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From Rags To Riches. How Four Smallholder Farmers Turned Into Millionaires

A deal has  been signed between Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and two corporations, Rwanda Improved Seed Company (RISCO) and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to help increase agricultural produce in the Eastern Province.

The agreement is meant to provide a partnership between the two firms in partnership with RAB and farmers to increase maize and beans yields. The arrangement is that, farmers who dont have enough farmland, are hired on plantations owned by RISCO, and thus increase farmers revenues.

RISCO rents the land from farmers at between Rwf2000 and Rwf2500 per acre per year. This provides RISCO with abundant land to grow maize and beans.

Then, farmers with less farm land, seek employment on the plantations.  Peter Munyaneza, from Kagitumba village, is one of the farmers who has been employed on the planation.

He, with many other farmers, are hired during the seeding and harvesting period. The wages, he says, help him cover several bills including schools fees for his children. 

According to John Muvara, the Director of RISCO, over 100 workers work on the 84 hectares they have during harvesting time and minimum of 60 workers during planting period.

“We started our company in July 2012 as RAB seed supplier. We kept on working and later we heard that AGRA helps farmers in seeds production. We made a project and presented it to them, they liked it and time reached they came to visit us. From there the partnership started,” said Muvara.

On the other hand, AGRA’s role is to provides seeds, financial support and building capacity to these smallholder farmers hence boosting their farm’s productivity and incomes. AGRA was found in 2006 on the belief that investing in agriculture is the way to cut out poverty and hunger in Africa and through that, it helps smallholder farmers across the continent as they make 70% OF Africa’s population.

Muvara and the other three partners, John Nkusi, Benjamin Ngabo and David Kiza were also smallholder farmers. They mobilised themselves, acquired training and then formed the company, RISCO.

After receiving funds and training from AGRA, they hired a modern irrigation system from government (RAB). Coupled with improved seeds and a modern irrigation system, they can harvest 30 tones of beans and maize per harvest on 12 hectares every season. 

It is not merry though. Muvara and the co-workers are facing some challenges which hinder their production. They claim overheads are still high, including rent for the land and labour costs.

“If we receive more funds, we can hire more workers and rent more land to increase production,” says Benjamin Ngabo a member of RISCO.

Meanwhile, members of RISCO say the arrangement has changed their lives. Once smallholder farmers who couldnt make enough revenues, now each can raise Rwf6m per year.

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