Euphrosine Niyidukunda Mugeni, a final year female student at University of Rwanda who is pursuing Business Administration, is already in position to pay her bills and create employment every month thanks to her innovation in organically producing edible oil and hair oil from avocado fruits.
The 23-year-old innovator who is contributing toward reducing post-harvest losses by adding value to avocado harvest hails from Mbazi Sector in Huye District where she carries out her business.
She started the project in 2017 investing Rwf40, 000 saved from her monthly varsity stipend and this is now bearing fruit after she bought a small processing machine which could help her produce more quantity of the oils.
She said that the idea of adding value to avocado fruits came up after realising that avocadoes in Mbazi were being sold at giveaway prices while others would rot due to lack of clients.
"Previously, one avocado could cost Rwf20 but farmers are now happy since I pay them Rwf150 per one avocado and I also get profit through value addition where I sell edible oil and hair oil. Where I come from, we grow so many avocado trees. Farmers could not get enough market and had to resort to give the avocadoes to pigs. But then I thought of adding value so that I get a profit and also help farmers get market for their produce," she told Business Times.
The student won Rwf400,000 cash prize at the district level from a competition of youth innovators which enabled her to further raise capital to increase her production.
Towards the end of 2017, she also won another Rwf3 million through a Youth Connect Awards Competition which, together with her savings of Rwf2 million, she invested in buying a processing machine.
"I produce about 20 litres of edible oil per week. We worked hard and won another award of Rwf4.3 million this year with which we have ordered another machine to increase production. One litre of avocado edible oil costs Rwf10, 000 and a bottle of hair oil Rwf2, 000," she said.
The innovator also recently got another award of $5,000 for her role in reducing post-harvest losses.
Niyidukunda said that her company values between Rwf10 million and Rwf20 million and employs four permanent workers whom she pays Rwf60, 000 per month as well as six casual workers. She also works with two farmers' cooperative who supply avocadoes.
She said that she is still busy with her studies as she is a final year student, but is planning to further expand her venture to boost production and consequently revenues.
Currently, she pays herself between Rwf100,000 and Rwf200,000 a month in salary.
The young entrepreneur however said that production is still too small since she cannot satisfy the demand.
"For instance, I got a client who wanted 100 bottles of hair oil every week and the others who ordered for 100 litres of edible oil per week but since I produce only 20 litres per week, I could not supply them. Some local clients are still importing packages from Kenya," she said.
She said she has clients especially restaurants and hotels, but noted that she has not been able to make the most of the markets outside Rwanda especially since she is yet to get necessary certification from Rwanda Standards Board.
She said that she is negotiating with Business Development Fund for a Rwf10 million loan so as to expand production.
"I also want to produce mayonnaise from avocado," she said.
Niyidukunda is a member of Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), an initiative under the Ministry of Agriculture.
She has her products in RYAF's shop in downtown Kigali where young entrepreneurs exhibit and sell their innovative products.
Régis Umugiraneza, the head of agro-processing cluster at Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum, said that they are closely working with Rwanda Standards Board's programme 'Zamukana Ubuziranenge" that aims to improve quality and standards of such processed products so they can qualify for the S-MARK certification.