My name is Eric Izerimana and I’m a recent agricultural graduate from the University of Rwanda, College of Agriculture, Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine. I am a District Coordinator at GAI Ltd where I organize the activities of more than five agronomists assisting farmers’ activities on 100 Ha in both Musanze and Burera districts, Northern Province, Rwanda.
“GAI” is a Kinyarwanda abbreviation meaning “Gira Agronome Iwawe”, which in English is “Have Yourself an Agronomist.” My role is to contribute to poverty eradication in Rwanda by increasing sustainable agricultural production based on the culture of agribusiness and extension among farmers.
I joined this company after sending tons of applications to different positions both in public and private agricultural institutions. The reason why I was rejected again and again was the lack of work experience, which is the main obstacle many of recent graduates in agriculture are facing all over the world.
In many countries, agricultural graduates are wondering where they will find a job. What they don’t realise is that they are potential engines of job creation!
Rwanda has an arable area of 1.400.000 Ha, slightly equal to 52% of Rwanda’s area. According to EICV3, 2010-2011, the crop productivity is still at a lower level due to the fact that in general Rwandan farmers produce only half of the expected productivity.
Therefore, it’s our task as agronomists to give value to this area and increase its productivity without any loses. To do so, agronomists must put their efforts together through associations, cooperatives and companies to support farmers in all their agricultural activities.
A farmer from NYANGE Sector thanks Eric Izerimana after receiving advices on Irish potatoes./ Photo by GAI Ltd
It’s like when you need to build a house, you look for the best bricklayers, and not the opposite, right? Same thing when you need to fix your TV, you look for a technician. Then, what happens when you observe crop damages and you need someone to look after these? Or when you see your crops growing? Who’s there to provide you with some recommendations?
While in some professions graduates need to put in practice what they know in their offices, agriculture is learnt by carrying out practices on the field. A good agronomist reads and looks after his/her practices to verify by doing what he/she has read.
If agricultural graduates could have the chance to demonstrate in practice what they have learnt most of their neighbours would come to ask them what they could do to improve their cropping methods, and this way they could be easily hired.
For instance in July 2014 my colleagues and I started a campaign showing some farmers what we are able to do in agriculture domain through GAI Ltd. After accepting our advisory services the farmers signed a contract with GAI Ltd and got an agronomist to assist them in their daily agricultural activities.
In the first agricultural season this year, we provided extension and agribusiness services to very few farmers in our village because they have seen that our demonstration plot had produced more! Now we are working on more than 100 Ha in Northern Province and our services are being required by individual farmers, cooperatives and schools. We expect an increase of 100 Ha in the agricultural season of next year.
Currently, GAI Ltd hires any person without age limits and with at least Secondary Certificate in Agriculture domain. We have achieved all this because we realized that agriculture is a technical option that requires a demonstration of what you know in the field.
Thus, I encourage all agronomists, particularly recent agricultural graduates not to give up and market their knowledge. I also encourage them to know that their main employer is neither the government nor NGOs, but farmers. They are the ones who need their advices to improve their cropping methods and produce more.
So start fighting against unemployment and show what you can do!