FOUR RWANDAN visitors recently descended on Scotland as part of a fact-finding farming tour, hosted by the Scottish Association of Young Farmers.

In 2017, a small group of SAYFC members partook in a farm trip to Rwanda and were delighted to be able to host an exchange over in Scotland, with the support of the Scottish Government.

The four members of Rwandan Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF) arrived in Scotland on Saturday, 21 September for fifteen days, as part of the on-going exchange programme with SAYFC.

The RYAF was established in 2016 in Rwanda to provide a platform to bring together different youth organisations, young farmers and entrepreneurs within agriculture. Improving food production through adopting more efficient farming practices is at the forefront of the forum’s ambitions, as well as improving the prospects of young people living rurally.

A young organisation, the forum has been growing exponentially in the last three years with member numbers increasing from 4000 to 12,000, covering across five provinces in Rwanda.

The four representatives from RYAF have been able to get a real taste for Scottish farming and its extensive and varied larder during a packed schedule of farm tours - learning first-hand about different innovative approaches farmers are adopting and how they are safeguarding their farms for the future.

The Scottish Farmer:

SAYFC members, industry representatives and the Rwandan visitors

James Montgomerie, secretary of the International Trust – which provides grants for members of SAYFC who wish to take part in international programmes – commented: “From our previous collaboration and the recent trip, there is a great opportunity for the Rwandans and Scottish young farmers alike to develop new relationships, skills and knowledge.

“On follow up from our initial trip to Rwanda in 2017 and with Scottish Government’s assistance, we have allowed these individuals to capture a full flavour of our farming practices,” he continued. “The International Trust must thank our hosts for taking time out of their schedules to help us achieve our objectives alongside SAYFC.”

Ally Brunton, of Balmonth Farm, Anstruther, hosted the visitors for part of their trip, which involved a jam-packed couple of days in and around Fife.

That ranged from a dairy visit at Cuthill Towers Farm, in Kinross, to stay with the Lawries, to learning about soft fruit and veg production at Barnsmuir Farm with the Stockwell family, to a visit to Anstruther lifeboat station.

Ally said the Rwandans were eager to engage and pose questions throughout: “On every visit they came armed with questions for the hosts and would take detailed notes, asking for follow up discussions with many of the farmers – it was clear that they wanted to make the most of every opportunity.

“We were busy ploughing on our farm when they came to visit and they were very keen to learn about our climate, what we could grow and our approach to crop rotation.”

Visits also included a trip to Overstone Microbrewery, which produces small scale beer for local pubs and restaurants, a visit to the James Hutton Institute to learn about vertical farming and a trip to Andrew Peddie’s Silverdyke caravan park to hear about diversification opportunities and tourism.

The Scottish tour extended to visits to Ayrshire, with trips to Whitelee windfarm, Ayr beach, the famous Robert Burns cottage, a day trip to Culzean Castle and a visit to new poultry farm – West Park.

The group were able to enjoy some sightseeing in Glasgow city centre before being taken by SAYFC’s former west region chair, Lizzie McJannet, to Xscape’s SnowFactor experience to witness what was their first experience of snow on the indoor slope.

The Scottish Farmer:

An outing to Glasgow Xscape's 'SnowFactor' experience

Moving on to Edinburgh, they dropped in on the young farmer’s national council, before heading off to try some Scottish ceilidh dancing in the evening.

“Saturday during the day, our visitors popped into Edinburgh to meet the SAYFC national council, where they asked about the setup of our organisation and how we had maintained membership over the years,” Lizzie commented.

“It is clear that, currently, their organisation is based solely on agriculture but that the social/personal development side which SAYFC offers is a whole new concept to them.”

Before heading back home to Rwanda, last Sunday, the group managed to see some of the Scottish Highlands during a ride on the steam train to Mallaig (the Hogwarts Express) and spent their last evening in Ratho where they had a special dinner with the Scottish Government’s minister for international development, Ben MacPherson, who gave them a tour of the Scottish parliament.

Over the 15-day trip, the group managed to get a full flavour for Scottish farming. One of the Rwandans, Regis Umugiranez, said: “The level of the hospitality we received was all too kind and it was great to get a feel for Scottish heritage.

“We were very interested in the advanced technologies being used over here including mechanisation, post-harvest handling techniques and fodder conservation and these are some of the ideas that are we are keen to take home to increase our productivity.”

Mr Umugiranez is the managing director of CARL Group in Rwanda, where they make bread from sweet potatoes. He continued: “We have a problem with post-harvest losses, mostly in tubers like sweet potato and some of the ideas we have brought back should help us address this.”

Fellow traveller, Benjamin Rusizanibakwe, added: “We cannot forget to mention Scotland’s beautiful scenery and the growth of agritourism which gave us a good idea to integrate this in to our own tourism businesses here in Rwanda – which is a high revenue sector in our country.

“We also really appreciated our Scottish hosts’ willingness to share life and professional experience and could see how much they value family – which I believe is the basis of all development,” he concluded.

The Scottish Farmer:

A butchery demonstration at Balgove larder

SAYFC president, Andrew Peddie, commented on the positive impact the RYAF visitors have had on all those involved with hosting the trip: “Everyone who has met our visitors has been impressed with their focus and thirst for knowledge. We took them to some of our most forward-thinking agribusinesses in Fife.

“The questions started from the moment we arrived – with capital expenditure, return on capital, profitability and future plans some of the subjects that received scrutiny.

“As well as being great company, the Rwandans were here to gather and take home as much business information as they can get,” he explained. “With so many potential benefits for both sides, the relationship between us can only strengthen in the coming years,” he concluded.