Dusabe harvests ‘gold’ from cassava growing

She spent most of her childhood in an orphanage. This environment seems to have had a huge influence on her, shaping her into an industrious person. Christine Dusabe’s first shot at business was when she started selling biscuits and pancakes as a Senior One student.“As a poor and orphaned child, I knew I stood no chance if I didn’t become self-reliant. “That’s why I opened a bank account to save every coin I came across,” Dusabe says.
Dusabe’s workers take cassava roots for processing. The New Times / Seraphine Habimana
Dusabe’s workers take cassava roots for processing. The New Times / Seraphine Habimana

She spent most of her childhood in an orphanage. This environment seems to have had a huge influence on her, shaping her into an industrious person.

Christine Dusabe’s first shot at business was when she started selling biscuits and pancakes as a Senior One student.

“As a poor and orphaned child, I knew I stood no chance if I didn’t become self-reliant.

“That’s why I opened a bank account to save every coin I came across,” Dusabe says.

After completing secondary school, Dusabe got a job in a pharmacy in 2003, where she was paid Rwf40,000 per month.

“Though I was grateful that I got the job, the salary was too little to enable me support my siblings. So I quit after two years on the job,” she notes. She says that later, she joined a medical school, where she studied nursing.

Dusabe says though she had always dreamt of becoming doctor, she settled for nursing as the next best alternative. This despite fact she had to pay her own school fees. After she completed the course, she set up a drug shop.

“I always thought about how I could improve my life without depending on someone else. So, I opened a small drug shop,” she points out.

“I knew that if I did not make the right choices I would be doomed. So I embraced the saving culture even though I wasn’t earning a lot of money from the drug shop business. By 2005, I had saved Rwf300,000,” she narrates.

Breakthrough

Dusabe says this was the breakthrough she had been waiting for to embark on her dream enterprise; farming.

Dusabe focused on growing and adding value to cassava, giving birth to GUMINO packaged cassava flour.

“In my childhood, I always wanted to be a ‘head’ not a ‘tail’,” she says.

Dusabe says when the Government started promoting cassava growing in the Southern Province, “I knew I could benefit from opportunity if I worked hard”.

“I thought this would give me the chance to improve cassava value and make an impact on people’s lives. That is how I started,” she narrates.

“I secured Rwf3m loan to kick-start my business. I used a half and saved the rest to secure my business,” she notes

Dusabe says she started growing cassava on a five-hectare piece of land and later bought one processing machine to add value to the crop.

She estimates her factory to be worth Rwf150m. The project has also expanded to 50 hectares, and she is also working with over 5,000 farmers in Rusatira sector. She says she chose to establish her business in Rusatira because it has a big market.

The 35-year-old resident in Tumba sector, Huye District is now a successful farmer and business woman in the country. The total value of her project assets, which she started with Rwf300,000 is now worth Rwf300m, Dusabe says.

A kilogramme of her GUMINO cassava flour goes for Rwf700. Dusabe says her clients come from as far as Congo Brazzaville, the DR Congo Kinshasa and Belgium.

Life is what you make it

Dusabe says she was born in a modest family, unfortunately, her parents died in 1994 and she was raised in an orphanage in Ngoma sector, Huye District.

She says life in the orphanage was not easy as she depended on handouts.

“I was born in a rich family, but now I had to depend on well-wishers. That’s why I decided to start selling cookies to get some extra money,” she points out.

She notes the decision opened her mind as she realised that she could improve her life without having to depend on anyone.

Challenges

Dusabe notes the main challenge is dependence on seasonal rain.

“During the dry season, cassava growth is affected, which in the end hurts crop output,” she says.

She says farmers lack modern farming skills to improve crop production, and calls for more funding to the sector.

“Every country depends on agriculture to survive. Farmers are the source of any development, so they should be fully supported,” she argues. She says the bad mentality about agriculture as a ‘poor people’s’ activity has meant that the sector is always struggling, with inadequate skilled manpower.

She adds that lack of sufficient extension services is also affecting industry.

Achievements

She says the project she started with Rwf300,000 is now Rwf300m worth of assets, including three vehicles (two family cars and  one truck to transport cassava from the fields and five commercial houses. Her enterprise has expanded and she grows cassava, vegetables and fruits on about 70 hectares of land to support her family and business.

She says she has so far achieved two of the five original plans; adding value to cassava and improving her livelihood and that of her community.

“My focus now is how I can start making cakes, biscuits and medicines from the cassava,” she says.

 Dusabe now employs 25 workers, who earn between Rwf50,000 and Rwf150,000 per month, depending on one’s qualifications and job.

“Thanks to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, I got vocational training in Japan, China, South Africa and Belgium, and this gave me an opportunity to market myproduct in these countries,” she says. She was also rewarded with Rwf800,000 in 2011 as a model farmer, whose enterprise was changing the livelihood of many people in Southern Province.

Advice

Dusabe urges farmers to embrace modern farming practices, saying it is the only way to boost output.

“There are many opportunities out there for us, we just need to dare and go after them. But we first have to improve the way we do things,” Dusabe advises women. Dusabe also urges them to be focused and always try to do something to improve their livelihoods.

“Women have the powers to influence destiny. One only needs to dream big and work on achieving those dreams,” she says.
 
Future plans

Dusabe plans to go back to school to study a degree in nursing. Dusabe says that recently she bought five pieces of land, where she plans to set up a nursing school.

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What others say about Dusabe

Emile Ngenahagera, one of Dusabe’s employees

Dusabe is hard working and cares for everyone. She has helped us a lot. Before I started working here, I lived in rented house with my family, but now I have built my own house worth Rwf2m and bought two dairy cows.

Aline Mushimiyimana, a farmer in Rusatira sector

Dusabe is a great woman, with a vision. She has helped us improve our farming methods and always encourages women farmers to work hard. She offers free training every month, which has helped enhance cassava yields and earnings.

Vital Migabo, Kinazi sector executive secretary

Dusabe has helped farmers a lot, buying their produce and employs our people, especially the youth. Youth in Kinazi no longer lack of jobs. We appreciate her efforts and thank her for building the factory in our area.

 

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