Having completed Secondary school education, Fabien Havugimana lacked funds to continue to the university. However, he did not sit down to pity himself but rather sought business opportunities around that could earn him income to afford his higher learning education.
Although he had an interest in growing pineapples, he was aware that he lacked the necessary skills. Chance knocked at his door when he got training in a Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness workshop, where he was equipped with skills to venture into agribusiness and how to make success of it. This pushed him to start a pineapple farming company in 2013; General Fruits Farming Limited, located in Rutsiro District, Western province.
Some of Havugimana's workers collect pineapples for transportation. Photos by Joan Mbabazi.
He had Rwf 20,000 that he says wasn't enough to stock pineapples; he borrowed a loan of Rwf500,000 from the bank.
He sells the pineapples at Mutangana market and has a contract to supply pineapples to Niban Wine Company Ltd and small shops, restaurants and individuals.
The agri-prenuer sells big pineapples at Rwf 300 and Rwf 200 for small pineapples. In a month, the agri-prenuer sells three tones of pineapples, which is equivalent to 1500 pineapples.
Fabien Havugimana shows off some pineapples after the harvest at his farm in Rutsiro.
Havugimana has three permanent workers and 20 part-time workers, though he hires more workers when the production of pineapples increases.
Some of the challenges he still faces include losses because pineapples have a short life span. They get spoilt in five days yet he doesn't have means of preserving them.
He adds that sometimes he often lacks adequate fertilizer inputs yet pineapples require fertilizers in order to grow well and yield.
When he had just started, he lacked market; however, this isn't a problem anymore as he now has created a network of clients.
"I make more money in dry seasons between May many December because there are many juice industries I supply the pineapples to. There is more demand during the in hot seasons, he said.
He explains that he still needs to invest more money in his business for it to grow.
Through his business, he has been able to gain daily customers and his customer base increases each. His farm has grown bigger and he was able to buy a car that transports the pineapples to Kigali and different markets. Unlike before, where he could hire cars that cost much of his profits.
He said that apart from being a business, pineapples are medicinal as they act as antioxidants that reduce the risk of chronic diseases, ease digestion, and boost the immune system.
He plans to access the international market in a few years to come but looks forward to starting a company that produces juice.
Every month, the entrepreneur saves Rwf100,000 keeping his hope to one day join university.
For those with interest to start a pineapple business, Havugimana says that it is not hard to start.
"Begin with any capital you have. Make sure that the soil you plant the pineapples has drainage capacity. The best soil for pineapple growing is one that has little acidity and has soil PH ranging between 5.5 and 6.0," he said
"To get the best production out of pineapples, make irrigation a habit especially in the hot seasons. For more production, plant pineapples in soil that contain good organic matter and high fertility," he says.
He also added that, before starting a pineapple business, it is important to identify firms and outlets one is targeting that have a demand for pineapples, this will ease the market entry process.
"Don't only look at local market; target the international market as well," he added.
Havugimana stressed that it is necessary to get some training in the domain to know what is needed in the pineapple business but most importantly, also have access to a supportive working team. In setting up a team to develop one's venture, he noted the importance of building trust and instilling a hard work mentality among the team.