How varsity student is reducing post-harvest losses for sweet potato farmers

Mugwaneza (2nd left) with a dummy cheque for the cash prize he won after his sweet potato processing project was selected the best in a university competition last year. / Courtesy photos

In Rwanda, sweet potatoes are grown on a large scale, especially in the north-western region of the country.

The farmers plant high yield sweet potatoes but in the process of harvesting, the quality reduces because of poor practices of harvesting, which consequently lowers their prices on the market.

The farmers also grappled with post-harvest losses.

This prompted 27-year-old Emmanuel Mugwaneza to come up with solutions.

The graduate Food Sciences and Technology from the University of Rwanda College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, started a project that processes sweet potatoes into waffles that he branded as Ineza Waffle.

I addition to adding value to the sweet potatoes, the project also seeks to tackle malnutrition in the region.

“The post-harvest losses of sweet potatoes due to their high perishability in nature can be reduced by processing them,”

Mugwaneza teamed up his four former classmates.

The Ineza waffle is 50 per cent comprised of mashed sweet potatoes, the other ingredients include wheat flour, butter, eggs, cow milk, sugar, vanilla and baking powder.

In the beat to tackle malnutrition and stunted growth, Mugwaneza eyes daycare centres where she provides snacks for breakfast.

Some of the products made by Mugwaneza’s company.

She also supplies her products to pregnant and lactating mothers given that the products are rich in vitamin A and C, which is essential for pregnant women.

This is in addition to their richness in carbohydrates and vitamins that are important for the children’s growth.

Waffle made from sweet potatoes.

How it started

Having grown up in this area, he witnessed farmers’ fortunes dwindling despite their efforts. 

This motivated him to use the university and skills he acquired from university to address the challenges.

In his final year at university, Mugwaneza and his four classmates started saving Rwf25,000 from their monthly stipend.

In early 2018, he opened a company called Lamina Group, which is based in Musanze District.

At campus used to take advantage of the career guidance sessions which allowed students to present and showcase their projects.

In the final year, his project was selected as the best.

Emmanuel Mugwaneza.

Besides from guidance and other mentorships, Mugwaneza was awarded a cash prize of Rwf300,000 for his strong idea.

He invested the money in the company.

His business model is supported by the low-cost approach that he deploys, which has continued to keep overheads low.

“Lamina Group’s operations have low costs,” he said.

His month costs are estimated at Rwf240, 000 while earning an income of Rwf480,000.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com