Agriculture now a business, not a hobby

What’s an agricultural manager’s day in the office like?Mostly, we provide solutions to farmers on the various challenges they may be experiencing in their fields. I ensure that there is promotion of agri-business to farmers. Agriculture should not be looked at as a hobby but as a business.
Odoobo says agriculture is no longer about hoes per se. The New Times/ Collins Mwai.
Odoobo says agriculture is no longer about hoes per se. The New Times/ Collins Mwai.

What’s an agricultural manager’s day in the office like?

Mostly, we provide solutions to farmers on the various challenges they may be experiencing in their fields. I ensure that there is promotion of agri-business to farmers. Agriculture should not be looked at as a hobby but as a business.

In providing solutions, it does not necessarily have to be a product, it can be agronomic advice, my main role is to ensure that the chain works as it should from when a client shows up to when they leave.

What academic qualifications does one require to sit in your chair?


You must have a technical understanding of agronomy, which involves crop science, soil science, animal science and agriculture business. You need at least a basic course in the agriculture.

What else could come in handy?

You need to communicate and address the clients (farmers) in the simplest way possible. You need to have empathy to be at their level for them to understand whatever you are trying to pass across.
 
How do people progress in this line of work?

It is mostly by experience in the field.  You come in at a lower rank as an agronomist. An agronomist is the first contact to the client, from that level you gain commercial components to add to your technical component. There is a lot of in-house training involved.

If a Rwandan in the profession moved to another country, would they still be relevant?

They would. The only thing they have to do is to learn how to approach the different sets of clients. Although with the same set of skills but different approach which comes by experience. In this line of work, we don’t teach or lecture, we share experiences, which make it easy when working with different clients.

What are the great moments of this job?

It is when a farmer succeeds, after you have worked with them or proposed solutions. After that all doubts are cleared and they are now loyal as you have proven to be reliable.

We have grown up in a culture where agriculture has been associated with poor and illiterate people, but whenever I meet young people seeing it as a viable profession, it is very satisfying.

If one is interested in the profession, what should they brace themselves for?


You must be a hands-on person. You must be ready to get your hands dirty. This, however, does not mean that a farmer is allowed to be dirty or muddy. You should be presentable and be able to move from your farm and strike a deal in a boardroom.

Any perceptions about the profession you would like to demystify?

As an agricultural practitioner straight from the university, one should not feel overly qualified. You need to get on the ground and gain real experience to be well rounded.

Secondly, people need to stop looking at agriculture in the narrow prism of a hoe and digging. It is time people started looking at it as an investment opportunity where they can reap huge profits. There are many favourable conditions, from the government goodwill to climatic conditions.  There are lots of opportunities that people could reach out for but first they need to change how they view agriculture in general.

What are the trends you have observed in the course of your work?


I have noticed that young people are starting to appreciate agriculture. Young people are realising that they can do formal business with farming.  Most of them are going to banks for loans to fund their investments and banks are excited on funding them as they are viable.

Any advice for people interested in the line of work?

If you want to invest in the sector, do your market research well. Rwanda wants to move from a subsistence economy to a knowledge-based economy, but who will fill the gap in terms of food production? More so, the knowledge-based economy means that agriculturalists need to be knowledgeable as well. As long as you are passionate about agriculture, there is a future in the sector.

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