Odile Umuhoza is currently working as an Aquaponic Farm Officer at Njordfrey Ltd. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources’ Undergraduate Scholarship (CUSP) Program that equips Rwandan students with the knowledge and skills to become leaders and entrepreneurs within the agriculture sector.
Tell us about your current work. What’s your current position? Give a brief overview of the work you are doing and what has been the most rewarding and impactful part of the job for you.
I am an Aquaponic Farm Officer at Njordfrey Ltd. Njordfrey is a social enterprise that offers developing farmers access to advanced farming solutions while at the same time giving the local population the capacity to fight poverty and malnutrition. We deal with soilless farming through combined aquaculture and horticulture. The most rewarding part of my job is explaining to people that it’s possible to grow food without soil but just water. Explaining to local farmers what we do and them understanding it, brings me joy. Knowing that people are able to eat because of my work brings me fulfillment.
Tell us about the CUSP program and what you studied. How did your education at UNL prepare you for what you’re doing today?
The CUSP Program is a place to nurture entrepreneurs, future leaders, conservationists, and agricultural professionals at large. Every CUSP scholar majors in Integrated Sciences with a concentration on leadership, entrepreneurship, and conservation agriculture and a minor of their choice. While at UNL, I chose to minor in Mechanized Systems Management and I got to experience different parts of Agriculture from animal science, horticulture, agribusiness, wildlife, and fisheries. This gave me an introduction to all agriculture so that when I graduated I was equipped to work on any agricultural project.
How did you feel as you were preparing to graduate and start your career? What were you most nervous/concerned about?
I graduated in May 2020. With the pandemic and everything being closed I was both excited and anxious. I was excited because I had earned my college degree, but also anxious about the possibility of not getting a job since we were in a pandemic and many people were laid off.
What advice would you give to CUSP Scholars who are nervous about graduating and returning home to launch their careers?
My advice to CUSP scholars who are about to graduate and return home is to know what they want and go get it. Knowing which company and sector they want to work in will help them stay focused and collected as the job hunt can be a hurdle.
How do you see the agriculture sector changing today? What inspires you about the work being done in the agriculture sector in Rwanda today?
Rwanda as a whole is changing and the agricultural sector is not left behind. With the population steadily increasing, I am happy that agricultural professionals and farmers are adapting to smart agriculture. There are many companies and individuals practicing smart farming, such as soilless farming to be able to feed Rwanda’s ever-growing population.
Coming back and seeing many young people involved in agriculture inspired me to be involved even more as I have people to support me in every way.
Why do you think it is important for more young, educated professionals to consider careers in agriculture? What would you say to CUSP Scholars who are questioning whether they should really pursue a career in agriculture?
It is important for young people to consider professional careers in agriculture because young people have fresh minds and they can achieve everything they put their minds to. Young people have innovative minds that are needed in the agricultural sector in order to fight and hopefully put an end to hunger.
To my fellow CUSP scholars, congratulations in advance for earning your Bachelor’s Degree! Welcome to the sector where you change the world and see the results almost instantly.