Jean Remy Rutayisire is quite different from most youths. Unlike the majority of young men and women who find agriculture unattractive, Rutayisire says that this is an industry that has fascinated him since his childhood.
Desperate to raise money to start up an agricultural project, the Chief Executive Officer of the Muhanga based Urugwiro Poultry Farm Ltd took up a part-time job in photography in 2015.
Since he was a high school student by then, he was only able to work during holidays, earning a daily wage of Rwf2,000.
He used some for his pocket money at school and saved the rest.
By December last year, he had saved up to Rwf200,000—inadequate to see him venture into a significant farming project.
He was looking for Rwf2 million. However, efforts to mobilise capital from friends and relatives were unsuccessful.
With his meagre savings, he decided to start a small poultry farm.
To his rescue, his parents gave him the land on which he constructed a chicken house, starting with 260 chicks.
He now has 1062 birds, 900 chicks and 162 chickens.
The 21-year-old, who rears sasso breed for both meat and eggs, supplies his poultry products to retail shops, supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants and markets in Muhanga.
Each chick goes for Rwf600 while a mature hen costs Rwf4, 000. He sells the eggs at Rwf75 each.
“After starting a poultry firm, it was hard for me to look after the chicks because I lacked the experience and skills,” he told Business Times, adding “I lost about 100 chicks at the beginning, due to poor weather, vaccination effects and diseases.”
This prompted him to sign up for YouTube video tutorials to acquaint himself with modern poultry farming practices.
“I also learnt other skills from experienced farmers in Rwanda and Kenya who trained in using the cage system, which improves productivity and is yet relatively cheap,” he noted.
Rutayisire says that one of the major challenges for poultry farmers in the country is the expensive chicken feeds.
Penetrating the market, which already has established farmers is also a daunting task for budding agripreneurs, he added.
Although the cage system is good, he says, he is yet to raise enough money to apply it on his farm.
A cage that carriers 120 birds costs Rwf215, 000. He plans to invest Rwf3 million to expand his business.
A student of Agri-business at Christian University of Rwanda, Kigali, Rutayisire can now afford his tuition with ease and cater for all his basic needs.
He also employs three workers, two full-time and one part-time.
After struggling early on his farm now has thermometer to measure the temperature of chicks and respond appropriately and prevent death.
He also now knows the right time to vaccination the chicks and applying the best feeds.
“My vision is providing local poultry products of high quality while positioning my business to compete on the international market,” he said.
In two years Rutayisire envisages a farm with 20,000 birds and other livestock.
Outlook of poultry industry
Rwanda produces 15,715 tonnes of chicken meat every year, according to figures from Rwanda Agricultural Board, which suggests output could more than double to 35,170 tonnes every year by 2022.
The total egg production from the family and commercial specialised systems is expected to increase from 244 million to 513 million, according to RAB’s livestock masterplan.
With production of chicken meat and eggs still low compared to demand, Rutayisire says there’s an opportunity for local farmers to increase production to cater for the deficit.
In order to achieve these ambitious targets, Rutayisire says that government needs to invest in improving the skills of industry players, especially young people and provide incentives to the industry to spur technology oriented poultry farming.
The Government has outlined wide- ranging strategies to boost poultry farming. They include emphasising on local breeds with improved productivity through improved brooding, and scavenging or semi-scavenging feeding as well as distribution of higher yielding tropical pure and crossbred chicken to producers.
“Whoever is looking to start a poultry business must be passionate, optimistic and a risk taker, but they also need to gain good management skills and hire skilled employees,” Rutayisire said.
While he acknowledges that incurring losses is part and parcel of doing business, he advises young agripreneurs to be resilient and to learn from their mistakes.