To his peers and village mates, he is ‘Mr Greenhouse’. One gets to fully understand why residents call Xavier Baributsa, a resident of Nyakariro sector, Rwamagana in Eastern province, ‘Mr Greenhouse’ only when they visit his farm. There is no doubt that Baributsa has taken horticulture farming to another level as he has embraced use of greenhouses and irrigation to ensure production throughout the year. But there is more to the self-taught horticulture farmer.
From a distance, one is welcomed by the greenery that gives that freshness away from the city, thanks to the macadamia trees, apple plants and fields of egg plants, tomatoes, green paper, and passion fruits, on his farm.
Baributsa says after dropping out of school, he resorted to tilling the land.
“This was the only way to sustain life, but also be able to share the same table with colleagues that continued with their education after he dropped out. However, his journey into farming wasn’t straight as he started out as a farm worker, tilling people’s land to earn a living.
“From all this, I was able to get experience and knowledge that I used to start my own farming business as an independent horticulture producer,” he points out.
The farmer says he had, by then bought a two-hectare piece of land using his savings. His previous experience managing other people’s farms came in handy to plough through the initial stage of the project. “The beginning was difficult especially because I lacked key resources and funds,” he says, adding that he was inspired by the need to improve his livelihood despite the poor educational background.
It is this determination, hard work and willingness to forego leisure activities and pleasure that has pushed him to the top as one of the model farmers in Rwamagana and Rwanda, generally. As Baributsa narrates about his farming life and the fact that he harvests tonnes of eggplants, tomatoes and macadamia, one clearly understands why this self-made farmer stands above the rest.
The enterprising farmer has taken horticulture farming to another level by employing unique techniques, skills, and technologies “to make the impossible possible”. Baributsa leaves no space unutilised, intercropping egg plants and more than 2,000 trees of macadamia, a high value crop. The business man says he harvests five tonnes of green paper and tomatoes from less than an acre of land every season. In fact, some of his produce may have already made its way onto your local grocery store or kitchen.
The 53-year-old farmer says, on average, he earns over Rwf5 million from his farm produce every season.
“I owe my success to the good leadership of President Paul Kagame and assistance from Business Development Fund (BDF),” he says, adding that he has spent over 20 years of his life trying to master the art of farming.
Baributsa says the decision to venture into horticulture production was largely informed by Rwanda’s good climatic conditions and the country’s desire to boost exports through horticulture.
“Rwanda’s abundant rainfall, good climate and the rich volcanic soils offered ideal conditions for growing a wide range of vegetables,” explained the father of seven.
He adds that the ready market for horticulture produce was another inspiration for him. He believes the sector gives the country a comparative advantage, enabling farmers like him to earn a regular income and, thus play a big role in the government’s efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
Despite investing in right technologies, the Rwamagana farmer says the threats from climate change present a real challenge, which is affecting production and household incomes for many farmers. He says it is important for government and the private sector to work together to address the problem.
According to Baributsa, many horticulture farmers have limited access to credit, a problem affecting the agriculture sector generally.
“Therefore, if government is counting on this sector to boost exports, it is imperative to encourage banks to support farmers to make agriculture more productive and profitable,” he counsels.
He calls for construction of more storage facilities, promotion of agro-processing and value addition to help reduce post-harvest losses.
The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today, goes an old adage. For Baributsa, 20 years of farming and sacrifice have ensured he reaps millions from his enterprise. The farmer has managed to expand his farmland from two hectares to more than 15 hectares presently.
His children have not lacked fees and one of them has studied a master’s course at a top Kenyan university in Nairobi. He also boasts of a mega commercial complex in Muyumbu sector in Rwamagana which brings in over Rwf300,000 per month.
And as a way of sharing knowledge and skills, the model farmer is currently mobilising other farmers to form co-operative and also trains them in good agronomical practices.
He argues that organised farmers can easily access inputs, but also use co-operatives to bargain for better terms with buyers and banks. Baribusta’s farm employs over 30 people.
Baribusta says he wants to invest in agro-processing and exports. The plan is to set up a factory to add value to his produce.
“This is how we shall be able to transform the sector and lift farmers out of poverty,” he says, adding that through value-addition he can improve people’s earning and their livelihoods.
He advises farmers to embrace modern farming methods to improve production.