Many perceive farming to be laborious work, however Jimmy Ntambala, a 33-year-old who founded Kingdom Farms, it’s not so. He has taken up farming which he terms as ‘cool’.
“My kind of farming is a cool activity. By the time you keep thinking about where to grow your crops, your brain and body function better. It is also a good exercise for people who are bored because it chases away loneliness,” Ntambala said.
The rise of prices of food during the first Covid 19 lockdown became his paradigm shift towards farming. As one who had a background in agriculture when he was younger, the idea of farming popped easily at the top of his mind.
When he researched on the internet, he was inspired by farmers from Nairobi, Kenya who were doing farming interestingly by using hydroponics. Since he had time, he started farming crops in sacs on a 2 by 2 square metres area. He was experimenting but his intent was to expand.
In April 2020 when his family was staying in Kigarama Sector, Kicukiro District, he officially started Kingdom Farms. They began with cultivating tomatoes in sacs on a small scale and later grew to 5 by 4 square metres. Now their home farm is 10 by 15 square metres.
Their harvest of tomatoes and carrots.
When they moved house to Niboye Sector, Kicukiro District, they also moved their farm that contained growing crops including Sukuma-wiki and tomatoes. Ntambala said that these crops are part of the family’s valuable property. At the new place, they set up the farm in the parking lot.
During the time he expanded his business, his main emphasis was on people with children.
“For me, farming is not just a business; it is a way of life. It’s the thing we need to teach our children when they are still young. When you teach children to do farming, at the same time you teach them to be patient, look after things and as well as grow resilience of heart,” he said.
When asked why he chose to do agriculture, he said that he had found out that it was something that would make him money even though most urban people underestimated it. He had also realized that he could use a small space to do it.
How does one start a farm?
Ntambala said that since they are located in an urban area, they have an urban setting.
He revealed that one can start on an area as small as an acre and can begin with basic tools like pots, sacs, and water for an irrigation system. The farmer can control the environment in which the crops grow.
“If you want to start a farm, we ask you to pay Rwf10,000 for consultation. We give you knowledge, show you how farming is done, and encourage you to do it by yourself. After that, you buy the tools (soil, sacs, manure) and we establish the farm for you as well as provide a person to help,” he said.
“If you want us to take care of the farm on your behalf, you pay between Rwf11,000 to Rwf30,000 depending on the size of the farm. We negotiate on your terms. One may also opt to send their young ones here at home and we can teach them.”
What they have achieved so far
According to Ntambala and his family, farming is more than just a business; it is their contribution to the community. They have employed one person and now he has a small house. They have also found a market for their vegetables in the neighbourhood.
Within one year, they set up farms for different people in Kigali (Kimironko, Kinyinya, and Busanza). Their neighbours have also benefited from their farms. Some even come to their home and be taught how they can grow their crops.
Moreover, Ntambala has a full-time job but he manages to find time to take care of his farms. He waters the crops in the morning before work and in the evening after work. He revealed that he is currently saving Rwf3,500 per week from his harvest. His family no longer spends much money on groceries because they grow vegetables and eat them whenever they want.
He has also developed a business model for his business, Kingdom Farms. The business has also opened other new forms of business. Now, people call him and his wife to set up farms for them.
What there are planning
According to Ntambala, Kingdom Farms seeks to grow their farming activities into an agricultural training and ecotourism centre. Since they also care about children, they want to introduce these farms in schools.
“Our ecotourism farm will be located in town and will contribute to the Visit Rwanda programme. I want to be ready by the time CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) comes back. We shall have done study tours for schools, trained people, and introduced greenhouse farms,” he added.
They also aspire to help people see potential in farming by showing them how they can use less physical energy and still have fantastic progress.
Impact on community
Norbert Hakuzimana, a 30-year-old man from Niboye sector said, “I and my family didn’t know that we could have a vegetable farm in a small space that was located in front of our house. Now, I have a farm at home and I have set up other farms for my neighbours. We grow vegetables for home consumption and the market. My family members eat vegetables they have grown.”
Another beneficiary, Moise Bukenya, 50, told The New Times that these farms have helped him a lot. With his family of 12 children, he used to spend a lot of money on buying vegetables but now he no longer spends a penny. From his harvest of onions, tomatoes, eggplants, and Sukuma-wiki, his family gets enough vegetables and takes some to the market.
The challenges they face
Kingdom farms face the challenge of unaffordable financing to create bigger farms and greenhouses. They want to modernise their farming in line with government strategy.
“In case one wonders why we need larger space while we said that someone can do farming on a smaller space, I’d say that smaller space is for a beginner and when learning, but when you have grown, you may need to scale up,” he added.
Access to water is also a challenge to Kingdom Farms . With the help of the government, they aim at seeking sustainable solutions, they said.