The rapid development and urbanisation in the country, like elsewhere across the world has seen the increased dependence and use of natural resources such as trees to produce furniture among other products. This in return has led to environmental degradation.
It's in this regard that three young entrepreneurs came up with an enterprise to play a role in conservation of trees and the environment in general.
Eric Nshimiyimana 28, Tharcisse Ndahimana 26, and Aime Jules Simbi 25 started their journey three years ago while they were still students at IPRC in Musanze District undertaking a civil engineering course.
After doing their research, they found out that a significant section of products made from trees were outdoor furniture like tables, chairs and benches among others.
Due to the passion the trio had in conserving the environment, they began producing outdoor furniture with the aim of conserving nature as well as employment for their colleagues with the hope of growing further on completing their studies.
Nshimiyimana said through their own research, they found out that timber was the most common raw material used by many companies to make these products.
"We thought of doing something to prevent further cutting down of trees to make outdoor furniture but at the same time provide an alternative of timber without affecting the availability of products," he said.
They use locally available materials such as concrete, a mixture of water and cement which is reinforced using steel bars that make the products stronger and durable compared to the outdoor furniture made from wood and timber.
The products are 100 per cent made in Rwanda.
The trio runs a company by the name Reinforced Concrete Garden Furniture (RCGF), where they manufacture precast lightweight reinforced concrete furniture and concrete outdoor furniture.
How it all started
In 2017 while in their second year of university, they started saving Rwf 10,000 from Rwf 25,000 they were receiving as upkeep.
Within a couple of months, they had managed to save Rwf 240,000.
"The money served as the capital; we started by making one table and a few chairs. We used concrete instead of timber" said Nshimiyimana.
The products served as an opportunity to do further research on the feasibility of their endeavour and establish what more was needed to bring the concept to fruition.
The firm can produce a wide range of outdoor furniture made from concrete and reinforced with steel.
At school, they undertook a TVET program known as business education center; through which they were facilitated in terms of acquiring machines and other materials needed for their work.
At this time, Nshimiyimana who is the CEO of the company said they started seeing potential in their business and began to attract some buyers.
"Our main purpose is to conserve and preserve natural resources, especially trees. Resources are features of the environment that are important and value of to human in one form or the other. However, the advancement of civilisation has had a great impact on our planet's natural resources," he said.
He added that conserving natural resources is very essential today and that there are many ways that one can conserve natural resources and find out ways to limit their usage.
The team is focusing on reinforced concrete garden furniture instead of timber, plastic, and metallic garden furniture, to reduce the number of trees cut down yearly and reduce global warming, ozone depletion, resource depletion, land use impact, acidification and toxicity to humans, aquatic and land-based life.
This is one of a great way for conserving natural, according to him.
In 2017, the company was awarded by Private sector Federation (PSF) as best young exhibitors following an exhibition in Musanze.
The same year, they also got an opportunity to attend Africa Germany Entrepreneurship Academy (AGEA) summer school at University of Leipzig with an aim to shape their business idea. While at the fellowship, their idea was among the selected implementable business.
Last year, the trio was the first runner-up and second-best innovator in Youth Connekt Awards at the national level, which saw them walk away with Rwf 5 million.
From a starting capital of Rwf 240, 000, the company has now invested an estimated Rwf 18 Million.
"The business is still new and on high demand in the country. Also, the materials we are using are durable and at the same time of good quality, that's why many prefer them compared to the same products using wood and timber," said Nshimiyimana.
The company has 17 workers ten of which are on a permanent basis.
Their products' prices range between Rwf 50,000 and Rwf 700,000.