Bana: How BDF turned former bicycle repairer into a millionaire

Fifteen years ago, Emmanuel Bana was a struggling young man who earned a living from repairing bicycles. However, the resident if Ruhuha, Bugesera District has defied the odds to become a model farmer earning millions from horticulture.
Samuel Bana together with his worker park tomatoes. TKisambira.
Samuel Bana together with his worker park tomatoes. TKisambira.

Many dismissed Emmanuel Bana as a village failure. However, the resident of Ruhuha, Bugesera District has defied the odds to become a model farmer earning millions from farming. The former bicycle repairer now earns about Rwf20 million per year from his farming activities

Fifteen years ago, Emmanuel Bana was a struggling young man who earned a living from repairing bicycles. However, the resident if Ruhuha, Bugesera District has defied the odds to become a model farmer earning millions from horticulture.

 

The former bicycle repairer now earns about Rwf20 million per year from his farming activities in Bugesera, Gisagara and Nyanza districts.

 
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Samuel Bana takes the journalist around his onion farm. TKisambira

Bana has turned Ruhuha and Mareba marshlands in Bugesera into gold mines, growing onions, rice and tomatoes.

 

The entrepreneur attributes his success to the good leadership of President Paul Kagame and the support he got from Business Development Fund (BDF) two years ago.

How he started

After dropping out of school, Bana became an apprentice bicycle repairer in his home town. The trade was to be his only source of livelihood for years.

“As a school dropout I could not get a decent job. Therefore, I had to find a means of survival,” he says. However, this came with challenges as many of his age mates shunned him and wrote him off as a village failure.

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Samuel Bana also makes fortune from banana farming. TKisambira

“They often referred to me as a ‘gone case’ which forced me to rethink my options. Ten years later, Bana used his savings of Rwf5,000 to venture into farming. He says the decision to join farming was based on the fact that there was always high demand for food in the area and neighbouring districts.

The farmer notes that this decision was pivotal to his life and a timely step in the right direction.

Armed with Rwf5,000, Bana approached a neighbor who agreed to lease him part of his land from which the entrepreneur kick-started his project. He started out growing tomatoes on less than an acre of land and later, expanded into onion growing. “Luckily, I got a good harvest from which I earned enough money, which encouraged me to expand the enterprise,” he points out.

BDF comes to rescue

The expansion plan, however, required more money that the farmer did have readily. “So, I applied for a loan to implement the project: venturing into large scale commercial farming. However, my bank (Bank of Kigali) could not give me the money without collateral,” he explains.

He says he learnt from a colleague that Business Development Fund (BDF) provides guarantees to bankable and scalable ventures. “I approached BDF and after studying the project, the Fund negotiated with the bank which agreed to give me Rwf5 million credit facility and BDF provided a Rwf800,000 guarantee,” he says.

I was to repay the loan over a period of two years by making periodic deposits every after each harvest season, he adds.

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Samuel Bana sprays his onions.
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Samuel Bana takes the journalist around his onion farm.
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Worker of Bana till the rice farm in Ruhuha.

Bana used the money to buy irrigation equipment including water pumps since Bugesera experiences prolonged dry spells that destroy crops.

“This boosted my capacity to produce even during the dry season, giving me another competitive advantage,” the father of five notes.

Achievements

From Rwf5,000, the former bicycle repairer now earns over Rwf20 million annually. Presently, Bana grows different crops, including tomatoes, onions, bananas, rice and maize, on more than 10 hectares of land.

He employs over 100 farm hands.

The entrepreneur has bought a vehicle to transport the produce from Ruhuha to Kigali and other markets where he can sale at a better price.

My children go to good schools, I take care of my family without worrying where the next meal will come from, he says. He notes that he has been able to achieve this much because “of the good leadership of President Kagame”.

“It is through his visionary and good leadership that farmers like me are able to get subsidised fertilisers and access to good markets,” he adds.

Bana dreams of owning a tomato processing plant to add value to the crop. He also plans to construct a cold room where farmers can keep their produce before taking it to the market.

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A worker gets tomatoes from the garden to the store place.

Challenges

Despite these achievements, the farmer says the effects of climate change are threatening productivity.

“Currently, we are experiencing prolonged drought which requires us to invest more in irrigation schemes. Without irrigation, the dry spells affect crop yield,” he says.

The poor road network in the area is also a big challenge that pushes up transport costs. So, the government should invest more in upgrading rural roads to help link farmers to markets and encourage them to produce more.

Bana says the issue of modern storage facilities should be addressed to reduce post-harvest losses.

We appreciate BDF for supporting farmers. However, we request them to give us more support to be able to address post-harvest storage challenges.

He urges the government to allocate more funds to the sector, saying agriculture employs the majority of the Rwandan population.

He adds that government should encourage public-private sector partnerships in the sector to attract more investments and maximise its potential.

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