Kayonza banana farmers buoyed by new market for their produce

Inside the banana processing plant in Kayonza. The plant currently produces between 800 and 900 crates of banana wine every day. Photos by Jean de Dieu Nsabimana.

Banana growers in Kayonza District and surrounding areas have commended a new factory which is making wine from their produce that used to lack markets.

This was disclosed during a visit Wednesday by Kip Tom, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of United States Mission to UN Agencies in Rome (IFAD, WFP and FAO), to Rugali Agro-Processing Cooperative located in Mukarange Sector, Kayonza District in Eastern province.

He was in the country for the just conclude Africa Food Security Leadership Dialogue in Kigali.

“Before, our bananas ripened in the farm only to be eaten by birds, but today, we have a solution,” said Jean Bosco Habumukiza, an owner of five hectares of banana plantation.

Kip Tom, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of United States Mission to the UN Agencies (L), with John Bosco Mulisa, the secretary general of Rugali Agro-processing Cooperative. 

“I am making between Rwf400,000 and Rwf500,000 per month,” he said.

The factory pays Rwf100 for every kilo and accepts several varieties of bananas.

Dancille Kayizere, a resident in Mukarange Sector, is one of more than 10 suppliers working directly with the plant. She declared that: “It seemed like bananas had no value at all, especially those varieties meant to produce alcohol”.

She said she supplies to the plant around 10 tonnes of bananas every week that she collects from around 40 banana farmers in the districts of Kayonza, Gatsibo and Kirehe.

John Bosco Mulisa, the Secretary General of Rugali Agro-processing Cooperative, said the plant produces between 800 and 900 crates of banana wine known as Urwagwa every day, while it has a capacity of producing 3,000 crates every day. Each crate contains 7.9 litres.

“We have just been in operation for the last month and a half and we are currently at 30 percent of our capacity. W project that in the next one year we will be operating 100 percent of the plant’s capacity,” he said.

Currently, they accept between 15 and 20 tonnes per day, though they plan to increase the quantity to more than 50 tonnes. By that time, they will also be producing other products like juice and gin.

The plant so far employs 70 people.

Mulisa said they named their products Igisubizo (solution) so farmers get the message that they have big market for their bananas. Mulisa also stated that their products seek to reduce importation of other drinks into the country.

The Director General of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Dr Patrick Karangwa, said banana is one of the priority crops.

The Government gave Rwf450 million support to the plant, through one of Ministry of Agriculture’s projects meant to support value addition to harvest in partnership with IFAD.

“Establishing processing plants is achieved through partnership of the government and private sector. The government cannot construct a plant itself that is why it has projects designed to support the establishment of agro-processing factories by as much as 50 percent” he explained.

Kip Tom, said: “We will continue to invest in IFAD and projects like this to make sure we have an impact on lives around the world”.

“Let’s face it, much the world is struggling in finding demand for the crops they grow,” he said, appreciating the Rugali Agro-Processing Cooperative for having created the demand and opportunities for the community.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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