When Claude Uwimana started venturing into banana faming, he surprised many people.
He was thriving as a truck driver, who in 2015, decided to diversify business risk and pitched an idea to Business Development Fund (BDF) for financing.
“In 2015, I was selected among other people with better business ideas in agribusiness in order to join BDF for support. BDF helped me to redesign and refine my banana farming project so as to be able to access to finance,” he said.
The father of four from Karongi District started his banana farming business on 2.5 hectares.
He opted for BDF financing because he did not have the collateral required by banks in order to secure a business loan.
He secured Rwf20 million from BDF, which also agreed to guarantee 50 per cent of the loan.
One banana tree he harvests can produce between 100 Kilogrammes and 50 Kilogrammes. Photos by Michel Nkurunziza.
“I went to BDF which also visited me to assess the feasibility of my project. It was approved and then I started planting yellow bananas, which had high demand,” he explained.
Within a year and half Uwimana had started to harvest.
“I planted in September 2015 and by the end of 2016, I started harvesting. The 2.5 hectares had been lying idle for so many years and even when other crops would be planted there, they were never productive,” he said.
Today, he harvests at least 12,000 kilograms every month.
Out of his monthly income he is able to save Rwf400,000.
Uwimana also bought two Frisian cows, which enormously have boosted his banana yields by providing manure.
“The cows provide milk and manure at the same time,” he said.
After expanding his business, he employed other workers to support him on farm maintenance.
“Every season I hire ten casual workers. My farming practices have also become model for other farmers,” he said.
He used some proceeds from the farm to help his wife to set up a restaurant in Karongi town, which has also become an important market for her bananas.
“I have also an alternative to export yellow bananas to neighbouring countries such as DRC Congo and Burundi once the local market becomes too small. I use my own truck to transport the produce to the market,” he said, adding that after five years he will rehabilitate the banana plantations.
“I am about to finish paying back the loan from BDF. I apply for more financing to expand my business,” he added.
Particularly, he wants to expand his land.
“I don’t satistify the demand from my clients and therefore I need more land to increase production.”