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Institute For Conservation Agriculture Readies For First Graduation

Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA) which has a mission of educating and inspiring the new generation of entrepreneurs in agriculture is ready to graduate the first batch of nearly 80 students next year,  officials have said.

The institution located in Gashora sector, Bugesera district on a plot of 1300 hectares, is an initiative of the Howard G. Howard Buffett Foundation and the Government of Rwanda to attain the fourth Strategic Plan for the Agricultural Transformation (PSTA4).

The university seeks to produce 80% entrepreneurs as graduates with a focus on conservation agriculture, One Health under a specific curriculum touching experiential learning practical skills (50% of the studies), academics, extension, and applied research.

Ronald Rosati, the RICA Vice Chancellor of Administration and Operations said that each year RICA takes in 84 students and despite the delays in construction and recruitment caused by COVID-19, the next intake will be next month- August.

“So at the end of August, we will have a full capacity of 250 students at the campus. We will be full for the first time and construction of phase 3 will end this year 2022,” Rosati said.

Through a competitive application process, each year the institute takes in 84 students (on Full scholarships) who have excelled in sciences and have a passion for agriculture.

Rosati revealed that the first three-phase construction process has taken about four years and will end this December 2022, but the first graduating class will be at the end of 2023.

“We are all looking forward to that day,” Rosati said while presenting RICA’s progress to Senate President, Augustin Iyamuremye who was this week visiting development activities in Bugesera district which are aimed at improving the country’s green growth agenda and sustainable agriculture.

With 69 buildings now on campus (cost at $75 million) Rosati said that the construction will continue with the next two phases and the Buffett Foundation has committed a 10-year budget of $150million between the construction of the compass and its operating budget with $7.4 million as the annual operating budget.

At completion, RICA’s Livestock and Crops will have Poultry: 1000 broilers, 750 layers, 40 dairy cows and goats, Swine; Row Crops on 80 hectares, including maize and soybeans; tree Crops: 20 hectares of mangoes, citrus; vegetables on 10 hectares and forage crops on 100 hectares.

RICA officials said that the institute plans to start implementing its research component which will also come with community outreach and extension of services.

“I wanted to make this visit to congratulate you on this important and innovative initiative. RICA is the future of agriculture in Rwanda: sustainable agriculture adapted to the situation of Rwanda,” said Senator Iyamuremye.

The senator also took time to interact with some students at the campus and encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunity and use their diplomas to impact agriculture the labor market and food chains.

RICA students, spend three years on campus to acquire a Bachelor of Science in Conservation Agriculture which is packed with hands-on skills and ownership of on-campus smallholder farms (crops, dairy, and poultry) to practice their skills spending half of the farm.

“This is quality education that is going help us to excel out there, especially among smallholder farmers, and fight food insecurity among other challenges we are getting ready to address,” said Marie Mercy, a 3rd-year student specializing in crop production.

Like most of the students, Lucie Kayitesi, a first-year student said that their education will help them to begin a journey of contributing to the development of the country.

RICA Vice-Chancellor Academics, Extension and Applied Research, Dr. Richard Ferguson said that the institution’s model of on-field practice is a guarantee that students will be agents of improving the agriculture sector in Rwanda.

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