FEATURED: Vuningoma aims to turnaround his pepper processing business with BDF funding

Petit Vuningoma shows the Chili he makes. Photos by Michel Nkurunziza.

After graduating in food science from the University of Rwanda, Petit Vuningoma looked for a job but could not find one.

He resorted to odd jobs. In 2015 Vuningoma used his meagre savings to set up a pepper processing plant through his company, Green Treasure, which located in Kimisagara sector in Nyarugenge district.

“Although I was doing casual work, which is not related to what I studied at University, I always thought of starting a project related to food science, which I studied,” Vuningoma said.

The idea of adding value to pepper emerged propped up after Vuningoma visited some markets around Kigali city. It’s from here that he realized that market vendors were incurring huge losses due to their inability to preserve pepper.

“I chose to add value to the pepper for its long-term conservation because I had realized post-harvest losses need to be reduced. In the beginning, I could produce 2,100 bottles of processed pepper per month,” he said.

His output has since increased by fourfold. He produces 8,400 bottles of 60 grams every month.  

Throughout 2015, when he began his operations, Vuningoma’s marketing tactic was to make trial by distributing his goods for free—allowing potential customers to experience the quality and make recommendations for further improvement.

 The product dubbed “Primo Chili” is composed of sunflower oil, garlic, rosemary and ginger among other ingredients.

“When I put the first products on the market, it was liked by many clients that I could not produce enough for all of them,” he added.

Due to the limited capacity of production, this year he was recommended to Business Development Fund, which gave him a financial support through the agri-business facility to increase production capacity.

“We have been producing less compared to demand,” he said.

He has used the BDF loan to import modern processing machines to boost production to 10, 500 bottles of pepper every month.

 The machines are on the way, he added.  

Vuningoma’s start-up capital was less than $2,000. It is now worth $15,000, he says.

“I have three permanent staff, five marketing agents who are paid commission fees and ten casual workers,” he said.

Vuningoma displays some of his products for  export.

Getting award and S-Mark

Vuningoma said that his firm recently secured Rwanda Standard Board’s S-Mark, which is used as certification for quality products.

In July this year, Green Treasure won an award for coming up with an innovation that cuts post-harvest losses. They were given a cash reward of Rwf4.3 million.

“We got the award thanks to quality improvement and reducing postharvest losses by adding value to the pepper. The move has triggered many clients calling us and ordering for many products and therefore we hope BDF support will help produce more to satisfy our clients’ orders,” Vuningoma.

His clients range from Hotels to restaurant and to supermarkets.

Vuningoma’s future plans is to increase production and eventually set up a factory in a certain industrial zone where trust in his products will increase.