Plans to re-open schools restores food suppliers’ optimism

Are you a farmer or a food supplier? It might be an ideal time to start thinking of tapping into market opportunities for your produce as schools gear up to open.

Farmers who, prior to the pandemic used to supply their produce to different schools across the country have expressed optimism as gradual school reopening is set to start in October, 2020.


The temporary closure of schools started in March 2020 as a means to control the Covid-19 pandemic.


When Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March this year, a section of farmers said that they lost their market as they were suppliers to schools and related institutions.


In May, Joseph Gafaranga, the Secretary-General of Imbaraga Farmers Organization said that the main challenge that farmers faced was that a majority of them lacked alternative market for their produce while those who tried to sell in food markets ended up selling at throw away prices.

According to a countrywide assessment that was conducted by Imbaraga Farmers Organisation, a national body that brings together over 27,000 farmers from across the country, agriculture has been substantially affected by Covid-19, especially horticulture, poultry and exports.

Farmers have long awaited resumption of schools which are a great avenue for their produce.

 The initial reopening of schools which was expected in September 2020 was further delayed.

However, optimism has been restored among the farmers after the Minister of Education announced the reopening of schools expected to start gradually in October.

“Schools that were our main clients were no longer buying my produce,” said Augustin Semusambi, a farmer who grows vegetables in Musenyi sector of Bugesera District.

The farmer who started modern farming in 2018 said he was doing fairly well prior to the pandemic, but following the pandemic, business halted.

“I started from one acre and after realizing the profits, I expanded them to about one hectare in 2018. I grow vegetables in all three agricultural seasons because I have irrigation equipment which I got under the government subsidy programme. The equipment would have cost me over Rwf1.9 million but I only paid over Rwf270, 000.

The Hinga Weze project also helped me to construct terraces, plant agro-forestry and fruit trees so that the fertile soil doesn’t continue to be eroded,” he said.

He said that all the investments provided him with good harvest supplied to different schools.

“Every season I set a target. I harvest the produce worth between Rwf500, 000 and Rwf800, 000 every season. However, during Covid-19, the produce didn’t get much returns due to limited market opportunities. Schools, restaurants and hotels used to buy our produce but when the pandemic broke out, I lacked a market. We hope things will come back to normal soon,” he said.

“I have domestic animals and bicycles that also help me to run my agribusiness,” he said adding that he grows pepper.

Semisambi is not only the farmer whose harvest market was affected by Covid-19 pandemic.

CORIMI cooperative that processes 20 tonnes of rice per day in Ngoma District was also affected.

The cooperative lacked a market for 700 tonnes of rice which stalled in the cooperative stores for months since schools that used to buy their produce had closed.

The opportunity

The food supply is a huge opportunity considering the number of schools, learners who make up the value chain across the country.

The 2019 data shared on July 30, 2020 by the Ministry of Education indicates that there are 6,690 pre-nursery learners and 232 caregivers. The data shows that there are 282,428 pupils in nursery and 7,865 staff; 2,512,465 pupils in primary schools and 46,325 staff; 732,104 students in secondary schools and 30,779 staff.  In higher learning institutions, there are 107,167 trainees in TVET and 6,711 staff as well as 86,206 students in university and 6,610 staff.

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