Three years ago, Blaise Pascal Shyaka opened a grocery shop. It failed after just six months. This failure groomed him for the foundation of a better plan in agribusiness.
In 2017, while he was in his third year at University, he attended a training programme in Japan and also travelled to South Korea for a two months training programme in Biotechnology and Animal Science, at Chonbuk National University.
This stimulated his business acumen and particularly refined his appetite for agribusiness.
It is through those experiences that the graduate of Bachelors of Science in Biotechnology from the University of Rwanda, realised the gaps in Rwanda’s food supply chain, especially in livestock products.
He started AMPLE Limited, which sells pigs for pork and rearing. The farm, which is located in Muhanga District, Southern Province also produces livestock feed and offers farm consultancy, in addition to rearing chicken for egg production.
His aim is to facilitate low and middle-income earners to have access to “ample amount” of safe and healthy meat products by making them affordable and ensuring efficient delivery.
After thorough research, Shyaka realised that the underlying problems revolved around high livestock production costs, occasioned by the limited knowledge and modern production systems, and a very inefficient supply chain.
Like most youth entrepreneurs in the country, the 23-year-old did not have capital to implement his idea. He turned to relatives and friends who helped him to raise Rwf600,000 through fundraising.
He started with seven pigs last year, which have increased to 98 in less than one year. The piggery covers around 300 square meters.
Poultry is mainly for eggs. Each egg costs Rwf100 while the meat is sold between Rwf2,000 to Rwf3,000 per kilogramme.
Shyaka says that customers who buy pigs for pork are charged between Rwf800 and Rwf1,300 per kilogramme.
The price fluctuates depending on the market trend or the number of pigs one wants to buy or the performance of the pig.
Some of his customers are bars, restaurants, farmers, NGOs and other companies. Bars and restaurant operators buy pigs for pork while farmers and NGOs buy live pigs.
His farm employs six people; three permanent staff and three part-timers.
Shyaka poses with some of his employees at the farm.
“In recent months, I have made enough money to keep the farm and the livestock feed shop running. I have also expanded and invested in research and can carter for all my business expenses,” he says.
The young entrepreneur adds that the livestock feed business and farm consultancy services have also helped him to interact and build a strong network with other farmers.
He has been able to expand the market for his products, help farmers improve and grow their businesses, through proper farming management methods, thus improving their families’ standards of living.
His company carries out farm consultancy for the youth who have started their farms or who are about to start. This is a way of attracting more youth into farming.
One of the main challenges for livestock farmers is that they cannot export livestock products unless it’s the DRC market.
Shyaka says this largely due to the country’s lack of a strong livestock identification system as well as the failure to meet International Standards.
Livestock farmers’ associations are very weak or non-existent, meaning there are no platforms to advocate for policies that favour livestock farmers, he adds.
For instance, he says, farmers don’t have powers to set prices for their products. Middle-men do.
He adds, “The third problem is the lack of capital. By capital, I don’t mean loans as loans don’t favour high risk and long-term projects that will generate very high income and create jobs, because they are so expensive (18-22 per cent interest rate), by capital, I mean venture capital in agriculture”.
If we could access venture capital, we would address several major challenges our livestock sector is facing right now, he stressed.
One of the pig houses. Shyaka also runs an agriculture consultancy business at the fi at the farm.
Shyaka warn aspiring entrepreneurs to avoid starting business with loan as the source of capital, but rather use loans at the growth stage of the business to expand operations.
“The moment you receive a loan, you start paying in the first month before you even receive all your supplies to start operations”.
The Manager of AMPLE Limited believes in staring small because it allows you to test your concept and hypothesis at a small scale without wasting a lot of resources.
He says that if you wait to start with big stuff, you will either lose much money or you are never going to start.
However, if you expect to get other means to finance your idea, he says that it is okay to wait.
He also advocates for partnership because it can help to pull together critical resources and meaningful ideas.