Rwanda: Why SMEs in Horticulture Struggle to Get Funding

22 September 2020

Lack of preparation, poor bookkeeping and inability to write good proposals is hindering local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in horticulture from accessing funds from the €16.2m scheme.

The €16.2m Investment in Horticultural Development in Rwanda (HortInvest) is a four-year project launched in 2018 funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Government of Rwanda.

Bookkeeping means the recording of financial transactions, and is part of the process of accounting in business with.

Running between 2018 and 2021, the project seeks to increase horticulture production and horticultural value chain, improve nutrition and support the growth of growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

However, Out of 153 proposals submitted since the launch, only 20 SMEs have managed to get grants from the project due to gaps that trigger rejection.

SMEs in horticulture said that lack of adequate financial records, skills and other requirements have hindered them from accessing the funds.

"We have challenges in bookkeeping. When you do not have ideal and clean financial records, sponsors become afraid of giving you money. That is why we tried to apply but in vain," said Enock Nduwayezu, the owner of an SME "ZEAN Ltd" based in banana business in Nyabihu District.

He said that his business engages in farming and buys bananas from other farmers and supplies to various markets while those which lack markets are used in bakeries for post-harvest handling.

During peak seasons, he said, he supplies 12 tonnes per week and three tonnes during low season per week.

"I need funding to turn bananas into chips, bread and cakes as a way of adding value and embracing post-harvest handling techniques but it requires many skills to access the funding," he said.

He said that bookkeeping also requires working with the tax body to ensure the company has appraisals.

"Once book keeping is okay, we realized that it is easy to access funding," he said.

Fabienne Bizaba, who is in charge of operations at Proxifresh Rwanda, a firm that supplies and exports French beans and spring onions which was started the business in 2014 said that for a majority of businesses in the area, the paperwork is a challenge for most.

"The challenge in applying for the grant is that it requires things which we even didn't know before. For example how to prepare documents that make you eligible for the grant. It requires processes and expertise in writing business ideas and proposals to be able to access funds," she said.

She said that before Covid-19, the enterprise would export between 15 and 10 tonnes per week while currently they can export between nine and ten tonnes.

"We need to export more as we are trying to recover from Covid-19 impact," she said.

GB Banjara, the HortInvest Project Manager said that the project seeks to support Private Sector Companies but the SMES still need capacity on how they should work with farmers.

More than 44,000 farmers from six districts of Nyabihu, Muhanga, Ngororero, Rutsiro, Rubavu and Ngororero should benefit from the SMEs' horticulture value chain once obtained the grant.

"They should demonstrate plans to reach farmers since the grant is competitive. SMEs with good ideas are provided with grants," he said adding that only 20 SMEs have been supported since the project started.

"In the course, we realized that while there are many have good project ideas but not good processes while applying. They need readiness for investment grants," he said.

Banjara said that there is a programme to help those struggling be ready for investment.

"For instance 30 SMEs will get support in five-month coaching sharpening their ideas to apply for grants and loans. We give money for results, companies that get results," he said.

There are two types of grants namely; innovation grant that is between $10,000 and $20,000 and scale up or investment grant that is between $200,0000 and $300,000 to SMEs in horticulture.

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