AAA ROUND TABLE MEETING IN RWANDA – 25th APRIL 2016
The AAA annual round table meeting was held on 25th April 2016 at Lemigo Hotel, Kigali-Rwanda. It saw the gathering of various government representatives, board members, sponsors, donors, all AAA Staff from the six chapters and members.
The meeting began with welcome remarks from Mr. Jean Claude – Chairman, Rwanda Chapter who was the host and moderator of the meeting. The AAA Chairman Mr. Abraham Huijsman then gave a brief introduction of AAA and the milestones it has made thus far. He emphasized the need for SMEs as the engine for rural development. He also highlighted the three AAA pillars to all present i.e. Action &Learning Network, Website/Resource Centre as well as Training/Capacity Building. He finished his address by sharing his vision for AAA as self-propelled with exclusive membership and inclusive outreach for continuous growth.
The Ambassador of Netherlands to Rwanda – Madam Frederique de Man also made her address. She highlighted the unique features of AAA that she found relevant i.e. a membership organization, creation of Agro markets, cooperation and exchange. She pledged her governments support moving forward.
The Minister of State in Charge of Agriculture and Animal Resources –Rwanda was the chief guest. In his address, Mr. Tony Nsanganira expressed his delight in knowing that AAA was addressing the issue of Agri-Entrepreneurship. He informed the delegates that the Rwanda government was launching a platform for youth in Agribusiness on 3rd May 2016. He extended his welcome to AAA to engage further with the government on matters agribusiness.
This year AAA engaged in a research project dubbed ‘Action Research’ it was spearheaded by the Project Director – Mr. Hans Nijhoff and Country Chair – Kenya Chapter – Mr. Charles Gitau. A researcher based in Tanzania Ms. Margaret Komu was also actively involved. During the roundtable meeting the two presented the findings of the research. The research sought to strengthen the link between farmers and the markets. Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania provided relevant literature that informed findings of the study. The study covered 5 countries, 38 SMEs, 114 farmers with focus on seven key sectors e.g. commodities, grains and pulses, input supply and others.
It was found that SME growth was not necessarily equivalent to farmer growth.
“All SMEs that received grants in 2015 were as a result of AAA membership,” said Gitau.
Mr. Hans stated that the findings of Action Research would be produced in a brochure-style document as part of AAA communications.
A unique part of this year’s roundtable was that five AAA members got to pitch their business plans to delegates for funding. The five were; Jean Bosco Rugamba of High Performance Services&Business Ltd., Emmanuel Ntihinyurwa of MegaVet E.A Ltd., Havugimana Said of Haji Enterprises – Nyanza, Immaculee Kayitesi of Zirakamweza Nyanza Dairy Ltd. And Jean Claude Ruzibiza – Rwanda Best Ltd. & Chair, Rwanda Chapter.
The final component of the round table meeting was the report on the AAA Mid-Term review 2016. This was conducted by a team of external research consultants to evaluate the AAA progress to date. One of the key findings was that training was the most preferred activity by members followed by trade fairs and BC meetings. Members also expressed the desire for more shorter, practical, low cost and scheduled training as well as follow-ups thereafter. The question of if AAA members contributed to the positive changes for farmers they work with, arose. AAA was advised to consider other potential partnerships such as with academia, media, umbrella bodies as well as government and diplomatic missions.