Rwandans have a saying that goes; ‘nta mwuga mubi uretse uwo kuroga.’ Loosely translated, this proverb means that there is not any single inferior occupation than that of poisoning others.
No one understands this proverb better than Francois Nkusi a resident of Busasamana in Nyanza district. At 59 years of age, Nkusi has defied skeptics by turning a century old art - forging, into a money spinning venture.
His workshop is simple; in the yard of a workmate, Nkusi has set up a forging apparatus that helps feed eight members of his family. After a long stretch of time on the streets of Nyanza searching for a job, Nkusi lost patience with the waiting tactics used by his would-be employers.
His family wanted bread on the table yet no one was willing to hire him to do ‘anything.’
“It was increasingly difficult to sustain my family yet I was unemployed. It was during this dilemma that an idea struck my mind. It was an idea that took me off the streets,” says Nkusi.
In 2006, Nkusi together with a colleague decided to start a forging business. They started off with simple technology that involved melting pieces of metal and then shaping out new objects like hoes and machine spare parts.
The forging apparatus is simple. It is made of specially curved wood, a rubber tube, which is pumped to produce air that keeps charcoal at the other end burning, thus melting the metal pieces buried under in the process.
With his simple apparatus, Nkusi is able to earn at least Frw5000 daily; this he says has helped him provide for his family of nine.
“With this income, my family is assured of food and I can afford to send my seven children to school,” says Nkusi as he hits a big metal into shape.
There is little activity apart from the noise from Nkusi’s workshop. Nkusi is quick to criticise the youth’s poor attitude to work.
“They despise the work I do, but at the end of the day I have something in my pocket and they have nothing. I would rather hit these metals in to shape than spend the whole day gossiping,” says Nkusi. Despite the success registered, it is not all a bed of roses for Nkusi.
“Getting pieces of metal commonly known as scrap to recycle is not easy these days. There is high demand for the same in the neighbouring countries like Uganda.”
The start has been good for him. He now employs two more people to help in the trade who he expects to pass on the skills as his father did.
The heat from the apparatus is sometimes unbearable. Nkusi says that this is the sole factor that has scared away the youth.
“One has to bear the heat to do this work. This requires good feeding to stay in shape,” advises Nkusi.
It is 4.00pm and I board a taxi for Butare town –30 kilometres away. The skies open up. My mind races back to Nkusi and his open-air workshop.
The rains mean an end to Nkusi’s working day and even if it stopped raining later, cows will be coming home and darkness too.