Pelagie Mbabazi caught up with Belthilida Niyibaho, fungiculturist and businesswoman. Below are the excerpts from the interview
Briefly, can you tell us about yourself?
I am 52 years old, and I am married with seven children. I’m also raising three children from my extended family.
I attended both primary and secondary school in Huye, Southern Province but I never had the chance to go further. After completing secondary school I joined a women’s association where I gained knowledge and skills. I worked with different associations but I longed for the day that I would become my own boss.
Like everyone else, after 1994 all our activities were paralyzed. It was very difficult for me but I have to push on.
In 2006 I attended a trade fair where I had gone to showcase the local beer I used to make but I carried along some mushrooms. I told people how good they tasted and how easy they were to grow.
In that expo of small and medium industries I become the winner and the Ministry of Commerce gave me an award and also sent me to China, where I learnt how to develop my mushroom business.
When I came back I started my business with the capital of Rwf500, 000. My business is prospering.
What is your childhood dream and are you living it?
I never thought I could be a minister or any other high profile person. But my mother used to tell me that if we worked hard, we would get what we want in life. I always believed that hard work was a key to success.
What are the challenges you face as a Manager of BN Producers?
The main challenge we face is that we are still making a little money. We have big targets and dreams. But there is hope because, when I look back where I started from and where I am today, I can see the improvement. I recently attended a competition where my project was picked for sponsorship by MINICOFIN.
We still have a small market. Supply is high compared to demand. People are using our products but I think that as time goes on this will change.
What are some challenges Rwandan women face?
The main challenge they face is that they lack capital to start different businesses. But this will change because our government is urging people to come together as cooperatives so that they can get loans easily.
For women, who still think that there particular jobs for men, I prove them wrong. I am doing well with my business. I have acquired a car due to this business. When I started this business when I had a small house but today I have a modern factory in place. It makes me happy.
What are your future plans?
Presently, I have suppliers from the Northern, Western and Southern Province. We supply, among other establishments, the Kigali Serena hotel and Sky Hotel. We aren’t concentrating ourselves to Rwanda. We have started taking our product to Uganda and the initial reaction is positive. There are people from Kenya who are interested in our mushrooms as well. Eventually, I want to start sending my products to Asia and Europe. I have no reason to think that people there don’t want my product.
How do you spend your leisure time?
The only day I have off is Sunday. I do some work at home, meet and talk to my family members and friends and I go to church. After that I return home to rest so that I can resume my work the following day when I am fresh.