Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Development Aid in Africa

I would like to answer a few of the questions I have received over the last couple of days dealing with my work here:
- Do you actually plant and harvest mushrooms?
- Are you working for some NGO that helps farmers grow mushrooms?

Short answer: NO!

The aim of Kigali Farms is to create a modern mushroom growing and processing industry in East Africa. This is done by brining modern technology to Rwanda, adapting that to local requirements and training farmers to work with those new technologies. This has several positive effects: promoting mushrooms as part of the daily diet to fight malnutrition, providing new jobs in a formerly non-existent industry and allowing farmers to create revenues through the sale of wheat straw (a mushroom growing substrate) which used to be a waste product of wheat farming.

Kigali Farms is a for-profit company. The owner has invested a lot of money not only to do good, but to also create a profitable business that will eventually expand and yield returns on his investment. Several government funds and private donors support such companies by awarding grants or loans for innovative and promising businesses. It is my job to think of extensions for Kigali Farms business model (new markets, new products) and apply for funding to materialize those project ideas.

I have yet to got out to the fields and see the actual growing of mushrooms. Until now my work has basically consisted of meetings, research and drafting project ideas. Of course quite similar to what is have been doing in Germany, though the environment is different. Our office is not air-conditioned, next to a car repair shop (to give people direction we always tell them to go to "Gorilla Motors"), has Internet that takes FOREVER (in case it actually works) and gives you a headache due to the gasoline fumes floating around. But I should not complain, we have a western toilet and running water!

Cheers + bis bald,

1 comment:

  1. Continued my reading today... as I found out, you don't need to have a green thumb. How could I possibly think it's not business...