WHEN Theophile Uzayisenga graduated from University of Rwanda in 2014 with a degree in agronomy, job opportunities did not come as easily as he expected.
He tried working as an agronomist but later gave up to seek employment in temporary occupations.
The 30-year-old from Karongi District realised agriculture had potential but was held back by lack of capital to venture into the sector.
However, in the same year, he benefited from a scheme for economically vulnerable farmers giving them rights to till idle land on where the proposed Gahanga Olympic stadium is to be set up in Kicukiro District as the construction activities are yet to start.
During a recent visit to the farm by Business Times, machines were tilling and levelling the land where he is set to plant maize in the coming seasons starting September.
The farmer has managed to exploit the land and is currently using tractors to till it and plant maize and beans.
“I grow maize and beans. Before we began using tractors to till and prepare the land, we would use manual labour. Today, I have embraced mechanisation, leasing a tractor requires between Rwf50,000 and Rwf80,000 per one hectare while manual labour costs between Rwf200,000 and Rwf300,000, which is really expensive,” he said.
Uzayisenga told Business Times that he benefits from mechanization since he can harvest 4 tonnes of maize per one hectare when using tractors while without tractors output was estimated at around 1.5 tonnes per one hectare.
The farmer said that, since he got into agriculture, he has managed to support his family and pays school fees for his two brothers.
“I live in Kigali and I am able to pay rent and support my family. I have market for my harvest in Ziniya and Kimironko. On harvesting the produce, I hold on to the produce and wait for the prices to go up before I can sell,” he said.
The farmer employs at least 20 workers for every season.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the sector is dominated by mostly elderly smallholder farmers – with an average age of 55.
It is in this context that the youth and young graduates such as Uzayisenga are being supported in various ways to rejuvenate the sector.
According to Oliver Sangwa, the agri-mechanisation technician at Rwanda Agriculture Board, youth should play their role in transforming agricultural sector so as to increase productivity.
“Today mechanisation is at 25 per cent meaning that one farmer out of four farmers uses mechanisation in tilling, planting, harvesting, and other activities. We use mechanisation in at least 6,000 hectares of land every year and we are targeting over 7,000ha this year. We will be involving private sector, farmers in cooperatives to consolidate land to ease mechanisation process,” he told Business Times.
So far, he explained, four companies are involved in importing and selling tractors, nine companies and cooperatives are leasing machinery to farmers while five individuals assemble the equipment locally and sell them.
“What is missing to have more farmers involved in mechanisation as a large section of farmers have never seen how it works and require awareness and model farmers to learn from them,” he said.
Sangwa added that Government is currently paying farmers 18 per cent of the cost of mechanisation equipment as part of subsidy strategy.