By Minnie Karanja
Malnutrition among children and adults is a global issue affecting the quality of life for vast populations across the world. It is however particularly acute in developing countries due to higher levels of poverty coupled with illiteracy. In Sub - Saharan Africa where majority of the population depends on rain-fed agriculture, malnutrition has been a great challenge for governments because of erratic rainy seasons resulting from climate change.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is an international organization driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition. The Marketplace for Nutritious Foods is managed by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) with initial funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).The organization is focused on finding solutions to end malnutrition within our lifetimes. According to GAIN, around 3.5 billion people — half the people on the planet today — are malnourished. Each year, malnutrition kills 3.1 million children under the age of five and leaves 159 million stunted, trapping generations in lives of poverty and unfulfilled potential.
Using the unique model of innovation acceleration, the organization has empowered Rwandan farmers to scale up their enterprises to address malnutrition and consequently created a source of income for youth and women in rural communities.
“The USAID funded Marketplace for Nutritious Foods project in Rwanda was established to promote production of diverse and affordable nutritious foods from locally available ingredients and make them available to low income consumers in rural areas of Rwanda. The project supports existing enterprises along the food processing value chain to accelerate their growth and deliver substantial results in addressing malnutrition in rural Rwanda,” said Jean Bosco Kazaroho, Project Manager of GAIN’s Marketplace for Nutritious Foods Program.
Marketplace for Nutritious Foods has been implemented with great success in Kenya and Mozambique. The project is generally delivered in three components which prepare entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses and play a critical role in reducing malnutrition. The first component is the Innovation Accelerator (IA) which is the Marketplace’s grants-making component. Under this, regular calls for proposals are made in which companies are invited to submit concepts for investible, nutrition-enhancing business ideas within the agricultural value chain. After careful review, the most promising proposals are eligible for technical assistance to support the development of a feasible business plan. Once business plans are completed, they are reviewed by the Marketplace Investment Committee (MIC), which selects the most investible and impactful concepts to receive grant funding and technical assistance to support the implementation of the business plan.
The second component is the Community of Practice (CoP) which is essentially a network open to entrepreneurs, businesses, universities, regulatory bodies, NGO’s, associations, and anyone else interested in learning how to operate a successful enterprise that helps transform agricultural potential into safe, nutritious foods. CoP convenes regularly for networking and capacity building events. Between meetings, the Community stays in touch through various outlets such as newsletters, Marketplace websites and a dedicated Facebook page that allows a global interaction for all interested parties.
Access to finance is the last component of the project which is still in the pipeline in Rwanda. “We are exploring opportunities to link our grantees to banking institutions and preparing them for future investment and links to investors, and grants,” said Kazaroho.
To date, Marketplace in Rwanda has hosted two calls for proposals and in the process provided business planning and technical support to a total of 13 companies and awarded grants to 10 companies dealing in meat products (pork and beef), poultry (eggs and chicken meat), and fish products (tilapia and small fish), fruits and vegetables (physallis and tomatoes), composite flours – all of which provide important markets for low income people located across the country.
Besides, the Marketplace has held three successful Community of Practice meetings since its implementation in January 2016 with more than 240 registered individuals drawn from a broad range of companies, organizations and institutions. During the meetings, topics related to nutrition, food quality and safety, access to investment were discussed. The next CoP will be held in Kigali in May.
To ensure that the population at the bottom of the pyramid benefit from GAIN’s intervention, the Marketplace keenly selects companies that operate in rural areas and whose distribution channels can reach low income consumers.
The process of receiving grants
Local entrepreneurs are encouraged to check on upcoming opportunities and events at the following links:
Upscaling poultry farming in Rulindo District
When Joseph Nshimyemungu started The Rwandan Agriculture Business Consultancy (TRABAC) in Rulindo District four years ago, he did not envision that it would grow to become a source of income for not only him and his business partners, but also for many others in his community. For three years, he had been struggling to set up a poultry farm that would put food on the table for his wife and two children.
With little working capital he struggled to buy poultry feeds and lacked proper equipment - including a water tank, feeders and drinkers - to operate a profitable business.
His fortunes however, took a turn for the good early last year, after he responded to a call for proposals from GAIN. His business was selected for funding together with other four applicants after undergoing a rigorous selection process. He received expert technical advice and training in business plan and product development before receiving a grant. He immediately put up a modern chicken structure, doubled the number of chicken layers and bought modern feeding equipment and a feed mixer.
Today Nshimyemungu’s life is clearly not what it used to be, he has big dreams for his enterprise and is finding it easier to manage his farm.
When I visited his farm during the mid-morning hours, there was little activity in the compound save for two labourers who were putting final touches to a building. He later informed me that that would actually be his office - an indication of how much he had progressed and how much further he believed he could go.
At the entrance of the chicken structure, I was directed to disinfect my shoes before being ushered in by one of his 3 full time employees. The well-lit structure housed 2,000 chicken which were about 1 month old. Water drinkers and feeders were strategically located at points to avoid overcrowding.
