Iani Banywesize dreamt of being a doctor so he could help his community. But his family’s financial situation meant he had to go back to the drawing board. Now he has found success through farming rather than medicine.
Mr. Banywesize graduated from secondary school five years ago. His father was pleased he had been able to pay for his son’s studies, but relieved that he no longer had to provide his school fees.
The family had expectations of Mr. Banywesize. His father said, “He will start working to help pay for his brothers to continue their studies as I have done for him.”
But Mr. Banywesize was not keen to follow his father’s wishes. He wanted to study medicine and begged his father to let him enrol in the local university. His father listened carefully, but explained that the family’s finances could not bear the cost of a university education.
Mr. Banywesize had no choice but to get a job. He toured the local primary schools in search of vacant positions, but had no luck.
After two full years of looking for a job, Mr. Banywesize was dispirited. He recalls: “I had completely lost my self-confidence. I thought that someone had cast a spell on me.”
But then one day in July 2009, a neighbour asked him to go with her to the small village market where she buys her staple food. Mr. Banywesize saw that the market stalls were full of potatoes. He says: “[I got] an idea – I could start growing potatoes to keep my family fed until I found a job.”
Mr. Banywesize planted half a basket of potatoes in the small garden by his house. A few months later, he harvested five full baskets. He exclaims, “I wanted to produce enough for my family, but I was able to sell three baskets. I bought new shoes!”
Surprised by his success, Mr. Banywesize reconsidered his options. He joined a local farmers’ group, through which he got better access to agricultural inputs and training.
He rented a hectare of land from the village chief. He grows potatoes on half the plot, and cauliflowers, eggplants, amaranth and carrots on the rest.
Last season, Mr. Banywesize harvested 1,600 kilograms of potatoes, which he sold wholesale for 640,000 Congolese francs [$690 U.S.]. He earns enough from selling potatoes and other vegetables to provide his family with food. He can afford to buy farming inputs and pay for casual labour during the planting and harvesting seasons from selling vegetables.
Mr. Banywesize’s father is now proud of his son. The father says: “I did not know that agriculture could transform [our] lives. At first I was ashamed to see my educated son working on the land … [but he] convinced me that there is an income to be made from farming.”
The 26-year-old farmer is currently the president of a group of young farmers in his village. The seventeen women and thirteen men cooperate and work in each other’s fields. They also operate a mutual aid savings scheme. Each member contributes $30 U.S. after each harvest. They use the money to help members buy land, animals and other goods.
Mr. Banywesize used his share to buy three goats as a dowry for his future wife. He says: “I will soon build a house. Once I am married, I will focus on saving money so that I can to go to university to study agronomy. I can then use my knowledge to benefit the whole village.”
credit: Farm Radio International