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Planting Seeds of Prosperity

Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management (FAIM) workers in Rwanda check the condition of virus-free banana plant seedlings. FAIM uses the latest scientific research and techniques to produce healthy starter plants for Rwandan farmers to help boost their farm production, incomes and local food supply. The company hopes to expand its effort to other African countries.  Photo courtesy of FAIM.CO

Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management (FAIM) workers in Rwanda check the condition of virus-free banana plant seedlings. FAIM uses the latest scientific research and techniques to produce healthy starter plants for Rwandan farmers to help boost their farm production, incomes and local food supply. The company hopes to expand its effort to other African countries. Photo courtesy of FAIM.CO

Entrepreneur and horticulturalist Steve Jones was on a Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) agricultural trade mission (ATM) to Madagascar in 2006 when he first began thinking about how modern plant propagation techniques might help struggling East African farmers boost their productivity and prosperity.

“What I saw during my visit made an impression,” said Jones. Considering he and his wife, Cheryl, have 30 years of experience operating their business, Greenwood Nursery, in Tennessee, he knew there had to be something he could do that might make a difference.

The Joneses spent the next year developing a sustainable business model to improve the East African region’s agriculture and then coordinated with FAS to present his idea to more than 10 different African countries during the next FAS trade mission to the region in 2007. The overwhelming response from African representatives, especially the Ministry of Agriculture in Rwanda, pushed the Joneses to begin Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management Ltd. (FAIM).

FAIM’s goal is to establish plant propagation laboratories throughout Africa using the latest scientific research and techniques to produce healthy starter plants (seedlings) for African farmers. After a few years of research, in 2011 Rwanda invited FAIM to set up labs to develop and distribute 15-17 million virus-free banana starter plants for farmers in four out of the country’s five regions.

“Each region has specific diseases that affect the quality and production of the crop,” Jones said. “Their crop yield is, on average, 25 percent of what it could be per hectare measured against world standards. The problem is self-perpetuating if farmers use root division as their form of propagation, which passes viruses forward year to year.”

Instead of root division, Jones and other FAIM plant experts use plant tissue culture, which is a propagation process that extracts DNA from healthy plants within a crop to create virus-free seedlings without genetic modification. This breaks the disease cycle and allows for a consistent, high-quality supply. Plus, the seedlings are fairly cheap to produce and sell at a lower cost. Rwandan farmers using the seedlings are already producing 200-400 percent more than before.

Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management (FAIM) workers in Rwanda prepare pots for virus-free banana plant seedlings. FAIM uses the latest scientific research and techniques to produce healthy starter plants for Rwandan farmers to help boost their farm production, incomes and local food supply. The company hopes to expand its effort to other African countries. Photo courtesy of FAIM.CO

Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management (FAIM) workers in Rwanda prepare pots for virus-free banana plant seedlings. FAIM uses the latest scientific research and techniques to produce healthy starter plants for Rwandan farmers to help boost their farm production, incomes and local food supply. The company hopes to expand its effort to other African countries. Photo courtesy of FAIM.CO

“The farmers are able to provide a consistent supply to market and make more money, raising their standard of living and giving them enough income to purchase new plant stock when needed,” Jones said.

FAIM’s efforts will help create extensive benefits not only for the East African region, but also for U.S. exporters. The successful implementation of the project will generate an ongoing requirement for inputs from the U.S. such as supplies, packaging, product transformation equipment and farming equipment.

ATMs contribute significantly to the expansion of U.S. agricultural products and the creation of jobs for American workers. In the past three years, FAS led more than 100 U.S. agribusinesses on trade missions to various countries including China, Peru, Indonesia, Vietnam, Iraq, Georgia, Colombia, Panama and the Philippines.

Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management (FAIM) entrepreneur and horticulturalist Steve Jones stands in front of his Rwandan farm. After an eye-opening agricultural trade mission to East Africa, Jones started FAIM to produce healthy, virus-free starter plants for Rwandan farmers to help boost their farm production, incomes and local food supply.  Using plant propagation techniques, FAIM has already helped Rwandan farmers increase crop production by 200-400 percent. Photo credit Mary L. Robbins.

Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management (FAIM) entrepreneur and horticulturalist Steve Jones stands in front of his Rwandan farm. After an eye-opening agricultural trade mission to East Africa, Jones started FAIM to produce healthy, virus-free starter plants for Rwandan farmers to help boost their farm production, incomes and local food supply. Using plant propagation techniques, FAIM has already helped Rwandan farmers increase crop production by 200-400 percent. Photo credit Mary L. Robbins.

6 Responses to “Planting Seeds of Prosperity”

  1. crecencio says:

    Good job Steve

  2. Lenora Tooher says:

    Raising the standard and quality of living is the perfect target for such a wonderful project started by FAIM. Self pride will improve and smiles will be on all of the faces as they embrace positive change. One of many projects for the occupational therapy assistants at a FL university I attended during unemployment was give a group presentation of the economy, environment and healthcare of their assigned country. Our teacher was from South Africa. The presentation for Lesotho in the class made me smile for the efforts FAIM is providing for Rwanda farmers. In Lesotho, the national motto “Khotso, Pula, Nala” (“Peace, rain, prosperity”) is featured on a ribbon at the bottom of the coat of arms. I can sense that work from FAIM will not help just a Rwandan farm but improve farm production, incomes and local food supply throughout the African continent. My group’s presentation was on Finland which is quite a different climate for banana farms. Thank you FAIM for making the world a better place.:-)

  3. Brian Migisha says:

    Its a significant practice that can have a positive growth impact on the global food crisis, especially in improving crop production.

  4. Janet O'Dell says:

    Good work and I am sure they thank you very much!!!

  5. Oma J. Jones says:

    09/05/2012
    Hey Steve,
    I’m so proud of you and Cheryl. For all the hard work that
    has gone into this project. The write up was wonderful
    and you deserve all of the words of praise and more that
    comes your way.

  6. Ir. Philbert USENGIMANA says:

    Hello

    My name is Philbert USENGIMANA Nyanza District Forests Officer. as i’m so happy to know u and ur work in Rwanda. i’ll be very happy when i’ll meet and visit u in Kayonza. If possible we’ll make a partnership. Good good

    Nice work

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