“I am very proud of this farm today. Before we got funding from GAIN we did not have a proper structure for the chicken. Today we have this structure that can accommodate upto 2,000 chicken throughout their life span; from the first day to when they start laying eggs and eventually sold off after they have stopped laying eggs. We also had a great problem of feeders and drinkers. The traditional ones we used were unhygienic and wasted a lot of feeds,” Nshimyemungu said.
As with all GAIN beneficiaries, TRABAC targets to satisfy the needs of the immediate local community before scaling to other locations in the country. Thanks to TRABAC, low income consumers in Rulindo can now purchase eggs at reduced prices and enjoy the nutritious benefits. These consumers are also not required to buy in large quantities but can purchase as little quantities as they can afford.
“Packaging is an important aspect which we emphasis on with all the businesses that we support. They must accommodate low income consumers. Many entrepreneurs want to package their products only in large quantities to attract higher profits but for Marketplace businesses, it is different. The objective is to operate successful enterprises which have real impact on tackling malnutrition by making it possible for low income earners to buy the products,” explained Kazaroho.
Nshimyemungu is already reaping the fruit of his labour and is optimistic about the future and plans to build additional structures to accommodate a total of 6,000 layers.
“The local community here is very excited about this project. We have made it possible for them to buy eggs at a lower price and a lot of people have been employed. We look forward to even more people being employed when we are going to be putting up the other additional structure and this is great for the community,” he explained.
Spiced Beef Sausages processing in Bugesera District
As Bugesera is traditionally known for its agricultural and livestock rearing activities, Desire Makuza and his brother did not think twice about establishing a butchery when they decided to start a joint venture in 2014. Hence Goshen Agri-services Ltd. was born to primarily sell unprocessed meat to Nyamata residents. Only about 1 hour away from Kigali, Nyamata has a growing middle class population and the demand for meat and meat products is on the rise.
Makuza heard about GAIN’s Marketplace for Nutritious Foods project and responded to a call for business proposals in January 2016. “I saw this as an opportunity to grow our business. We had for a long time wanted to grow our production capacity to reach more places but we were inhibited by the little working capital we had and we did not make much profits at the time,” Makuza explained.
Goshen Agri-services Limited was shortlisted among many applicants and Makuza together with the company accountant underwent 1 month training on business plan and product development. The training is exactly what Makuza needed to transform his business from merely selling raw unprocessed beef to producing and selling processed beef sausages – a product that is popular among many Rwandans.
Today Makuza has gone from selling 80 Kilograms of beef to 150 Kilograms a day. “There is great demand for the processed beef sausages compared to just the raw beef. Currently we sell about 150 Kgs on a daily basis but soon we are going to increase the quantity and this means we will be required to slaughter between 3 and 4 cows daily,” Makuza explained.
The grant that he company was awarded went towards buying modern beef processing equipment including a meat mincer and a bone cutter. They also constructed a cold room, a smoking room and are in the process of constructing an abbatoir.
Although Makuza supplies beef in Nyamata and Kigali, locals in Nyamata can purchase beef sausages at reduced prices and are not required to buy in large quantities. This means that the nutritious benefits of beef can be enjoyed by all, irrespective of their purchasing power.
“The support we have received from GAIN is incredible! My standard of living has improved without a doubt and I am glad that it has resulted in opportunities for youth employment. Before we expanded to beef processing we only employed 4 staff but the number has since doubled. In addition they all have Community Based Health Insurance (“mutuelle”) and we hire 10 casual labourers daily. This is really great for us to be able to do this,” Makuza excitedly said.
Although Makuza wants to expand his business to reach other locations, he is keen to ensure that first and foremost, the people of Nyamata have access to and can enjoy the nutritious benefits of beef. “Our priority is to make sure the people in Nyamata enjoy the nutrition benefits of beef before we can scale up to more places,” he added.
To help Makuza and his brother expand his business to other locations, GAIN plans to donate specialized vehicles with storage to refrigerate meat. With this they will be able to reach more areas in Bugesera District and around the country.
Pork and beef processing in Kayonza District
Kayonza District has not been left behind, Paulette Magnifique a resident and owner of DreamCR77 Ltd is another beneficiary of GAIN. She is married with 3 children. For a long time she had been a farmer keeping both dairy and beef cows. In 2011 she put up a butchery to sell raw beef in an attempt to get more income to support her family.
In January 2016 she learned about GAIN’s work and immediately put in her proposal to scale up her business from selling raw beef to selling processed beef and pork sausages. “The community here is well knowledgeable on how to look after both cows and pigs and I knew that I would not have a shortage of beef and pork if I decided to specialize in these,” she explained.
Her proposal was approved and she got a chance to go through a 1 month training on business and product development. She also received a grant with which she bought meat processing equipment.
Both pork and beef are popular in Kayonza and Magnifique has a ready market for her produce. In addition to selling to individuals in smaller units and a cheaper cost at the butchery, she supplies to hotels, supermarkets and has even expanded her business to neighbouring Rwamagana.
As the saying goes, when you empower a woman, you empower an entire village. Keen to control the entire value chain of pork sausages production, she has consequently economically empowered other farmers in Kayonza.
