Nyirambonigaba has inked her name in Burera records books

The year is 2005. Like many of her kind, she had little hope of ever leading a better life. She had resigned herself to the bad situation. But no, the situation was too harsh to bear any longer.
Never say die: Nyirambonigaba feeds her dairy cows. The New Times / Seraphine Habimana
Never say die: Nyirambonigaba feeds her dairy cows. The New Times / Seraphine Habimana

The year is 2005. Like many of her kind, she had little hope of ever leading a better life. She had resigned herself to the bad situation. But no, the situation was too harsh to bear any longer. So, Annonciate Nyirambonigaba, a resident of Rugarama sector in Burera District, Northern Province decided to throw caution to the wind and defy culture by taking up the mantle of fending her family.

Nyirambonigaba says when she got married, her husband was so poor that all he could afford was a grass-thatched hut and had a very small piece of land.

“We always dreaded the nights and whenever it rained, we spent the night standing,” she recalls.

“My children always suffered from pneumonia for a long time as we did not have the money to take them to the hospital for treatment,” she adds.

“My life was ‘full cries’…it was misery itself.”

Tired of this misery, Nyirambonigaba, who dropped out of school in primary five, vowed to change her situation. She started by engaging in petty Irish potatoes trade. She adds that after some time, she started growing the Irish potatoes on the family’s small piece of land.

Starting out

“I had to wake up and take full advantage of the big food market. Besides, it was the only business I had grown up seeing everyone doing,” says the 56-year-old Nyirambonigaba.

Today, besides growing potatoes, Nyirambonigaba has dairy cows and sells agricultural inputs such as fertiliser and pesticides in her locality. This was to the delight of farmers in the area, who previously had to walk for long distances to buy the inputs from Burera.

And as they say, hard work pains but pays, Nyirambonigaba is a successful farmer and business woman in her own right, thanks to her perseverance and innovation.

“I used to say that I owe poverty nothing so there was no reason to continue wallowing in it fangs. I was confident that I could transform my life and that of my family. I was committed and determined to triumph over poverty” Nyirambonigaba says cheekily.

When I was starting out, I depended on the family’s small piece of land. Little by little, I planted Irish potatoes and sold them. Eventually, I bought a two-hectare piece of land, where I expanded the project and later I started buying and selling Irish potatoes,” she narrates.

Nyirambonigaba says she always wakes up at 5:00am and works ‘like men’.

“I owe my success to hard work and determination. Whenever I think of the suffering I went through in past, I am pushed to work even harder,” she notes.

Challenges

She says lack of agricultural skills is a big threat to farming.

“We need technical skills in order to detect and fight diseases and be able to employ modern farming methods to increase output,” Nyirambonigaba says.

She calls on the government to help farmers in terms of training and provision of improved seeds and fertilisers to boost production.

“Due to the climate and environment variables, plus continuous use, our soils lose fertility to support all crops. That is why the government should teach us new agricultural techniques that will help to revolutionise the sector,” she says.

Achievements

Nyirambonigaba earns about Rwf5m every season and has built a permanent house worth Rwf50m. All her children study at the best schools in Musanze and Burera districts. She employs 20 workers.

She has bought more than five pieces of land in Burera and has 15 dairy cows.

Nyirambonigaba also grows rice on a 30-hectare piece of land. She is the only woman in the area who has a storage facility for Irish potatoes and sells fertilisers to local farmers.

She says she has been encouraging women to grow potatoes and to learn how to save. Nyirambonigaba says she has bought two pieces of land, where she is planning to set up a factory to make crisps.

Advice to farmers and stakeholders

The youth who are unemployed in towns should return to their villages and engage in farming because it has endless opportunities.

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