Israel offers 150 scholarships to Rwandan agriculture students

About 150 Rwandan students are expected to travel to Israel later this year to pursue courses related to modern agriculture, Ron Adam, Israel Ambassador to Rwanda told The New Times on Wednesday.

The programme is Israel’s flagship project in Rwanda and it is part of the bigger cooperation between the two countries to promote modern agriculture, Adam who is the first Israel residence ambassador to Rwanda, said.

According to him, the students will travel to Israel in September to pursue their professional courses at two different universities – Kineret College (near Sea of Galilee) and Silver College in the South.

The programme continues to attract many young people. This week, about 700 applicants are undertaking interviews to remain with 400 students who will undergo the final interviews before 150 will be selected.

But the ambassador said they target to grow the number of beneficiaries to 250 per year by 2020.

Students generally spend eleven months in Israel pursuing everything from modern farming practices and interacting with farmers across the country. Among others, they study modern poultry, horticulture and fishery.

Rwanda is predominantly an agrarian economy with majority of the country’s workforce depending on for a living.

The ambassador said it was therefore important to investment in human resource that will transform the sector from traditional to modern.

“The academic programme will help Rwanda have a new generation of skilled farmers, promote agriculture value chain and ensure that new start-ups that practice smart agriculture are established,” he noted, adding that the hope is to see them coming back to implement the acquired knowledge and skills.

He also mentioned that the embassy will work together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to facilitate the first steps of the alumni, which includes facilitating them to form cooperatives and establish small and medium-sized businesses in modern agriculture.

A look back

This is the fifth year Rwandans are benefitting from the programme. Each year, Rwanda has been sending around 100 students to Israel to study smart agriculture.

Last year alone, 140 students benefitted from the programme.

Jean Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary at the Agriculture Ministry highlighted that the programme was important as the country continues to implement its transformation strategy for agriculture.

“This programme is very important as we implement our strategy for agriculture transformation. We want to improve productivity, invest in research and innovation and deal with climate change. There is need for skilled labour,” he said.

“We have got challenges here; many production units are owned by the old generation who are not smart enough to drive transformation. We think the young people can take over and transform the agriculture sector,” he added.

The transformation strategy which the Permanent Secretary alluded to was launched last year. It is a six-year strategy to transform agriculture – the fourth Agriculture Transformation Strategy (PSTA4) – designed to increase farm productivity and promote value addition to food.

According to Musabyimana, previous beneficiaries of the academic programme are already helping the government, highlighting an example of a cooperative that is running the management of irrigation schemes.

Amani Mbonigaba, one of the beneficiaries is now the leader of AGRIWIN, an enterprise that provides quality fruit seedlings by grafting avocadoes, mangoes, oranges, and macadamia, among others.

“When I was in Israel I was fascinated by the fact that a desert part of Israel had transformed into a base for modern agriculture and yet in Rwanda we were struggling despite comparatively having a good weather. That made me and my colleagues embark on a different plan,” he said.

Previously Mbonigaba was helping his family in the banana plantation, pig and dairy farming in Rubavu.

Today, him and his colleagues who graduated from the same institute in Israel – 47 of them – now runs Agriwin.