Starting her milk business as a tiny venture of just five litres, one could not figure out that genocide survivor Immaculée Kayitesi’s business would be a source for her socio-economic pride.
“I started with five litres of milk selling it to people in my neighbourhood. In fact, that investment was very negligible,” Kayitesi recounts. But today, her business processes about 3,000 litres of milk per day.
Her company “Zirakamwa Meza Nyanza Dairy” has grown to some Rwf350 million in value, includind milk processing machines and structures.
The company processes products such as pasteurized fermented milk and yogurt.
The 54-year old Kayitesi, a resident of Busasamana Sector in Nyanza District, is a widow of the 1994Genocide against the Tutsi. Her husband was killed before the couple had any child.
But, she did not get overwhelmed by loneliness as she has been taking care of some 20 children, including orphans, and paying for their school fees.
Of those children, three have finished university, while three others are already married.
In addition, she said she pays health insurance (Mutuelle de Santé) for some vulnerable people.
Sunday Times found her displaying her dairy products at her stand, in Mulindi show ground in Gasabo District, at the 12th National Agriculture Show, a six-day event that runs from June 22 to June 27, 2017.
People flock to her stand to have a cup of her milk, which they contend is tasty and standard.
She processes milk, and derived products such as vanilla, and strawberry fravoured yogurts.
“A woman is capable of successfully heading a household. What is needed first is willingness, vision and determination and then, setting tactics to achieve the set targets,” Kayitesi affirms.
After paying taxes, covering her workers’ pays, and various expenses, Kayitesi said that she earns Rwf2 million per month. She employs 25 people.
She now owns a Rwf50 million-house that she got from her milk and has a car that she uses to travel.
Her products have also sales counters in the City of Kigali.
“When you engage in a business that you like and know better, you profit,” she said.
“I had determination to live again and live well. That inspired me and those we were together.”
What she envisions for her business
“I want to increase my products, but also extend the long-shelf life yogurt which can last for one year,” Kayitesi said.
So far, her yogurts have a one-month shelf life.
Djazira Uwanyirigira, one of the children she has been supporting, is now a student at the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics (CBE).
The 22-year old said that Kayitesi started taking care of her from a very tender age and paid for her school fees from primary to secondary school. Now, she caters for her needs while at university.
“She is a really caring person, knows how to manage money, and her determination is laudable,” she said.
“Her business success shows that when one is determined to achieve something and that they have willingness to that end, they can make it. This is a good lesson I get from her,” she told Sunday Times.
How her business expanded
Kayitesi used to work for ELECTROGAZ (the current Water and Sanitation Corporation, and Rwanda Energy Group). Before that service, she was a teacher as an advanced level secondary school (A2) certificate holder. At ELECTROGAZ, she said, she used to get Rwf17,000 monthly salary.
She noted that the pay was too little to meet her needs, and therefore, decided to engage in a dairy project. She said that her business grew slowly.
Around 1998, she got Rwf400,000 loan from Banque Populaire (BPR) to grow her business. In 2002, she requested Rwf2 million, then in 2013, she borrowed Rwf60 million. She said that she effectively serviced all those loans.
She also said that good leadership interventions helped her achieve her goals, citing support from the second phase of Rural Investment Facility (RIF 2), and Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP), all working under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).
In October 2016, she acquired a Rwf100-million loan from BPR to further her business. She explained that she will pay Rwf80 million, while PASP will cover the remaining 20 million as a support once she settles her share of the loan as required.
Bigger loans helped her buy two vehicles to transport her dairy products to different supply points in the country.
She said that her dairy products are approved by Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), adding that she wants to get Hazard Analysis and Critical Control (HACCP) certification so that she can, with safety assurance, export her products outside the country.
Furthermore, she plans to make standard butter.
Challenges she faces include expensive electricity to power her processing equipment and lack of enough milk supply during dry season.
However, she noted that cows that are currently being provided under Girinka – One Cow per Poor Family - programme are producing more milk, which will solve the shortage.
Kayitesi joined university at 47, and at 51, she graduated with a bachelors’ degree in business administration. She said her tuition fees were covered by the revenues from her milk business.