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Bramin Maize Farm boosts raw material supplies, employment

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In 2010, Bralirwa Plc, Rwanda’s largest beverage producer entered a joint venture with Minimex, the leading maize milling company in Rwanda, creating Bramin Maize Farm Ltd, a mechanized and irrigated maize farm representing one of the first modern large scale maize farming enterprises in Rwanda.

Bralirwa purchases its maize for brewing some of its beers once the maize has been processed into grits by Minimex.

As a responsible beverage company, the rationale was to come up with a home grown solution to promote local sourcing of raw materials substituting imports and inspire other entrepreneurs to invest in agriculture.

Recently, on 11th July 2019, a team of local and international journalists and Bralirwa staff visited the Bramin Farm to have a glimpse of what takes place inside the farm which continues to contribute to local sourcing of raw materials and providing job opportunities to residents in the neighborhood of the farm since inception.

Bramin Maize Farm is located in Ndego sector, Kayonza District of, Eastern Province, on the outskirts of Akagera National Park.

The farm established in 2010 took three years for land development until 2013 when the first crops were planted all at the cost of Rwf 3.2 billion.

The land preparation over the three year-period consisted of land grading, installing machinery and partnered with Seed Company International to supply long season variety seeds believed to be more productive, taking 180 days to reach harvesting time.

Bramin farm comprises of 600 hectares of which 337 are under irrigated area.

The farm currently has six pivot mounted irrigation systems, a holding dam at the farms’ highest point above the lake and a pumping system installed to feed the five mounted center pivots.

Water from the Lake is caught through pumps with the ability to draw 580 cubic meters per hour to the 8400 cubic meters reservoir.

Five of the six center pivot irrigation systems have the length of 420 meters each. A single center pivot can irrigate 52 hectares while the remaining one has the capacity to irrigate 40 hectares. The rest is covered by sprinkler irrigation system irrigating 37 hectares.

A piping and drainage system was also constructed on the farm to maximize water efficiency and minimize wastage.

Maize is grown on 165 hectares as the main crop. The rest of the farm is planted with Irish potatoes on 26 hectares, Barley on 26 hectares, Beans on 26 hectares, sorghum on 13 hectares to expand the portfolio of raw materials.  The harvest of Barley which is under trial amounts to 2.5 tons per ha. It is also tried in Northern and Western Provinces. The Later produces malt used by beverage companies.

The farm has agronomists well-trained in crop production and other specialists to analyze quality of seeds and adaptability in collaboration with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).

Horticultural crops including water melon, tomatoes among others sold for quick cash to feed farm workers are also grown at the farm. All crops in the farm are grown within two seasons on rotational basis.

According to Stanislas Nsabimana, Bramin Deputy Farm Manager, the harvest amounted to 4.5 tons per ha at the beginning in May 2013 and gradually grew to 8 tons per ha at the end of 2016. Currently the harvest totals between 8.5 to 9 tons per ha while the target is 12 tons per ha in 2020.

“We started growing crops on barren land. It took time to analyze the soil and make it more productive, identifying proper fertilizers and seeds. The fact that we started from 4.5 tons that grew to 9 tons per ha is promising that our target will be met,” said Nsabimana.

He highlighted that the farm cannot solely satisfy raw materials for Minimex and Bralirwa that partnership with farmers growing similar crops is crucial to meet the demand.

According to Aline Pascal Batamuliza, Bralirwa Corporate Affairs and Communications Manager the more local sourcing of raw proliferates, end users should expect reduced cost.

She explained that Bralirwa as a responsible company attaches great importance to maintaining quality standards and producing products at affordable cost.

“Bralirwa attaches great importance to maintaining quality standards and producing products at affordable cost. The Bramin Farm promotes improved livelihoods of neighboring residents and local sourcing through jobs and free medical insurance, control the quality of raw materials from the time crops are planted until the production process which in return leads to quality products and reduced cost,” says Batamuliza.

Giving back to surrounding communities

The critical role played by Bramin Farm does not only lie in promotion of local sourcing but also contributes to improved welfare of residents in the neighborhood of the farm. As Nsabimana explained, the farm employs between 150 and 200 locals on daily basis while 80 of them are permanent.

Kayonza is one of regions in the Eastern Province hit hard by persistent drought. The Bramin workers whose land is unproductive due to prolonged drought enjoy the privilege of buying harvest from crops grown at the farm to feed their families and pay at the end of the month as they receive wages.

Bralirwa recently donated solar home systems to 200 residents in neighborhood of the farm and believes more support will be extended as profits increase. The farm also subscribes all workers for Mutuelle de Santé.

Hailing from Mwulire village, Kiyovu cell in Ndego sector of Kayonza district,  Christine Mukagasana started with the project and earns an income which helps her to support her six children. She Rwf 1500 per earns from the farm  day compared to Rwf 1000 paid in the village.

“Working in the farm has changed my life. At the beginning, I was in the first Ubudehe category depending on Vision 2020 Umurenge Program but the employment has helped me to graduate to the second category. I am also a member of a cooperative contributing Rwf 7,000 per month,” she said.

Esther Mukashyaka, another resident from Ndengo sector working at Bramin farm since August 2013 also recognizes in no smaller part the impact of the farm to her welfare through monthly wages in addition to free subscription for Mutuelle de Santé.

“I used to get free medical insurance but the support has been extended to my two children this year. Moreover, I buy food from the farm on credit to be deducted from monthly payments,” she said.

Apart from running the farm, Bralirwa Plc also funds farming activities of Maize farmers from Rwamagana, Kayonza and Ngoma districts in Eastern Province to boost their wealth creation through Community Revenue Enhancement through Agricultural Technology Extension in Rwanda (CREATE) implemented between 2014-2019.

Smallholder farmers were integrated into Bralirwa’s supply chain, trained in good agricultural practices in a bid to substitute imported raw materials and help to establish local supply chains, which transfer purchasing power from the urban middle class to the rural poor.

CREATE Rwanda’s activities started in the second half of 2014 and the first harvest took place during the first half of 2015.

Since then, the number of cooperatives has increased from 14 to 50. It currently has 40,000 direct beneficiaries.

As he spoke to maize value chain stakeholders during the roundtable discussions recently in June 2019, the Managing Director of Bralirwa, Merid Demissie said the company is working hard to impact the economy and promote local sourcing.

“Heineken is trying to increase local sourcing of raw materials by 60% by the end of 2020 and we are on the right track. Here in Rwanda, we have Bramin farm, and we are putting a lot of effort to make sure that we promote it to the next level,” he affirmed.

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