Rwanda: From Teacher to Fruit Processor - How BDF Made Niyitegeka's Dreams Become Reality

23 October 2019
opinion

Through savings from his teaching job at Petit Seminaire Saint Kizito Zaza in Ngoma district, Bonaventure Niyitegeka now owns a fruits processing company.

But at the onset, he tells you he would not be where he is had it not been the support from Business Development Fund (BDF), which has helped him spontaneously grow his business.

The entrepreneur who hails from Karembo sector in Ngoma joined teaching career in 2012 after graduating from University of Rwanda-Huye Campus in chemistry.

Much as he immediately started teaching after university, he knew he would not be in this profession for long, as he had always envisioned being an employer rather than an employee.

The entrepreneur produces 12,000 litres of juice and 1,600 jams per month.

To realize his dream, from his modest salary as a teacher, he managed to save up Rwf1.2 million and four years later - in 2016, he ventured in agri-business, by way of adding value to fruits that are abundantly grown in his home area.

He began by starting his company called "Bona National Fruits Transformation Company".

"The savings from teaching job became my capital to start my business of adding value to fruits which we have in abundance here in this region. Today, my business is valued at about Rwf15 million," he said.

The idea to quit teaching job for fruits processing was especially motivated by the fact that farmers in this area were growing different varieties of fruits but would count losses as some ended up rotting away due to lack of ready market.

He produces juice and jams. Photos by Courtesy.

Niyitegeka's company now processes tree tomato, pineapples and passion fruits into different types of juice and jam.

He started off by buying a simple equipment including a lab equipment and rented out a workshop from where he started processing juice and jam but on a much small quantity.

In 2017, he enlisted for BDF support to be able to increase production and improve on the quality of products.

After buying into his vision the fund extended to him a loan of Rwf7.2 million which subsequently catapulted his plant's capacity from processing100 kilogrammes to the current 1,200 kilogrammes per week.

He was one of many entrepreneurs who obtained the support under the BDF agribusiness financing scheme that was extended to the youth across the country starting with the 2016/17 fiscal year.

The BDF support is in line with National Employment Programme.

"BDF has been crucial in the expansion of my enterprise. I now have a standard processing machine. I produce 12,000 litres of juice and 1,600 tins of jam per month," he said explaining that he processes 3,000 litres of juice and 400 tins of jam per week.

He sells one litre of concentrated juice at Rwf800 while jam goes for Rwf1200 per tin.

He said that he also bought the car that he uses to transport fruits from farmers and also uses it to get the finished products to the market.

"I have also started growing fruits on my own land. The fruits from my land is five per cent of all fruits which I process while 95 per cent is supplied by farmers," he said.

His project contributed much to Ngoma's district performance contracts as it emerged the best agribusiness project in 2018.

He explained that before BDF intervention, he was employing four staff but with the intervention, he increased the number to 16 employees.

"98 per cent of my workers are young graduates and 65 per cent of them are women," he said.

He said that he started to pay back the loan after six-month grace period granted by BDF and up to now he is replenishing it with no hitches, since the business was making good profit.

Challenges

Despite the success, Niyitegeka said he is still facing some challenges like expensive packaging materials and financial capacity to get S-Mark for his products for standards purposes.

"Having no S-Mark is preventing us from accessing wider market since some consumers reject the products that have no standards mark. We need more financial capacity to afford the cost," he said.

He explained that in order to get S-Mark, it requires around Rwf30 million to afford machinery for the whole automated chain of fruits processing.

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