Mark Karugarama

Country: Rwanda
Organization: Zamura Feeds LTD

MARK: "Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work with a young but promising social-enterprise in Rwanda’s growing Agri-business sector. Located in Musanze District, Northern Rwanda, Zamura Feeds LTD operates in the commercial livestock feed industry. It is a relatively new industry, formerly subsidised by the government, but slowly becoming more and more commercialised, to effectively cater to the growing needs of farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs in the region."

My responsibilities revolved around 2 major activities; i) working directly with cooperatives and small-holder farmers to assess their needs and ii) designing a marketing and distribution plan to use a similar business model to reach parts of Southern and Eastern Rwanda, as well as neighboring border towns in Uganda and the DRC. This model will be used in conjunction with distribution centers to determine the most cost-effective way to get the product to market and to reach even those farmers in the most rural areas.

"We worked with farmers on two fronts; i) farmers who purchased the feed for their farms/animals and ii) farmers who supplied all the input (i.e maize bran, whole maize, cotton seed cake, sunflower seeds, soybean, limestone, shells, and a multitude of other inputs). An effective distribution channel would therefore be helpful not only for selling the product, but also in sourcing input--which Zamura pays competitive prices for, to ensure the farmers are making enough to support themselves and their families. Gaining an understanding of the farmers and their families’ economic goals and aspirations--and how the company is working closely with them--had a deep and lasting impact on my entire internship experience.

Two of my colleagues and I traveled off-site, twice a week, to meet with smallholder farmers and small businesses in the border towns of Goma (Congo) and Kabale (Uganda), some of whom are clients of Zamura Feeds. In discussions with farmers and cooperative leaders, we were able to get further insights into people’s overall perception of the product, and note down any challenges; access; price, effectiveness, etc. My experience was greatly shaped by thought-provoking conversations with farmers and the cooperatives they work with, which help them get their produce to market. I have learned a lot both from the businesses perspective and from the farmers who seek to lift themselves out of poverty. Challenges abide, but the agribusiness sector is ripe with opportunity and potential."

"Production success stories were told across the livestock production sector in other neighboring villages we visited for not just dairy farmers but broiler,layer and swine farmers whose goals intersect at one point: increasing yields be it of eggs, meat or milk/dairy products. It inspired a feeling of hope in me, that simple but well-organized animal husbandry could have such a tremendous impact on people and help them lift themselves out of poverty, especially in a country where around 67% of the population depends on agriculture for their sustenance. Overall, the internship experience was for me a learning opportunity unlike any other."