Magnifique works with farmers in Gashanda sector in Ngoma through freely distributing to them piglets. Once the piglets mature and give birth, she shares the piglets with the farmer equally. She then gives her portion of the piglets to other famers. When the pigs mature, she comes back to buy from the farmers at the existing market price. “Pigs grow very quickly and are extremely easy to look after. This cycle ensures that I have a steady supply of pork. This is important because every day I have to slaughter one mature pig to satisfy the demand. Currently I have 75 pigs in my farm and among the farmers that I work with I have 250 pigs,” she explained.
DreamCR77 has 6 permanent staff including an accountant, a vet and a meat processing officer. She employs 3 casual labourers on a daily basis although the number could easily double during the dry season when they have to go to search for water for the cows and pigs.
Magnifique is grateful for the support she has received from GAIN and is optimistic about the future of her business. “I have progressed so much since I got support from GAIN right from the training to receiving the grant. I am pleased that all my employees are now paid on time and have Community Health Based Insurance (“mituelle”). The quality of my life has also improved. My profit has increased from only Rwf. 5,000 daily to between Rwf. 10,000 and Rwf. 15,000 daily. I can comfortably pay school fees for my children and I have even acquired 4 ha of land. I want to see my business growing even more. I would like to expand to process meatballs, jambon, and bacon in future,” she happily explained.
With a 30 by 40 plot already purchased, she will soon be moving out of the rented premises to her own establishment. The sky is the limit for Magnifique!
Production and sale of nutritious small fish flour in Karongi District
With direct access to Lake Kivu, Karongi District has a large fish farming community. Jean Claude Nzeyimana, Managing Director of Top Great Lakes Fish Business Ltd. has been in the fishing business since 2000. His company deals in selling small fish caught in Lake Kivu to wholesalers who resell in different parts of the country including in Kigali.
An adept entrepreneur, he did not hesitate to respond to a call for proposals from GAIN in January 2016. His company was selected in the first batch of investment grantees for the marketplace for Nutritious foods Rwanda. The company’s proposal to expand the business from merely selling fish to producing and selling fish flour would ensure that people of all age groups enjoy fish proteins in the form of flour added to their meals. Fish flour compared to fresh fish has a longer shelf life and can therefore be transported to rural areas where communities do not have access to fresh fish.
Nzeyimana together with his management team received training in business plan and product development. Two of his staff received technical training on dried fish flour processing. The grant went towards purchasing 12 modern fishing boats, fishing nets and a dried fish flour processing machine.
Already with the 12 additional fishing boats, Nzeyimana has seen an increase in the amount of fish caught which has translated to a 60% revenue increase for the company. He has been able to employ 7 permanent staff who will specialise in fish flour processing.
“Fish is very rich in nutrients and we would like to see more people consuming it. We intend to produce fish flour which will be packaged in such a way that a lot of people will afford to buy despite their income levels. Flour is great because it can be distributed to rural areas where they do not access fresh fish because of the distance from the Lake,” he explained.
Availing proteins in the form of flour is going to have a great impact in rural areas in fighting malnutrition. In the rural Rwandan setting, meals are served with an abundance of carbohydrates and essential proteins and vitamins lack or are in vey small quantities. Fish flour can be added to cassava flour for instance to provide a balanced diet.
Nzeyimana is passionate about his new venture. “With the support we have received from GAIN we will make sure that the people of Karongi have sufficient supply of fish and fish flour. Then we can scale up to more districts. Businessmen come from as far as Kigali to buy fish from us. I want to buy a track to transport the fish from here to Kigali and other parts of the country. This time we will not only sell fish but also fish flour to benefit more people,” he passionately added.
Tilapia cage farming in the Lake Kivu
Union Co-Operative of fisheries (UCOOPERU), comprised of 7 co-operatives in Nyamasheke in the fishing business, has been in operation since 2011 selling small fishes from Lake Kivu. In 2014, UCOOPERU decided to venture into tilapia fish cage farming to increase revenues and respond to demand for tilapia within the country. They started with 50 cages each accommodating 2,000 fishes.
To help the union increase production and revenue, UCOOPERU responded to a call for proposals from GAIN in January last year. Their proposal was selected from among 90 applications across all 30 districts in the country.
As with all, grantees, UCOOPERU received specialised training in tilapia fish cage farming in addition to business plan and product development to prepare them to operate a successful business venture that would also create room for the local community to afford buying tilapia in small quantities.
UCOOPERU needed to increase the volume of fish production to meet demand locally in Rusizi District and other parts of the country in addition to growing demand from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
With the grant received, the Union immediately doubled the number of cages and purchased 2 modern speed boats.
“We have massively increased our fish production since we doubled the number of cages, our income has also increased. As for the speed boats, they are extremely useful to us. Before we got them we used to operate canoes to move from the shore of the Lake to the cages and the trip would take 1 and a half hours and we also could not transport large amounts of fish at a go so we had to make many unnecessary trips that would waste our time. With the speed boats, trip takes only twenty minutes and thanks to its big size we can ferry more fish than before,” Theophile Nyandui, Executive Secretary of UCOOPERU explained.
Having mastered the art of tilapia fish cage farming, UCOOPERU’s future plan is to increase production and ensure that the local population has a steady supply of the fish.