For many years Viateur Hitabatuma worked as a casual labourer at construction sites to earn a living. He had flimsy hope of ever moving out of such a menial job.
The resident of Kigoma Sector in Nyanza District would always wake up early to line up on various construction sites waiting for a casual job and could sometimes go back home without even getting one.
“It was a matter of survival and I had no choice. I had dropped out of school in primary after I failed to make it to secondary school. My family was poor and as I was young and energetic, I opted to go for casual works,” says the 35 year-old father of five.
“I worked as a casual labourer for many years. I could not imagine moving to any other job other than running after builders to look for that menial job,” he adds.
As time passed, Hitabatuma learned some masonry and carpentry skills and started improving on what he was doing. Sometimes he could work as a mason. In some cases, Hitabatuma says he could also help carpenters make doors and windows for completed houses.
“I was eager to learn a lot and was interested in everything, my workmates and supervisors saw me as a talented man and encouraged me to keep it up. Sometimes I could do better than those who called themselves skilled,” he says.
Hitabatuma kept working as a casual labourer while honing his skills from learning off his workmates.
In 2006, Hitabatuma wanted to construct his own house but could not afford doors and windows. He had some timber and he decided to make the doors and windows for himself.
“I wanted to see if it was possible, so I borrowed materials and made wooden doors and windows. From that time, I moved to a carpentry workshop and started making wooden furniture for clients,” he says.
Hitabatuma says since then, life turned around, thanks to the fact that he had changed his nature of job and was employing himself.
But it was not satisfying due increasing family demands. The more he worked hard to improve quality and quantity of his products, the more people appreciated and wanted him to make furniture for them.
He says that he spent three years making wooden products for local customers in the district and beyond.
As the world develops, demand for some products wanes. This was the case for Hitabatuma as his customers started rejecting his products in favour of modern ones.
“The market demand changed and people started erecting big buildings in the district and in other neighbouring districts, such buildings needed modern furniture and clients were compelled to buy them in Kigali or elsewhere,” he says.
“I realised that I was losing customers and started looking for ways to move with the trend. What was important was to get materials. I acquired a bank loan of Rwf2.5 million as a start up for modern materials, that is when I said bye to old ways of making furniture,” he says.
Currently, Hitabatuma deals in modern construction and other material such as doors, windows; he also makes beds and cooking stoves.
Inside his small workshop, only sparkling materials can be seen. He employs three people and his life and that of his family has significantly changed.
“I have acquired enough skills through being creative and innovative. I can’t say I have gone to any school but people I have worked with have been instrumental to my success. I would probably still be a casual labourer today without them,” he says.
“I have improved on what I do and I move with modern technology. Besides, I have got many clients who come from all over the country, I am committed to working harder and better to attract more customers,” he adds.