WHEN ALPHONSINE Mukamurara lost her husband 15 years ago, she thought it was the end of the road for her.
Just housewife then, Mukamurara looked at singlehandedly raising the eight children she had with her late husband as a daunting task. The youngest child was only three years old then.
The 56-year-old resident of Busoro Cell, Karago Sector in Nyabihu District says she could not help imagining her children becoming street kids.
“I feared my children would drop out of school and storm the streets,” Mukamurara said.
After days of mourning, Mukamurara pulled herself together and decided to face the challenges head on. She was determined to work hard and fend for her family.
Because of the fertile soils and favourable weather in the area, Mukamurara ventured into Irish potato and maize farming.
“The government encouraged us to embrace modern farming. I was among the first farmers to heed the advice. We used fertilizers and the produce started improving,” she says.
Following the increase in production, Mukamurara started thinking beyond feeding her children but was constrained by the size of her land. She started letting plots from her neighbours.
“I could pay farmers and let their farms for two or more seasons. The money I paid was too little compared to the returns from the harvest so my profit margin started to expand,” she said, adding that she started saving with plans to buy her own land.
In 2004, she bought a hectare of land at Rwf1 million.
With more land, she started getting enough produce to supply directly to the local market instead of having to deal with middlemen, who were eating into her profits.
“I could harvest more than 15 tonnes of Irish potatoes per hectare and I had five hectares. I alternated Irish potatoes with maize. The market for both was readily available and I made good profit,” she said.
After a few years, Mukamurara says she managed to buy her own vehicle to transport her produce directly from her farm to markets.
“Paying for transport was inconveniencing. Besides, lack of personal means limited me to the market I supplied. After I bought the vehicle, I would take my produce not only to Nyabihu markets but also to neighbouring districts of Musanze and Rubavu,” she said.
As she progressed, Mukamurara started working with microfinance institutions, depositing her cash in banks and this helped her to acquire loans.
She acquired a loan and built a commercial complex in Musanze town, which diversified her income and increased her savings.
She is proud of her achievements so far.
“I have managed to construct a modern residential house complete with water and electricity. I also constructed three housing units in Musanze town which are generating more income for me. Besides, I have eight modern cows which generate money from milk and provide manure for the farm,” she says.
She also gets money from selling fertilisers to other farmers.
Mukamurara employs over 50 permanent employees and she counts this among her greatest achievements as she has always wished to help vulnerable people, owing to her own vulnerability when her husband died.
“I am a proud woman who managed to educate my children up to the university,” she says.
Mukamurara says she can save over Rwf500, 000 every month, after catering for all expenses, including paying taxes.
Mukamurara cites climate change as one of the major problems hindering her farming activities.
“Unfavourable weather patterns greatly affect our produce,” she says, appealing to concerned authorities to alert farmers about impending weather changes.
She also cites current market trends and poor storage facilities among challenges .
But Mukamurara is optimistic that the future of farmers in bright.
“My dream is to own a big business, enterprise. If I have modern cows, why shouldn’t I have a diary? And if I can harvest over 20 tonnes of Irish potatoes and maize, why can’t I have a processing plant in the near future?” Mukamurara asks.
Her employees describe her as a kind, humble and hardworking woman.
“She is a good mother who maintains humility despite her wealth. I have worked with her for five years now and have never had any misunderstanding with her. She pays well and regularly. All of us employed here have a cooperative which is positively impacting our lives,” said Evariste Ntirenganya, one of her employees.