KiBUYE--"Thank God for this guava season for my kids have gone back to school with all the scholastic materials they needed," says Simon Nkurunziza. Sitting at the gates of Kibuye market, Nkurunziza keeps inviting people to buy the few remaining fruits that he had so that he could walk home with his cash as he has usually done for the past one month. Being disabled, he feels so blessed to at least have such a business going on in his life.
Though its seasonal business, he can’t hide his joy. "Iki Kiraka kinkemuriye ibibazo byinshyi [this temporary job has helped me sort out many of my problems]" he says.
Nkurunziza is one of the many people who have benefited from the mapera business as they commonly call it. Indeed determined residents wake up early in the morning to go to Nyabidahe, Mariri and other places with many guava trees so that they can pick the fruits. "I will only be stopped by the end of the guava season," said Nkurunziza.
"What’s good with this business is the fact that you don’t pay to get the guavas although we sell them for cash," says 9-year old girl nicknamed Petit. She is a pupil but dashes to Nyabidahe even during the lunch break.
Being a brisk business residents storm any bush however thick it might be for the fresh fruits. Getting a pineapple is quite a hassle except on a Friday [a market day]. For mangos its worse, this leaves guavas on high demand.
A medium sized basket full of guavas goes for Frw3000 which is fair compared to other commodity prices sold in Kibuye market. For instance a kilogram of Irish potatoes costs Frw120. As people sing loudly to attract customers it turns out that guavas are the most heard commodity. They flood the market but by the end of the day every seller walks away with empty baskets.
Many school children have opted for afternoon classes in order not to miss out on this business during the morning hours. "I sell an average of two baskets before I go to school," says Erina, a primary two kid. She says she has been able to help her auntie with buying food. But most of the time the auntie tells her to keep the money for buying clothes, Erina says.
The mapera business attracted people of all ages and gender; the old, medium aged and children. Even known business people with shops are getting involved. "Since I learnt that mapera brings profit, I send people to pick them for me after which I pay them," said one man who gave his name as Samson. Traders claim that a shop without guavas barely gets customers. ‘nta mapera nta bakiriya’ [no guavas no customers]," is the slogan they have adopted.
In the quest for the fruits, some have encountered some problems. Recently three people who reportedly went to an isolated island in search of guavas, after failing to get a boat back they spent the night there.