Driving through Rwanda I see people with worn out clothes, children that play with a ball made of what used to be clothes and who immediately stop when they see us cycling. 'Hello, give me my money.'
This is a different life compare to the city world.
A life of hard physical work. We see lots of small plots where people work the land with simple tools. Every inch is used. It looks nice but very inefficient. The world is also literally far away. It is a long way to get materials here; the closest port is Mombassa, a 3 days truck drive.
Meanwhile Rwanda’s population of 12-13 million people is growing. It is already one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It can take you an hour of cycling before finding a place to pee privately!
We drive through an area of coffee farmers. There are astonishingly beautiful views. We continue on a small road filled with red soil that sticks to our bikes as we go down to the lake, where we visit a coffee washing station. The country director of the coffee company tells us that he mainly buys from smallholder farmers. The majority have plots of an average 0,5 hectare and coffee revenues of only 75 USD a year.
It feels desperate. How to bring more prosperity here?
The few investments we see, like a water power plant, are donations. It seems impossible to make a business case, which is necessary to create sustainable prosperity. No or very limited cash (income), expensive logistics, more and more mouths to feed. David Rosenberg and I are discussing the challenges while cycling and cracking our brains.
I meet Charles along the way and have a long talk with him. He is a local farmer who caught my eye because of his shirt saying ‘raising the bar’. We need investors, we need factories, he states. He also asks for money. I give him some food which he immediately shares with the children around him.
Two days later we drive out of the highest mountains (2500 meters hight) into a more reachable area. The first signs of industry appear. We visit a potato chips factory that is set up by a Dutch farmer's son who grew up in Emmeloord, the silicon valley of potato chips. He (Thijs Boer) has the ambition to help farmers produce good quality potatoes and his chips factory is the test, drive and outlet for that. His chips is branded Winnaz. We need these kind of winners. He is selling his chips to supermarkets in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya and employs 50 people and works with many smallholders farmers.
It is a great example of building prosperity.
Rwanda needs more of these Betterpreneurs and we need to support their growth. So people will have an alternative for farming alone and the farming can be made more efficient. This is where the best brains should work on.
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