6 January 2013

Rwanda: From Rwf1,000 a Day to Millionaire

With three children and a wife, he had to devise means of how his Frw1,000 daily wage would sustain his family and meet their basic needs. The school drop-out who earned that meagre stipend from doing menial chores in people's farms was always looking for in the far horizons in search of the answer to the lingering burden in his home.

Demands for food, soap, rent, clothing, school fees, medication and all the other basics were the subject of a constant nagging from the wife.

Every time she would remind him of something needed at home, it felt like he was listening to a scratched infuriating music CD because he was not able to meet most of his family's needs with only Frw1,000 a day.

Jean Baptiste Nizeyimana, 30, a resident of Gatsibo district, is a living testimony to the fact that hard work and determination leads to success.

After dropping out of school in senior three, he has been working as a casual labourer through digging in people's gardens to get a day's meal, until his breakthrough in October 2011, when he decided to focus on manure making and selling.

Having worked as a casual labourer for a longtime and almost getting used to poverty because of the mentality he had that he could never get a job, a skills-training opportunity from Rwanda's Ministry of Agriculture knocked on his door; his life is now a far-joy from the yesteryear.

The Rural Sector Support project, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI), started offering training opportunities for farmers in the district and while many people despised it; he maximised the chance that has made him a millionaire as he narrates the whole story below.

"I had been digging in people's gardens and earning peanuts since I couldn't meet even the most basic needs in my home such as food," he said. "Sometimes I would even fail to get people to dig for in order to get a meal so there are days we would go hungry."

The only possession Nizeyimana had to his name was a cow, which he also sold due to poverty and bought a shaving machine to start working as a barber to supplement his menial jobs. However, this, too, was like a balloon in the wind for his fortunes.

"I had to take care of my family's needs on top of paying rent and other essential bills, but it was getting harder financially each day until I got trained and started making manure for sale to farmers," he reminisces.

So when MINAGRI offered a training opportunity in his village, he embraced it with wide open arms, although he confesses, he was a bit skeptical in the beginning. He says at first he thought that the people wanted to take up their land, but as time progressed, he noticed that the trainers were patient with them and explained in detail how the training would be beneficial to us.

"We were taught different farming skills such as making manure or fertilisers that would help improve soil fertility and production. The compost is very lucrative if you target serious farmers so I decided to settle for this," he says.

"I started making manure and selling it to farmers in my area, and it was indeed on high demand as I would even get a profit of Rwf 600,000 on monthly basis, although I don't sell off every month since I have to keep it for a few months before its ready for sale," Nizeyimana explains, adding: "It goes through a long process."

The Rural Sector Support project would and still does help me find wider market for my manure from different parts of the country, which has widened demand for his compost business, thus bringing in more money for his project. With the demand increasing, Nizeyimana saw the need to engage laboureres to make the manure.

"I started with three, but I now have expanded my business so the number of labourers has also grown to about 40. I pay most of my labourers at least Rfw3,000 per workday and I am encouraging and teaching most of them how they can do this on their own so they can also improve their livelihoods," he says.

Through the business, Nizeyimana was able to save and construct a house, buy a motorcycle and also start a shop in his home area. Today, he can meet all his family's needs and afford almost everything they require and even pay fees for some of his siblings.

"I started from scratch but today my business is registered as a company with Rwanda Development Board under the name, Nizeye General Service Limited. Before the end of this year, I expect to make around Rwf17 million from my manure business. Other organisations are now coming to learn from me so they can pass on the skills to other people in the community," he said.

The wary face that was wrinkling faster than the times is no more. Instead, it has been replaced with a glow. How can it not be, when in your bank account, you have savings of at least Rwf16 million? Nizeyimana has not stopped at the manure business, though. He says he is already attracting more income from smaller income-generating activities.

The advancement has heightened the need for him to buy a truck to ease the burden of transporting produce and other farm utilities.

"I only wish that the Ministry of Agriculture can sensitise more people and scale up such programmes and projects to the whole country. This would help Rwandans overcome poverty and poor standards of living. I am a living testimony and would love to see many people 's lives transformed just like mine has," he said.

Modeste Sebazungu, the monitoring and evaluation officer for the Rural Sector Support Project in Gatsibo district, said Nizeyimana is a very hardworking man, who has made great use and benefited from the skills and trainings from project.

"Jean Baptiste started working with the project as a casual labourer earning Rwf1,000 everyday but it's amazing how his hard work has paid off. He's now among the rich men in his area yet he was probably among the poorest a few years ago," he said.

Sebazungu added that so far, there are more than 1,000 beneficiaries of the project in Gatsibo distric,t and he hopes that all of them will someday have a success story to tell just like Nizeyimana.

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