One could say he is sort of a jack of all trades, but a master of agribusiness and teaching. Alexander Nsekanabo, a senior teacher at Groupe Scolaire Nganzo in Gakenke District has previously been a public administrator as a leader in local government.
He says he threw in the towel after over 10 years on the job to concentrate on farming and other personal businesses. Born and raised in Mazinga, Kivuluga sector in Gakenke District, the 40-year-old majored in biology at the former National University of Rwanda (now University of Rwanda) during his undergraduate studies.
Like many youth, Nsekanabo didn’t consider teaching as a rewarding profession and, therefore, opted for a government position where he headed social affairs department in Gakenke District. Later on, he was appointed the executive secretary of Kamubuga sector in Gakenke.
However, after 10 years in government services he quit to devote more time on his income-generating activities, including a piggery project, plus teaching.
“I knew that with teaching, I would get three months of holidays in a year that I could use to work on my other projects,” says the now director of Groupe Scolaire Nganzo.
He says he went into pig rearing “because teaching alone without side income, one can hardly make ends meet”.
He says he had grand plans, like educating his children at the best schools, and building a good permanent house, which he could not fulfill using a teacher’s salary.
“Therefore finding alternative sources of income to supplement on his salary was the only way out,” he says.
He says he ditched the well-paying local government job for teaching because it availed him more time to start up income generating projects.
Nsekanabo says he was inspired to venture into pig rearing by government drives urging youth to create their own jobs.
“I chose piggery because of the quick returns and the fact they don’t require a lot of land, time or care. So, I knew with pig rearing, I would easily juggle school activities and running the project without any problem,” he says.
He visited established pig farmers in Musanze to learn about pig rearing.
“This gave me a strong foundation to launch the project. So, I applied for funding from Umwalimu SACCO to buy land, as well as construct a pigsty.”
He says the SACCO extended a Rwf5.5 million, which he used to buy land, build five pigsties in two different sites, and piglets to kick-start the project.
“I started with four piglets at the beginning of 2014, and in just one year and nine months I had repaid half of the loan,” he says.
Nsekanabo adds that they have since multiplied to 39 pigs, 10 of which are sows. A sow produces at least 18 piglets, and each piglet is sold at Rwf20,000, and each sow produces twice in a year.
The farmer cum teacher says he earns over Rwf2.5 million a year from the project after deducting all the expenses. He says his net worth, excluding piggery project, is about Rwf10 million.
Besides piggery, Nsekanabo has a big banana plantation which is supported by manure from the piggery enterprise.
Nsekanabo says he sells most the piglets to local residents while the big sow and boars are bought by pork dealers in Gakenke and Kigali.
Nsekanabo has been able to build a permanent residential house using proceeds from pig and banana sales.
He says he has been able to cut on fertiliser bills, thanks to the manure from the project. He says manure from the enterprise has helped increase banana production over the past year.
The farmer employs four workers, three of whom are on a permanent basis, while the other (a veterinary doctor) comes whenever there is need, especially during emergencies.
The enterprising farmer is encouraging self-help projects in the area by giving out piglets to residents through a community initiative. Under the initiative, beneficiaries give back one piglet after the seed piglet has produced.
The enterprise has also encouraged more residents to look at pig rearingas a source of income to help improve their standards of living.
Nsekanabo says he will in future work with other farmers to set up a processing plant with an eye on the export market.
The most pressing challenge is scarcity of resources to manage a big number of pigs which many of them would actually afford. If I had enough money, I would have bought more land, construct more sties and rear more pigs than these ones he said.
He added that they sometime run short of animal feeds to feed the pigs.
Teachers always complain of low pay, arguing that their role as educators toward nation building is not appreciated.
But Nsekanabo says teachers need not have to depend solely on government pay-cheque for survival, advising them to become entrepreneurs to expand their income streams and improve their livelihoods.
“Many teachers fear taking loans from Umwalimu SACCO to do business, while others misuse the money when they get it. So, that experience discourages other teachers from acquiring finance to set up income-generating activities to enhance their financial status,” he says.
He also urges teachers to develop a savings culture “as this will enable them to accumulate enough capital to start small business.”
What people say
Robert Munyakazi, an area resident, says Nsekanabo has helped many residents venture into business. Because of his support and guidance, most of us have been able to start ventures that are currently doing well, he says.
“Nsekanabo gave me three seed piglets last year, and I bought three more. Of the three seed piglets, two of them are about to produce,” he says.
Kanziga Seraphine, 37, another residence, says that Nsekanabo has been a “blesing” to the community.
“He single handedly organises entrepreneurship trainings for residents, where we learn new farming techniques that have helped us to succeed in business,” she adds.