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Coalition seeks to unlock organic farming potential for youth

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As people are gradually being concerned about the choice of food they take, healthy diets are gaining much attention from consumers, and organic farming is one of the best ways to get healthy foods.

This organic farming business presents huge opportunities for the young people, which include making organic fertilizers, beekeeping and natural pest control and management for food production – that do not use harmful or unnecessary pesticides, according to actors in the agriculture sector.

Also, organic foods fetch premium prices.

To that end, AgriProFocus Rwanda under Youth in Agroecology and Business Learning Track Africa (YALTA) Initiative in collaboration with different partners including the Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), organized a Youth and Agroecology National Summit2020.

AgriProFocus is an international multi-stakeholder network in the agri-food sector.

The Summit, running from October 16 to 22, 2020, is held under the theme “Agroecology as a pathway towards sustainable food systems and unlocking business opportunities for youth.”

Agroecology is one of approaches to sustainable farming and focuses on food production that makes the best use of nature’s resources while preserving them.

AgriProFocus with support from IKEA Foundation is currently implementing a three-year 2020-2022 YALTA initiative, which is aimed to support young agripreneurs to apply agroecological principles and to co-create networks around them, in view of contributing to the increased sustainability of food systems and youth employment.

In 2016, Dominique Xavio Imbabazi engaged in the commercial production of organic fertilizers from bio wastes such as chicken waste, banana and potato peels, tea bags, and eggshells by using worms that decompose them to produce manure.

The Musanze District resident said that the demand for such manure that responds to farmers’ needs to produce more and healthy foods at the same time ensuring their soil conservation, by far exceeds his current production capacity.

“I produce about one tonne of compost (organic fertilizer) per day, while the demand is too big as sometimes it can go even beyond 100 tonnes per week,” he said, adding that he also sells the worms as animal feed to livestock farmers.

And, the proceeds from organic farming practices are considerable for this young agribusiness entrepreneur who graduated from the University of Rwanda’s College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) in 2016.

“I can earn about $10,000 (about Rwf9 million) per month from organic fertilizer sales, and consultancy services,” the 29-year-old Imbabazi said, indicating that the profit on such revenues is somewhere between Rwf1 million and Rwf4 million.

Alex Uwizeye, Country Coordinator of AgriProFocus, said that considering the development trends in the world, it has been realized that humans increasingly need more food as population growth rises.

“Therefore, there is a need for conversations such as these of YALTA on how to produce enough and healthy foods in a sustainable way, such as through proper utilization of soil, and efficient use of water, forests, and the entire biodiversity in general as we need that future generation will also need them,” he observed.

Uwizeye indicated that the Summit has also a competition component whereby young people stand a chance to benefit from YALTA’s grant of more than €1 million (more than Rwf1 billion) to be shared with four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda – where the initiative works.

“Young people’s organic farming projects will compete and the winning ones will receive a grant of about €2,500 (over Rwf2.5 million), each. We want to support as many people as possible, that is why the funding is somehow small,” he said.

Jean-Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources said that manure and chemical fertilizers are still used together in order to respond to the need to increase farm productivity in the country, adding that its use is still far less than the global average.

“There are countries that use too much chemical fertilizers,” he said, pointing out that excess is always harmful.

He said that the government is committed to supporting viable and profitable projects of the youth that respond to sustainable food production and build resilience to climate change.

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