On the hills of Cyabararika, Muhoza Sector, Musanze District is a 1.5 hectare of tree tomato (tamarillo) fruits belonging to Hildebrand Ikirumugabo, a 30-year old who started growing this crop at the age of 23.
Sixth in the family of nine children, Ikirumugabo’s interest in the crop started in 2013 when he invested Rwf400,000 to plant 250 tamarillo trees on a 300 square metre land, and the production was “extremely impressive” as he harvests 180 kg every week in one season.
“I was selling a kilo for Rwf800. I got Rwf1.2 million of net profit that season, and that is exactly when I found that it is a lucrative crop and then I decided to expand the business,” he said.
Ikirumugabo, who said he hires as many as 40 casual workers, is a university graduate in veterinary.
In 2015, he planted 1,000 tamarillo trees, and the high production encouraged him to seek formal employment opportunities
By 2016, he had 2,000 trees.
Currently, he has 4,000 trees in his farm having invested Rwf8 million last year.
He expects to generate at least Rwf20 million.
At least Rwf3 million of the Rwf8 million investment was a grant from Project for Rural Income through Exports (PRICE) implemented by National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).
Another Rwf3 million was a loan from Business Development Fund (BDF).
“The three million of the grant has helped me greatly, it is the money I am spending on pesticides, irrigation, paying guards and fencing the farm,” he explained.
In the meantime, Ikirumugabo does not only sell his own tamarillos.
When he is not harvesting, due to the variance in the production cycle, he buys from other farmers in his area in order to cater to the demand from his clients in Kigali.
He also supplies 400 kilogrammes to market vendors in Musanze market.
So far, thanks to the tree tomatoes farming, Ikirumugabo has bought three plots of land worth Rwf9 million, forest worth around Rwf2.5 million, he is in brick making business, he has also started a timber business.
He anticipates fetching Rwf15 million from his timber business.
“After planting, sometimes it not necessary to look for markets because many big businesspersons come looking for me instead,” Ikirumugabo declared.
The 30-year-old was on July 15 awarded a smartphone as best youth farmer in Muhoza Sector, Musanze.
Talking about his priorities, he said: “What is in my mind right now is expanding my agribusiness activities; I want to reach the province level because I think I am at the sector level if I reach the national level, that will be even better.”
“In fact, my goal is going deeper into my project and reaching beyond just feeding Rwandans, up to the international level; like hearing that someone in California tamarillos grown by Ikirumugabo,” he added.
Ikirumugabo’s advice to youth is to join farming, because there are “many opportunities”, including the lower interest rates for farming project loans.