TAYPA nominee shares passion for agriculture

Tuesday May 5 2015

 Robert Christopher (right) admires a maize

 Robert Christopher (right) admires a maize plantation belonging to one of the farmers he supports through the SME Impact Fund.  PHOTO I COURTESY 

By Edward Qorro; eqorro@tz.nationmedia.com

Robert Lukumay’s story epitomises the spirit of hard work that is being embraced by young Tanzanians. It also exhibits his thirst for success, while not excluding a desire to elevate the lives of other  Tanzanians.

While working for a local bank in Arusha from 2011 to 2013, Robert was a coordinator of  a programme known as Emerging Farmers, which was solely responsible for helping small scale farmers to expand into the commercial arena.

“Working with farmers was quite a challenge, but we did our best trying to address various issues in a bid to improve their lives,” recalls the soft spoken Robert. Robert spent a period of time  with the farmers which then instilled in him a passion for agriculture which he has truly come to believe is the backbone of the country’s economy. In turn, the passion landed some impetus on Robert’s eagerness to  elevate small scale farmers in the country,  make more than 70 per cent of all farmers in Tanzania.

“The struggles that farmers go through interested me, I therefore championed  an agribusiness department at the bank,” adds Robert.

By this time, Robert was a specialist in farming which saw him earn a job at SME Impact Fund, an organisation dedicated to providing loans, skills and knowledge to SMEs in agricultural value chains, with the aim to unlock the agricultural potential of East Africa.

It is here where Robert, along with his chief executive officer worked tirelessly to ensure that the lives of small scale farmers improved.

“We had to develop a manual policy on how the fund would operate as well as product features while also looking for eligible investee and assessing the actual needs of small scale farmers,” he recalls. According to Robert, the fund offers from a minimum Sh 100million worth of  loans. While working for the fund, Robert was able to support more than 15 projects of  small scale farmers through access to finance and proper knowledge.

Creating opportunities

By connecting smallholder farmers and agribusiness SMEs, Robert was able to  strengthen links between small rural entrepreneurs and regional, national and export markets.

Through his work, the fund managed to provide 14 loan schemes, 232  employment opportunities and 912 outreach opportunities  to small holder farmers. “The SME Impact Fund provides loans to Tanzanian small medium enterprises in  the agricultural value chains, like processors, dairy factories; our loans are   available for those SMEs that add value up and down the value chain and are in need of  working capital or investment finance. The loans range between Sh 100million  to 1billion,” Robert proudly asserts.

Young professional award

And of course, as with such feats, Roberts’ efforts did not go unnoticed and was nominated by his friend- for this year’s  Tanzania Young Professionals Awards (TAYPA).

According to Robert, who also holds a Master’s degree in business administration  in corporate management from Mzumbe University’s Dar es Salaam  Business School, the  friend nominated him for the awards because he believed that Robert  has all it takes to compete with other Tanzanians.

The award recognises young exceptional professionals across all industries in both the Public and Private Sector who are high performing individuals making a  difference in their respective fields and communities.

It also aims at identifying and endorsing youth leaders and role models in the local  job market and reward them for setting examples and blazing a trail for others to follow which also serves as a platform that will provide a source of motivation for young aspiring professionals to work harder at achieving both their short and long-term career objectives. In this year’s award, the 30 year-old who also holds a regional certificate in agricultural finance from the Kenya School of Monetary Studies in Nairobi, has  been placed in the Captain of Industry Award category, which recognises his role in managing a team for the major role of building a high impact investment portfolio, responsible for managing the emerging farmers’ programme, a special programme to support individual’s medium sized farmers to become commercial farmers. In his category, the 30 year-old will be competing with two other contestants; Christopher Rwechungura and Jacqueline Lawrence who too have been honoured for their contributions as well.

The mode of looking for the ultimate winner will be in a SMS form, through using their codes, whereby Robert’s code is C3.

What it takes to win TAYPA award

According to TAYPA’s website, for anyone to be nominated, they must ensure that they have achieved exceptional results, contribute significantly to the development of Tanzania and are role models in their communities.

Other criteria include having worked in any sector that contributes to the development of Tanzania, are citizens of Tanzania and belong to the professional group of under the age of 35.

“I believe I have met all the criteria put forth by the organisers which is why after a thorough vetting, I was one among the top three in the category, which I  consider being an ultimate winner,” boasts Robert. When asked why he sees himself emerging on top in that category, Robert begins by describing himself as an ambitious, well committed person who is eager to learn new things as each new day unfolds.

He adds that he got the right passion to work in supporting the agribusiness sector.

A self-proclaimed great leader

“I am also honest, transparent, good team player and a God fearing kind of person. My career aspiration is to become one of the top leaders in managing the  reputable Agribusiness Finance Corporation within East Africa...while also looking forward to pursuing further studies to enhance my knowledge and career to the next level,” he outlines.

However, Robert is yet to know the prize that comes along after being declared a winner, but that is least of his concerns at the moment.

“That doesn’t concern me the most, I’m only interested in the honour that comes with the award,” says Robert.

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