Esther Kunda: applying Carnegie Mellon skills to improve Rwanda’s agriculture sector

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Esther Kunda: Agricultural entrepreneur

Esther Kunda: Agricultural entrepreneur

With only four months to official completion of her master’s degree course, Esther Kunda-a Rwandan student studying at Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda is using her newly honed technical skills to create a virtual agriculture company to give Rwanda farmers a market boost.

A student in Carnegie Mellon University’s Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program in Rwanda, Kunda has demonstrated what it takes to become ‘a problem-solver’.

According to Kunda, the most part she enjoys in her career is ‘being entrepreneurial about finding solutions.’

“I want to do something that would help our farmers better market key products and also get timely information about how climate change impacts crops and production,” said Kunda.

Esther Kunda is one of the first 22 students scheduled to graduate on July 24, with a Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program.

Carnegie Mellon University extended its global academic footprint in 2011 as the first major U.S. higher education institution to offer graduate engineering degree programs in Rwanda, after the country demonstrated its vision of rapidly building a knowledge-based economy.

The director of Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, Bruce Krogh, said that Kunda’s practical innovation is a proof that what the university provides will help the country.

“We are extremely pleased that Kunda is putting her classroom work into practice by helping to improve and streamline her country’s agricultural sector,” said Krogh who is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering at CMU.

According to Kunda, agriculture accounts for a third of Rwanda’s gross domestic product (GDP), which constitutes the main economic activity for rural households and remains their main source of income, which is a little less than 80 percent of the total population.

She said that the country’s key cash crops are tea, coffee and pyrethrum, which is used commercially as an insecticide.

“I want my virtual startup to help farmers learn about better crop maintenance and delivery systems,” said Kunda, who hails from a farming family.

Initial start up of her project

To help make her entrepreneurial dream a reality, Kunda successfully obtained a $5,000 business startup grant from Indiegogo, an international crowd funding site.

“My courses in the CMU-Rwanda program have helped me be more confident in attaining my career goals,” she said.

Kunda also credits some of her early business startup success to involvement with the kLab, an innovation lab in Kigali closely associated with CMU-Rwanda.

“My professors have been extremely helpful and continue to fuel my entrepreneurial passion,” she said.

Michel Bezy, associate director of the CMU-Rwanda program and a distinguished service professor in CMU’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy, said that Kunda’s skills are a wonderful example to the students.

“We encourage our students to push the boundaries and make strategic use of digital information in a variety of enterprises and to be comfortable managing innovation. Esther is a wonderful example of the pioneering spirit of our students,” said Bezy, who is also an active participant in the formation of kLab.

Kunda joins more than 8 million women entrepreneurs globally who are running startups and setting positive examples for other East African women.

“I am involved in mentoring programs for young women through the Girls in ICT-Rwanda Association, and I helped with the MsGeek competition, where young women will showcase some neat new technologies on March 8. The future is both bright and exciting.”

 

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About the author

Olive Ndaka is the Junior Editor for RwandaEye. An investor and young entrepreneur, she is a quick learner and has contributed many articles for RwandaEye in Kinyarwanda.

More posts by | Visit the site of Ndaka

 

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