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Rwandan agriculture: Is science the lasting panacea?

On 4th February 2020, the Young Professionals in Agriculture Development (YPARD Rwanda) in partnership with Alliance for Science Rwanda completed a one-day field learning experience.

This took place in Kigali- in Southern Province, Muhanga District in Shyogwe sector. The aim of this field learning experience was to help 30 young professionals in agriculture to understand the potential of science in changing agriculture's context from subsistence farming to commercial farming.

Among the attendees were agripreneurs, food and nutritionists, farmers, environmentalists, biotechnologists, graduates in science, researchers as well as science journalists among others. The participants were privileged to have among them the representatives from Rwanda Agriculture and Animals Resources Board (RAB)- a government body in charge of research and extension services, Youth Engagement in Agriculture Network-Rwanda (YEAN) and Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF).

The field learning experience started with a field tour to one of the successful youth-led agricultural enterprise known as Carl Group, which adds value to orange freshen sweet potatoes and transform it into pro-vitamin A bread and biscuits.

Regis Mugireneza, co-founder of Carl Group said that there are many opportunities in agriculture and young people can make a difference in case they are committed and thirst to transform their livelihoods.

"We started our enterprise after coming out of university. We didn’t have enough capital investment, but we did have passion and orientation. We resolved to come together, and finally, we are here. We have won several outstanding awards at national and international level." Regis narrated

Regis said his enterprise, “Carl Group” has signed MoU with orange-flesh sweet potatoes farmers who supply their harvest to his enterprise, and then, the enterprise transforms the potatoes into pro-vitamin A bread and biscuits.

After the field visits, the 30 young professionals still with the Alliance for Science Rwanda left Kigali to Muhanga Districts to visit and learn from a successful woman farmer who grows yellow potatoes and banana which are resistant to climate change, diseases and some pests.

Ernest Ntakobangize, a YPARD Rwanda member and banana farmer from Eastern Province thanked Alliance for Science Rwanda for their support to members of YPARD Rwanda on this learning experience.

In appreciation of the Alliance for Science Rwanda Ernest said, "I am so proud to be here today with other young people- thanks to the support from Alliance for Science Rwanda. Without their commitment, I couldn't have come here. We have learnt how to grow and handle orange flesh sweet potatoes from seeds, planting, harvest up to storing. We have enjoyed how science through research has brought successful crops that are able to resist climate change as well as exceptionally fight malnutrition with enriched vitamin A.”

Ernest promised to share the knowledge he learnt with other young people out there who are managing agriculture start-ups. He hopes they embrace science as a longtime solution for sustainable food security and livelihoods.

Jean Claude Ndayambaje, the YPARD Rwanda representative called young people to dig and discover the hidden opportunities that are in agriculture.

“When you see the demand for food and the role of young people in agriculture, you would realise that there are huge opportunities for young people in the sector. I am calling everyone here to come and do sustainable farming, the result is excellent in time of job creation and food security."

Alliance for Science Rwanda promised the young people to continue supporting them through knowledge sharing on several agricultural technologies including plant health, crop breeding, integrated pests management and youth in agripreneurship.

Alliance for Science Rwanda is a network of scientists, farmers, journalists and consumers allied for food security, prosperity and environment protection through Science & Biotechnology.

Alliance for Science Rwanda is an initiative of three young Rwandans (HABIMANA Jean Claude, Ndizeye Gisele and Pacifique Nshimiyimana) also members of YPARD who stand to advocate for the potential of science and new innovative agricultural technologies in changing agriculture context in Rwanda.

Photo credit: HABIMANA Jean Claude