On a rainy day in Buruhukiro Sector, Nyamagabe District, thousands of residents braved the rain to meet President Paul Kagame on the first stop of his two day tour in the Southern Province.
Elias Uzabakiriho, 50, one such resident, is considered the best farmer in Nyamagabe. With only a primary school education, his first job was working in a farmer's project where he received 175 RwF per day ($0.26 USD). He eventually bought one hectare of land where he started to grow produce. It was hard labour without any return on investment as Nyamagabe has acidic soils. Before the genocide against the Tutsi, Nyamagabe received little government support which meant food shortages, hunger and premature death.
Today, Elias has 30 hectares of land. He grows potatoes, maize and wheat. In terms of potatoes, he produces about 360 tonnes per year. From this harvest, he distributes seeds to his neighbours, a testament to the pay it forward attitude that Rwanda's government has encouraged in programs such as the One Cow Per Poor Family (Girinka) program. The program provides cows to poor families who give the first born calf to a neighbour who eventually does the same. Elias himself owns 33 cows and has given 23 away.
He is particularly proud that his children, unlike himself, have been able to attend University. "Even I have had a chance to enhance my skills. I have attended training in Holland and Benin. Something I never thought I would be able to do," he said.
Not only is Nyamagabe self sufficient in terms of producing food for itself, the district now exports potatoes to neighbouring districts. "To achieve anything you have to change your mindset and work hard. I thank the government for creating policies that facilitate business that help change the lives of Rwandans like myself. I call upon all Rwandans to take advantage of this," Elias said.
President Kagame, speaking to residents of Nyamagabe, applauded the hard work of people such as Elias saying that they had been active in moving themselves and their district forward. "The government works with you, supports you, but you do the biggest part. It's an example of what you can do for yourselves and we encourage you to work together, pooling your strengths, and working with the government in its strategic plan; then everything is possible and the best is yet to come."