His early childhood was characterised by fishing. Occasionally, he would transport passengers in his rickety fishing boat on Lake Kivu to earn an extra buck. This routine went on for about 10 years.
But Philemon Kazingufu had had enough. He threw in the towel and went searching for new opportunities.
Kazingufu, who was born in Rusizi District, later relocated to Rubavu District in Western Province, where a friend convinced him that he would the much-needed new lease of life away from fishing.
He says after weighing his options, he decided to start a farming enterprise.
“I had thought about buying and selling produce or starting a retail shop, but discarded the ideas as they didn’t appeal to me,” he says.
He says after deciding on his next move, he went to Union des Co-operatives Locales Rubavu, a micro-finance institution, and applied for a loan to kick-start the project.
With the Rwf500,000 loan he secured from the micro-finance, Kazingufu he started poultry enterprise.
“At first I bought 150 chicks, but they are now up to 1,500 layers and broilers,” he says, adding that he sells the eggs and broilers in Rubavu, Uganda and the DR Congo.
Kazingufu says he was attracted to Rubavu because of its almost cosmopolitan population, and the tourism business which he hoped would provide new opportunities.
He says he chose poultry farming because he knew the many hotels and restaurants in the area would provide a ready market.
Rubavu being near the DRC border was an added advantage as it would provide a bigger market.
Although Kazingufu left fishing himself, he owns five boats which he hires out to other people who operate fishing and transport services on Kivu Lake.
He says his businesses altogether bring in Rwf500,000 per month. He has also been able to buy land worth Rwf800,000 from his savings.
“I have been able to buy a three-hectare piece of land on which I plan to start a piggery business in the near future,” he says.
Kazingufu, who used to rent before starting the enterprise, has also constructed a six-bedroom house for his family worth Rwf5m.
Kazingufu says the biggest challenge poultry farmers face is lack of market, arguing many people in Rwanda do not buy chicken.
Besides high operational costs, expensive inputs also put a strain on his savings. Lack of extension services to help farmers improve their skills is another challenge he and other farmers face.
Kazingufu urges farmers to get loans from co-operatives to expand their enterprises, but warns against defaulting, saying it is bad for business.