Along a wide marram road 22 kilometers from Kwamagana town in Rwanda, we find Alexis Nzeyimana on a motorcycle by one of his plots. Nicknamed Rukirigitafaranga, which means tickling money in Kinyarwanda, Alexis has three farm sites of 27 hectares of land, 8 of which he owns and 19 he rents at 200,000 Rwanda Francs per hectare per year in Karembo sector. Alexis has farmed for 6 years with the help of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and HarvestPlus as one of the certified farmers they work with. He currently plants RWR2245 beans, a 75-day maturing PABRA developed and released bush variety of bean which is given to him by HarvestPlus. At the end of the season, Alexis is required to give the same amount of grain he got from HarvestPlus back. Within the season, RAB visits Alexis’ farm and train him on proper farm techniques. They also inspect his farm for pests and diseases. The first of his three sites is close to a swamp and is doing well. Like in all his planting sites, he uses the rotation method of planting between maize and beans and considers it very advantageous. “Rotation is very important. It helps with disease management, increases biomass fertilizer for the other plants and also ensures enough food for my family,” he stressed.
His second planting site is 2.8 kilometers from the first site. This is where Alexis and his family, his wife Mrs. Nyirangendahimana, 21-year-old daughter Icyimpaye, 7-year-old son Icyerekezo and 4-year-old son Giramata live. The family used to live in a small mud house but since Alexis started working with RAB and HarvestPlus, the profit from the beans has allowed them to build a stone mansion.
He has been able to provide school fess for his children. One is in secondary school and the other two are in primary school. The money from the beans is enough to pay school fees in private schools for all the children.
He has also saved enough money to buy livestock for his farm. He now has pigs, goats and cows to substitute his earnings and increased the organic fertilizer as well as produce manure for biogas to give light to his home. His cows give him enough milk a day to boost his children’s diet and sell.
A variety of livestock on Alexis’ farm
Alexis is also in the process of completing a 20-meter by 9-meter store house for his produce. In the store, we find a grinder that he uses to chop bean and maize stocks. He grinds the stocks to a flour-like consistency and is able to feed it to his cows and sell the surplus to his neighbors. He bought the machine in the year 2016 at 1.2 million Rwanda Francs from the sale of beans.
Alexis uses the grinder in picture 1 to chop dry maize and bean stocks into a fine flour as displayed in picture 2 to feed livestock
We find a group of ladies weeding on his second farm. Alexis explains that the ladies are part of a cooperative he formed and chairs. The name of the cooperative is Imbarutso za Karembo which means the trigger of Karembo sector. Started 6 years ago as a demonstration plot, the cooperative has since grown to a 163-member strong cooperative with 91 women and 72 men, one of them being his wife. Mrs. Mukamagambo M. Consolate, secretary of the cooperative is thankful to Alexis for starting the cooperative. She says that since its inception, all the members have not had to hire labor to work on their farms. They rotate and work on each other’s farms. It also helps them access seed and fertilizer from their agro-dealer and chairman, Alexis, who gives them seed for planting with the expectation of the same amount of seed at the end of the season, as well as fertilizer at a subsidized price. The cooperative is considered exemplary and has become a source of knowledge and information to outsiders who want to copy the method they use. The cooperative is also able to buy seed from neighboring farms and sell to HarvestPlus at a better price which gives them better income. This money helps to give loans to members in need especially when paying school fees and for the annual national health insurance, Mitiweli, paid in June of ever year. Members of the cooperative also have a chance to learn from each other, especially better farm practices and methods of increasing yields on their farms.
Alexis takes us to his last planting site, 4.5 kilometers from his second planting site. A sad Alexis points out that the site was severely affected by the drought in Rwanda in 2017. As he pointed out the severity of the drought to a visiting RAB official, he informed Alexis that the government of Rwanda is in the process of setting up crop insurance to mitigate farmer losses from natural disasters.
Alongside getting government insurance, Alexis has purchased 3 generators to pump water from the river near his first site. The generators, one of which is a diesel powered and the two others electric will supply water to his site at home. This will help mitigate the effects of the drought both on his farm and his household.
Alexis also owns a seed company where he produces biofortified maize and been seed for sale. Last season, he produced 33 tons of seed that HarvestPlus considered viable and bought. He also produced 8 tons consumption grain, 7.3 tons of which he sold to the local market and the rest is used for family consumption. Alexis weeds his farm 3 times with the help of the members of the cooperative and applies foliar, flowering and DAP fertilizers. A grateful Alexis has seen the benefits of working on certified seed with HarvestPlus and RAB, especially with the PABRA developed RWR2245, which has helped him get better yields and make a bigger income for his family.