If you told 23-year-old Bonnette Ishimwe that she would be in the farming business, more so avocado, three years ago, she would take it as a joke. With two Bachelor’s degrees in accounting and public procurement from the East African University Rwanda in Nyagatare, searching for a decent job in an organisation and executing tasks was what she hoped for. However, life took a turn when the Covid-10 pandemic hit. Businesses were at a standstill during that period, and Ishimwe wondered what was next. She came across an article noting how avocado is ‘green gold’ in Tanzania and Kenya, the latter being the only African nation in the top 10 producers of avocados, according to the most recent World of Statistics study. “I did research and found out that Rwanda has favourable soil for avocados, and that’s when I picked interest,” she says. Ishimwe is now the founder and CEO of a Kirehe-based firm ‘First Fruits Company Ltd’, which grows avocados, mainly two types—Hass (a variety of avocado with dark green, bumpy skin), and Fuerte (which is a bit smaller than the Hass and has green skin with darker spots with higher water content and lower levels of fat.) With extensive research, she got a clear vision of the avocado market, and how long avocado plantations take to mature, and so forth. Her firm came at a time when avocado is one of the agricultural exports of Rwanda that are expected to increase rampantly. As a young graduate, she also looked at the business as a means to curb the high employment rate. ALSO READ: Inside Rwanda’s plan to make avocado a major export crop After coming up with a budget, and putting together the knowledge she acquired from farmers and visiting avocado farms, she asked her parents to assist with capital. It wasn’t easy getting them to trust her with that kind of money, especially since she was new in the business, but they took a leap of faith and gave her Rwf 50 million which she started with. “My company owns 15 hectares of land on lease for 25 years, however, I work with 420 farmers who avail land of 247 hectares whom we partner with to buy their harvest as a way to boost their social and economic standards of living. “We train them to grow avocados for commercial purposes and fully utilise their resources, mainly land since it is the wealth they have, and 60 per cent of Rwandans are employed in the agriculture sector,” she says. ALSO READ: Farmers to increase production after securing deal to export Hass and Fuerte avocados So far, Ishimwe’s company has planted avocado trees on 262 hectares, that is 85 in 2021 and 177 in 2022. Currently, she has 15 permanent employees and 50 to 100 part-time participates planting 120.000 avocado trees by September on 300 hectares, but her project will be carried out on 1000 hectares to be complete. “We plan to have our first harvest in June 2024, on 85 hectares where we expect to harvest 1700 tons per year but the quantity and quality increase as trees grow.” Ishimwe says there is a demand for avocados, and hopes to export to Qatar, UAE, and Europe. ALSO READ: From Rwf 40,000, young entrepreneur now owns multi-million avocado oil firm Ishimwe has also gained skills in planting, and the avocado plantation is worth an estimated Rwf 250 million. “If it works out, after selling my harvest, I will be able to earn about Rwf 93 million per hectare each year,” she says. She looks forward to establishing an industry that will manufacture items such as soaps, cooking oil, and cosmetics from avocados. Locally, the price of avocado is between Rwf 420 to Rwf 620. Some of the challenges she encounters include a lack of enough working capital to maintain the plantations, such as paying workers and buying pesticides among others. “We don’t have enough money to expand the project, and there is still a scarcity of skills on how to grow avocados, as we go on trips and training to learn from other experienced farmers within and outside the country. It is costly and time-consuming,” she says. Ishimwe adds that there are not enough harvest facilities such as cooling rooms and refrigerated trucks to use while harvesting and packaging facilities and there is a need for more fertilisers at the plantations.