The humble chicken might be a noisy and annoying bird, but when it comes to two key government policies – increasing exports and import substitution through the promotion of made-in-Rwanda products – it has a remarkable potential. It is therefore no surprise that the government made a lot of effort to have the first Poultry Africa 2017 conference and expo in Rwanda, which was held on 4th and 5th October and attracted some 1,000 participants from Africa and the rest of the world.
During the conference there were seminars focusing on the best practices with regards to breeding and hatching, health and nutrition, farm management as well as animal welfare, while the expo taking place on the sidelines presented network opportunities for farmers and traders, and to get acquainted with the latest technology to maximize the benefits from Rwanda’s growing poultry sector.
The event was organized by VIV Worldwide in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) and the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD).
The involvement of the latter is no coincidence, as BRD is Rwanda’s leading lender in agriculture, especially to promote and boost modern agriculture. As such, it has financed several businesses in the poultry sector. One such venture BRD has supported is the Icyerekezo Poultry Farm, set up by Vincent Gakwandi in Gasharu Sector in Kicukiro.
Gakwandi started the enterprise in 2012, as he saw a gap in the market, particularly in the production of eggs. He had noticed that most eggs consumed in Rwanda were important, yet he had seen friends in Uganda become rich through poultry farming.
Even today, Rwanda still imports about 300,000 eggs from Uganda every week and 150,000 day old-chicks every month, and more come in from Kenya and sometimes Belgium. As such, egg production was a relatively virgin sector with little competition, especially compared to the clearing and forwarding business Gakwandi was involved in, so he decided to move.
“So I wanted to give it a try and see whether I could succeed,” he says.
To get familiar with the business, he visited different countries including Serbia, Turkey, and Uganda. Gakwandi says when he started, his aim was to ensure that the high demand for eggs on the Rwandan market is met locally, all the time, and without any hiccups in supply.
He started with just 2,000 chicks, and one year later, the farm had already grown to 5,000 birds. That is when he realized he needed financial support to develop the business. He approached BRD, which supported the venture and gave him finance for 8000 more chicks, a poultry house, and Rwf 63.5 million payable in five years at an interest rate of 16%.
“Initially I had one poultry house, but now I have constructed six more that can accommodate 25,000 chickens. There are challenges, of course, but it doesn’t stop me and I’m still trying to improve the farm,” he says.
The farm now employs 13 people and produces 65,000 eggs per day. The big challenge for the poultry industry, Gakwandi says, is that it is not well developed; management skills and feeds are lacking, while medicine for the animals is expensive. Therefore, his wish had been for BRD to invite experts and experienced specialists in all aspects of the poultry value chain, and to provide trainings.
With the Poultry Africa 2017 conference and expo, the development bank has delivered.
Read this article and more in issue n° 79 of Hope Magazine.