Seeds of the Future: National Agribusiness Salon in Burundi
A career in agriculture and agribusiness, around the world, is often faced with prejudice and thought of as an occupation of the poor. However, agribusiness has undergone tremendous evolution since the industrial period; from progressions emerging in agri-technology, agro-startups and digital solutions. Several individuals around the world are shaping the industry and becoming role-models for agri-entrepreneurs and employees.
To tap into this industry, which can provide numerous jobs in poverty-stricken areas, as well as contribute to the global food-shortages, SPARK and Burundi’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism hosted the country’s first ever National Agribusiness Salon in Bujumbura Marie. Over 3 days in November 2017, the salon brought together various stakeholders in Burundi’s agribusiness sector, including government representatives, private companies in agribusiness, beneficiaries of SPARK’s ABIN and ABC programmes, students and entrepreneurs.
The event, entitled ‘Seeds of the Future’, kicked off with a launch party attended by various dignitaries, including the Ambassador of the Netherlands in Burundi, Harry Verweji, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Posts and Tourism, Mr. Samson Ndayizeye, who officially opened the event. Ambassador Verweiji said in his opening speech: “Burundi has a great potential market for agribusiness. Representing up to 130 million people, these statistics should encourage those involved in the Burundian agro-business to take advantage of opportunities such as this event to transform and market their agricultural production”.
In support of this, Mr. Samson Ndiyizeye, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Posts and Tourism, emphasized the ministry’s partnership with SPARK: “We shall spare no effort to support SPARK in its mission to promote entrepreneurship in the field of agribusiness.”
A colourful exhibition of up to 35 enterprises and cooperatives was arrayed on the exquisite garden terraces of the Astérix Park. The value chains represented included fruits and vegetables, honey, coffee and tea, fruit wine, milk and mushrooms, who each had stalls exhibiting their products and services to the general public who came in their hundreds each day.
Some of the enterprises included, ‘Rugo Farm’, La Passiflore, Shamba Kahawa, Natura Milk, IMENA fruit wine, Green Media and cooperatives such as Akarusho, Turmwamu and Kerebuka. A few stalls in particular experienced a hive of activity from curious parties over the three days. One visitor described why the ‘Moringa’ (ben oil tree) stand was so popular: “I am especially amazed by the many products that can come from ‘moringa’ plants. I see here oils, washing soaps, drugs in pills and flour!”
Simultaneously, the salon provided workshops that were tailored to address particular key issues faced in the agribusiness sector, such as Digital Skills for Agribusiness workshop was facilitated by Hans Massisah, from Kafeero Foundation; Proper Packing and Packaging where Managing Director of fruit processing company, ‘Akeza Mutima’ and SPARK beneficiary, Emmanuel Ntakarutimana, shared his knowledge and experiences; and New Trends in Agribusiness, which was facilitated by the Vice President of the Agribusiness Chamber and AGROBIOTEC’s CEO, Theodomir Rishirumuhirwa. This workshop in particular explored areas of policy intervention to better support the agribusiness sector, including the tax policy. The workshops gave participants of the salon the unique opportunity to put questions directly to policy-makers. “There’s a lack of investment in trainings, especially from our local leaders”, one participant said. He urged leaders in the government to engage in activities that improve crop production throughout the country.
The main objective of the salon was to enrich Burundi’s agribusiness sector with know-how, new technologies and products, by-products from agro-food processing and by connecting different actors within the sector. SPARK Country Manager for Burundi, Joris Ngabire, said: “We want to do more in terms of networking the entrepreneurs of Burundi by creating an environment of exchanges on the obstacles of the field of agriculture and agro-industry. We hope to establish a network of agro-food incubation centres in rural areas in Burundi especially in Bubanza, Cibitoke and Rumonge provinces.”
For any country to succeed, food security and independence to modernize is necessary. Modernisation of agriculture is not only about increasing production, it also requires access to innovation and technology to bring value to products for better integration into national, regional and international markets. With this event being hosted, there is hope that the seeds of Burundi’s future shall be planted to nourish the whole country and its neighbours.
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