Saturday, 16 October 2021

ZIM FARMER MAKES IT IN RWANDA


A number of Zimbabweans have  made in-roads into the Rwandan agriculture sector over the past few years and have transformed its landscape. Sunday Mail Editor Victoria Ruzvidzo (VR) had a discussion with Zimbabwean tobacco farmer and merchant Mwachiyei Dumbarimwe (MD) who has pioneered tobacco production in Rwanda. Below are excerpts of the discussion.

V.R: Than you for accepting the invitation for a chat. Before we go further, please tell us briefly about yourself.

MD: My name is Mwachiyei Dumbarimwe a holder of Masters in Leadership and Management. I have vast experience in the tobacco industry .

I pioneered tobacco farming from scratch in Rwanda. I started the tobacco project in December 2019 in the Nyamasheke Western province of Rwanda using Ugandan seed. We later condemned the Ugandan seed and opted for the Zimbabwean seed as it showed fruitful results.

Initially we started with the conventional method for 240ha yielding 2,8t per ha. I invited a tobacco research board consultant to help in barn construction. Right now the Nyamasheke project has a capacity of 300ha per year.

During the 2021 season, I launched other company projects in the Eastern province of Rusheshe for a capacity of 120ha and last week in Musanze, Northern province for a capacity of 180ha.

I have also started outgrower scheme in the Eastern province covering the districts of Bugesera, Rwamagana, Kayonza, Ngoma and Nyagatare.

A lot of farmers are keen to join as we are offering the best prices in Africa. Of late, I have started floatbed seedbed which has proved successful and the yield is above 3,5t per ha. Here we deliver direct to the factory for the manufacture of cigarettes mostly for export.

I hope by the end of 2022, I will be producing 4 000t to meet the demand of the factory.

I am putting systems where I hope to recruit four Zimbabwean provincial agronomists and two working in the factory.

VR: You have really done well. For how long have you been in Rwanda and how has been your stay?

MD: Like I said, I came here in December 2019. It is almost two years now, but I have achieved my five-year strategic plan.

Rwanda is so peaceful. As foreigners tinobatwa semazai (we are treated very well). They need our expertise.

VR: How is the tobacco sector in Rwanda faring?

MD: The tobacco sector is in its infancy and my company is the sole buyer. I am seeing other companies on board as Rwanda has ease in doing business.

VR: What additional experiences can you share with us above what you mention at the beginning of our conversation?

MD: The agricultural sector is just starting in Rwanda. I am proud Zimbabweans are at the forefront in agriculture. I am in tobacco, some are into poultry, some in dairy, some cereals with RICA, some macadamia nuts, one into flowers, one into fishery. I was impressed when I visited Shava (a farmer) doing seed maize and layers. All these Zimbabweans have partnered with Rwandans.

One major thing of interest here is that all agricultural inputs are subsidised.

Tourism and construction are the major activities in Rwanda.

VR: How are you faring as an investor in this country?

MD: So far so good my sister. I have already started agro-tourism back home. Home is always the best Victoria.

I am always impressed by our Ambassador Mhamha Professor Charity Manyeruke. She visits our projects and we have time to interact.

VR: What opportunities are here for Zimbabweans from your perspective?

MD: A lot of opportunities are available for Zimbabweans. So far Zimbabwean teachers are required.

My advice is to partner with a Rwandan both in Rwanda and in Zimbabwe. The agricultural sector has opportunities especially in poultry and piggery. There is a ready market locally and in Congo.

VR: How big is the tobacco sector in Rwanda?

MD: My factory has a capacity of processing 10t of tobacco a day which translates to approximately 4 000t per annum.

I need to work tirelessly to meet this. With the coming in of six Zimbabweans on board, we will make it!

VR: What would you say are your major score points?

MD: I have managed to produce the best qualities of Virginia tobacco from Kutsaga varieties Krk 22, 23, 70, 74 and 76. I have also managed to lure 11 Zimbabweans here in the fields of agriculture, tourism and consultancy.

VR: Awesome! Any challenges you have faced in all this?

MD: The major challenge here is unavailability of tobacco inputs. I import all my materials from Zimbabwe. This is an opportunity for Zimbabweans to venture into agro-dealing.

My second challenge is language barrier. While I was at Nyamasheke, I had one graduate trainee speaking English, the rest was sign language. But now I can speak 40 percent of Kinyarwanda. But business wise, no challenges as I am empowered to implement my project.

VR: From your perspective, what opportunities exist in agriculture and the rest of the Rwandan economy that Zimbabweans can exploit:

MD: Company registration is online. Within two days you will have a registered company. Business loans are easily accessed from banks. Local labour is cheaper and they work hard.

Remember, Rwanda is a hilly country, thus most of the work is done by workforce than machinery.

Too many opportunities in agriculture. There is shortage of meat, eggs, pork, maize, soya.

Agricultural companies are few and small.

I have never seen a funeral parlour here. These are the other opportunities for companies like Nyaradzo funeral company. Teachers from Zimbabwe now have their opportunity too as it was officially announced by His Excellency President Paul Kagame.

VR: What’s your take on current relations between Zimbabwe and Rwanda?

MD: I am impressed. The ministry of Defence came, Ministry of Transport came. Of late the Ministers of Tourism, Foreign Affairs and Industry were here. Look, within a day in less than one hour, six MOUs were signed.

More than 80 Zimbabweans attended the conference Rwanda-Zimbabwe Trade and Investment Conference held recently). I was happy to interact with the gurus from Zimbabwe during the conference.

There is need to organise an agricultural conference to explore more opportunities.

VR: You participated in the trade and investment conference. How would you describe it?

MD: The trade and investment conference was a success. I didn’t think a lot of people would attend under the Covid-19 conditions.

This was impressive. The presentation done by Allan Mujuru was fantastic and more investors will be seen soon.

VR: What benefits if any, accrued from the conference?

MD: The interaction and networking were my major benefits.  Back home l am partnering with a Rwandan in the field of Agriculture.

One impressive thing in Rwanda is that there are no middle-men. No Makoronyera here. There is more on value addition and less imports.

VR: Where do you see Zimbabwe and Rwanda in the next five years?

MD: Rwanda-Zimbabwe investments are going to grow. Zimbabwe is going to benefit more in information technology and tourism. On the other hand, Rwanda will benefit from agriculture and education.

VR: Great, thank you so much for your time Mr Dumbarimwe .

MD: Urakoze (Thank you). I hope next time you will visit all the agricultural projects being spearheaded by Zimbabweans in Rwanda.

Rwanda is open for doing business! Sunday Mail

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