Irish potato growing has turned Munyaziboneye into a millionaire

After graduating as an accountant he got a job as a cashier but earned less than Rwf100,000 a month. The salary was not enough to enable him achieve his dream. To pursue his dream, he abandoned the job for farming.
Photos: Timothy Kisambira
Photos: Timothy Kisambira

After graduating as an accountant he got a job as a cashier but earned less than Rwf100,000 a month.

The salary was not enough to enable him achieve his dream. To pursue his dream, he abandoned the job for farming. That was the beginning of the journey to prosperity for 28-year-old Jean-Pierre Munyaziboneye, a resident of Kinigi in Musanze District. I recently visited his Irish potato farm which earns him more than Rw5million.

 

The decision to abandon his career as a professional accountant in 2012 has finally paid off.

 

In less than 5 years, the young graduate has managed to till 9 hectares of land, and now he harvests more than 80 tonnes of Irish potatoes every season. He also harvests more than 20 tonnes of maize every season.

 

He says he does not have any regrets for giving up his profession as an accountant to venture into farming.

How he started

However, Munyaziboneye says all was not a bed of roses as he had to pay his own school fees at the Institute of Applied Sciences (INES-Ruhengeri) where he graduated as an accountant.

“I started working at an early age so as to raise school fees for my studies,” he says adding that as a teenager, juggling hard labour and studies was the most stressing moment in his life.

Even after getting a job, tilling people’s land and working as a cashier in a local microfinance was not enough to give him the life he dreamt of.

“I had wanted to become an accountant and indeed after school, I worked for a local microfinance in Kinigi, which paid me miserably,” he says.

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Munyaziboneye takes this reporter around his farm in Kinigi, Musanze District.

But the situation at the MFI forced the then fresh graduate to rethink his choice and go for the alternative.

He says he was earning less than Rwf100, 000 as a cashier before throwing in the towel to venture into farming.

After throwing in the towel, he headed to the foot hills of Virunga Mountain where he established a modern Irish potato farm.

He started out alone but later encouraged colleagues to consolidate land and undertake the economic activity as a group.

Establishing a cooperative

To further pursue his idea and dream of becoming a modern farmer, Munyaziboneye, convinced more 100 farmers in Kinigi to form a cooperative.

“And that’s how cooperative Imyugariro started,” he reveals adding that the idea was to get farmers organized and introduce modern and innovative agronomic practices into the sector.

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Munyaziboneye examines Irish potatoes on his farm.

The idea worked for the youngster and as a result production per hectare more than doubled with farmers increasing productivity.

He says he later on approached Business Development Fund (BDF) and managed to secure a grant amounting to Rwf12 million to support his farming project.

The money was used to construct a modern storage facility

To supplement his income, Munyaziboneye, later diversified into maize farming to increase profits.

“I had no choice but to diversify and ensure I am productive throughout the year,” he says.

Challenges

As a large scale farmer, he says access to credit was always a big challenge as most banks were not willing to support his cause.

Farming on a large scale requires a lot of input both in terms of seeds and other farm requirements including fertilizers and equipment.

More still, you need a proper and modern way to store what you produce which in this case is still a challenge.

He says the cooperative produces up to 200 tonnes of Irish but lose 30 tonnes due to poor storage facilities.

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The farmer also cites linking farmers to markets as another challenge due to poor feeder road network.

Transporting produce to nearby markets is still a challenge because the road is bad. He is however hopeful that government will fix the problem.

Further still, he says pests and diseases is yet another challenge farmers have to face head on to become productive.

Achievements

From less than one hectare of land when he started out, Munyaziboneye now cultivates more than 9 hectares of Irish potatoes and maize where he generates enough income to take care of his family.

“From farming I earn an average of Rwf5 million every season, thanks to the peace and stability brought about by the current government,” he said.

We have also managed to build a modern storage facility worth Rwf38 million where we hope to bring down post-harvest loses,” he added.

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He packs potatoes in sacks for transportation.

He has also established a modern breeding ground where he produces high value potato seeds for farmers around Musanze District.

He employs more than 50 people and the number goes up during planting and harvesting seasons.

Advice to graduates

He says fresh graduates should not sit and wait for white collar jobs, but instead undertake income generating activities like farming.

“This is how you give value to your education; being able to become flexible and working hard to achieve your aspirations despite the challenges,” he said adding that encouraging the youth to join farming will bolster agriculture and its contribution to the national economy.

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A view of Munyaziboneye’s multi-million storage facility that’s under construction.
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A view of Munyaziboneye’s multi-million storage facility that’s under construction.

Future plans

The farmer dreams of establishing a potato processing plant to add value to his produce.

The farmer notes that this will increase his profitability and create more market for potato farmers. He also wants to export to the regional market and be part of the Made-in-Rwanda campaign.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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