Like they say, the starting point of every achievement is the desire to succeed. This saying aptly applies to the life of Joseph Bihoyiki a former fuel pump attendant.
With an initial capital of Rwf180,000, the former fuel pump attendant has managed to make his way to the list of millionaires in farming, in Byumba sector, Gicumbi District.
From a distance, Bihoyiki’s farm doesn’t look ordinary. The 49-year-old has managed to mix legume crops and horticulture farming with poultry and piggery rearing on about 10 acres of land.
How he started
As a child, Bihoyiki was inspired by his parents to fall in love with farming. His journey to success is a cocktail of hard work, discipline and flexibility.
Having been born and raised in a peasantry family, Bihoyiki says all he knew and loved most was tendering the small piece of land.
“Whenever I returned from school in the evening, I always made sure I visited the garden, and despite the traditional land management skills we practiced at the time, farming was part of our culture and source of livelihood,” says Bihoyiki.
When he looks back, the farmer recalls that his dream always revolved around the idea of transforming basic farming skills he learnt from parents to a more modern and commercialised activity.
“And because I did not get a chance to attain some good level of education, the only way to peruse my dream was through willingness to innovate and do things differently,” says the model farmer.
Starting out as a fuel pump attendant
Having dropped out of school at primary school level, Bihoyiki was left with no choice but to take up farming as a full time job.
However, since it required more capital i decided to relocated to Kigali in search for a job which was to give me that capita, said Bihoyiki.
In Kigali, he worked as a fuel pump attendant for more than 5 years earning less than Rwf20,000 a month.
“while in Kigali i took time and the visit the different food markets to understand trends and gather more knowledge on differnt commodity prices. And this is how i came to discover how people valued food in monetary terms,” Bihoyiki reveals.
After 5 years in Kigali, he decided to return to his village with his meagre savings to live his dream of modern farming.
The father of nine started with only one hectare of land where he grew beans and maize before venturing into poultry and piggery farming.
In 2013, Bihoyiki’s hard work took a different course after participating in Land husbandry Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation (LWH), a project under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
“In 2013, I participated in this project where I acquired modern farming skills. The idea of land consolidation and using modern irrigation methods helped me increase my production capacity thus enabling me to earn more,” Bihoyiki noted.
With the right skills and attitude, the father of 9 was able to double his productivity from about 120Kgs to nearly a metric tonne of beans alone on a small piece of land.
Like most farmers, Bihoyiki is always worried of prolonged droughts, heavy rains and market price fluctuations among many others.
He says, it is challenging to practice on a steep slope especially during the rainy season which often increases the rate of soil erosion.
The situation is made worse during the dry season when the soil texture cannot hold, the Gicumbi farmer said during the interview.
Limited storage facilities and inputs such as fertilizers is yet another challenge not only faced by Bihoyiki but many farmers in Gicumbi district.
From a fuel pump attendant, Bihoyiki has managed to build a modern house for his family and pays school fees for all his nine children.
He also boasts of expanding his farm to include more than 20 pigs and over 1000 birds among others.
From earning Rwf20, 000, the model farmer now earns more than Rwf500, 000 every season and is soon venturing into horticulture farming.
The farmer has also turned his farm into a demonstration centre where farmers from across the country go to acquire skills in modern farming.
Point of inspiration and future plans
Commonly referred to as ‘a proud’ farmer, Bihoyiki attributes his achievements to the Land Husbandry Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation project which equipped him with skills to increase production and manage his savings.
“But also, the good governance, peace and stability the country has enjoyed over the past 21 years has contributed to my success,” he says.
Advice to farmers
Bihoyiki’s says his secret to success is embedded in hard work and love for farming. He urges farmers to embrace modern farming practices to be able to benefit from agriculture.
“Farming should be looked at like any other profession where ethics and hard work matter most. But also the need to be flexible and embrace change is yet another ingredient for modern farming to thrive,” Bihoyiki advises.