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"Wow, I became cultivator without knowing agriculture would be my career option!”

By Jean-Claude Kamwenubusa, founder and President of the Association pour la Solidarité et l’Assistance Socio-Sanitaire (ASASS-BURUNDI), from Burundi.

ICTs together with my willing to become more involved in agriculture and environment preservation activities in my beloved country, Burundi, helped me to find out YPARD via a collaborator charity in United Kingdom which partners with an organization on agricultural research and education I am representative of - Association pour la Solidarité et l’Assistance Socio-Sanitaire (ASASS-BURUNDI). Ever since, I have eagerly followed the activities and updates on this platform for young professionals in agricultural development.

The beginning

My name is Jean-Claude Kamwenubusa. I have two diplomas in General Humanities and in Gender Equality, Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, delivered by the World Bank Institute (WBI). I am currently studying to get my bachelor’s degree in Communication at the University of Lake Tanganyika.

In 2011, at the University of Burundi, I started to promote post-secondary education and university affordability by connecting students involved in agricultural research. The idea was to foster sustainable employment options and rural development through scholarships and free micro-loans innovative programs. These incorporated volunteers as a way to pay back their loans in partnership with Iduka Micro-Finance, together with ASASS-BURUNDI.   

Getting engaged in agriculture

As founder and President of ASASS-BURUNDI, a non-profit association which is running since 2006 schools, health and orphanage centers, I coordinate various programs focused on agriculture, education, healthcare, technical vocational training, conservation of natural resources, policymaking, and diseases prevention, among others.

Inspired by an event I attended in Kenya in 2007 –“Youth Hearing Conference on MDGs” organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), as well as by the conference held in Spain on “Tools for development: Renew cooperation for development in Africa,” in October 2008 at the invitation of the United Nations Association of Spain (ANUE), little by little I started getting more involved in the agricultural sector.

Rural Agriculture & the Conservation of Natural Resources’ project

Being born in the rural poor district of Mpanda Commune in an agriculturist family led agricultural research and rural development be always close to my heart. Moreover, as an owner of unexploited lands, my challenges consisted of figuring out how to get capital in order to start agricultural and natural conservation activities. Among the different challenges I had to face was the shortage of skills, thus in 2011 I undertook personal research in two main sectors: agriculture and ICT.

I got involved in the Rural Farmers’ Cooperative Alliance, which aimed at promoting agriculture in Burundi as a sustainable employment option through education scholarships to enable young people in agricultural fields go to school. It was through the micro-loans program “cultivators to Market” that enables alumni to start small enterprises that I obtained a grant provided by a Canadian colleague, Ewan Quirk, to cover transport, accommodation and the courses materials in Tanzania during the Echo East Africa Arusha Symposium in February 2011, hosted by ECHO USA, on aspects of holistic approaches and appropriated technologies.

My Rice Farming Business

Thanks to Ewan Quirk, I also got a small start-up fund to produce rice in a rented garden. In 2012, the business was running so well that I was able to buy two big lands in the rural district of Mpanda commune. This way, the money I used to rent the gardens with was being used to pay an agronomist expert. 

In January 2013, with a friend and university mates I started to find out how we could get more engaged in in ICTs and agriculture. We planted 500 trees on the sides of river Ntahangwa and a group of 60 students conducted a research on medicinal magic trees “Moringa.” In that year, Ewan sent to us from Canada books for reading and seeds of Moringa Oleifera.

In May 2013, more than 1,000 students contacted me asking for help to get scholarships and loans to start agricultural projects in their local villages. Then, in 2014, I coached more than 20 groups of village farmers, and at Jeancka University Center, we started two short undergraduate courses on Agriculture and environment, and Management.

Agriculture, a source of opportunities!

Agriculture creates many opportunities for young farmers and consumers. However, we cannot achieve these alone. I believe grants and free micro-loans are the necessary services to engage young people in agriculture and rural development. This is why for 2015, we are planning to award 100 active students in agricultural researchwith scholarships via our centre to attend university. Besides, we are mapping the different needs of getting seeds and agricultural materials for our students.

My efforts aim to contribute to agriculture and rural development in Burundi. Therefore I’ve decided to become a young farmer so that I can promote “Cultivators to market” as a sustainable mean for farmers’ development and employment creation.

Dreaming about creating employment opportunities

Malnutrition and poverty persist in Burundi due to the single reason that farming is not seen as an employment career option. Accordingly, I envisage enrolling myself in a degree in Agriculture in a U.K. based University. I hope my admission in one of these centers will help me achieve my dream of becoming an agriculturist and create employment opportunities within the sector.

I am very motivated because YPARD is in full sync with my vision. With your support, I can help local young people as stakeholders in policy decision making to promote agriculture and rural development. I wish all young people undertake agriculture as a career option to benefit from it!  

Due to the project I am preparing to implement in Burundi, I am seeking new partners worldwide. I have a great interest in collaborating/ partnering particularly with UK-based charities or foundations to exchange experiences in common fields such as agriculture, health, conservation, and education.

Don’t hesitate to reach me through my LinkedIn profile.