include small-scale irrigation schemes. This will fall under the Government’s strategy of food security and also changing the farms’ mindset to shift from subsistence farming to commercial farming.

 What have you achieved from this business?

 I must say that I am satisfied with my work, In over 20 years, I have worked for big organisations like UNDP, UN and the African Development Bank, but none of my previous work has ever given me joy and satisfaction than what I am doing now.

At the peak of our career, we like doing what we love most.

Any advice to people willing to start business?

I would advise people to reduce the tendency of depending on government jobs, but rather support government by doing projects that have socio-economic impact to the people. People need to give back to the community.

 How many employees do you have?

 Currently I have over 40 employees in Rwanda and South Sudan.