One of biggest challenge the agriculture sector is facing, is the aging of farmers who re not able to cope with today's challenges. On the other side, we have an increasing number of unemployed young people. However, it seems all the young people who have ventured in agriculture are doing well. we have aproached Mr. Diego to share with us :
Who is Dieudonne?
I am Dieudone Twahirwa, nicknamed Diego. I am 29 years old and love agribusiness I currently specialize in chilli. I graduated from the University of Rwanda in 2012 in the faculty of Agriculture and I am now the Managing Director of Gashora Farm ltd in Bugesera District.
What motivated you to venture in chilli
I started growing tomatoes and watermelon on land equivalent to one tenth of a hectare with Rwf 130,000 worth of investment and earned Rwf1.3 million from the first harvest.
Though it was doing well, the biggest challenge was that the tomato produce is highly perishable. I needed a ready and stable market to avoid losses.
As I was wondering what to do, I was invited by AgriProFocus Rwanda in a regional conference on promoting horticulture where I met several people that shared with me the opportunity in chili business. I learnt that there is a huge market and that I could do better in chilli. I immediately decided to shift from tomato.
I started growing chilli (fresh Bird eyes chilli and Habanero) to be exported to the UK market passing through a middleman “natural fresh food”,this was on 2 hectares ,where we could harvest 1 MT weekly for 4 months and 500 Kg weekly for a period of 4 months in total we supplied 24 mt with value of 17,000 USD (14,400,000Rwf).
We later gotten our direct export market to India of new hybrid chilis variety, which we introduced and grow well in Rwanda, on 2,4 hectares,as we partnered with 8 farmers to introduce the new varieties ,we wanted to try the varieties in differents part of the country. The newly varieties could produce about 10 tonnes of dried hybrid chili in six months with a kilogramme being sold at $2, which equals to $20,000 (Rwf16.3m) per hectare. The investment per hectare in the same period, is $5,000 (about Rwf4m) per hectare. Unfortunately some of the farmers in that try did not manage the post harvest,as some of the farmers had the aflotoxin in their chilli resulted by not well drying.
As we could not have enough quantity to fill the container because some of the produce were rejected due to the aflotoxin presence we could not export to India, this we turned it into opportunity, we processed the chillis into chilli oil and directly started an new brand called Didi’s chilli oil and we were so lucky to start a new brand and directly got an export market and people respond positively on the new product, currently we sell the chilli oil in Switzerland and in the USA.
How big is your company now and what is future plan?
Dieudonné Twahirwa ventured into spice farming by growing chili aimed at the export market.
We are now 15 permanent employees on the factory and on the farm we grow various spices, including hybrid chili, bird’s eye chili, butternuts squash, orange sweet potatoes . We hope to expand our farm and increasing the production capacity of our chilli oil so we can employ more locals and help reduce food insecurity.
As by now, we have started processing our chilli under the Didi’s chilli oil Brand name and it is very loved on the market. This season starting August 2017 we are going to grow african bird eye chilli on more than 150 hectares, working with farmers under contract farming. As we already started the nurseries.
You seem to be growing big very quick, what is the secret behind?
After realizing that i was good in agriculture practices but wanted to improve my knowledge in finance,business and entrepreneurs skills , I attended an entrepreneurship course that impacted my way of doing business a lot. One of the key things I learnt from BDC Rwanda, is to start small and have a grow plan. In combination with passion for agriculture, the little profit we make, we can see a bright and successful future.
What can you tell other young people?
I can tell my fellow youths that things has now changed ,you can not go to schools thinking that you will get a white-collar job, I would advise them to start knowing where is their passion and try to develop their business ideas starting very small small,of coz that business idea must have a demand and they have to be very honest in their life.
I am saying this because ,if you are young and having starting to put your business idea into practice and when you are honest ,everyone will invest in you to scale up.
I insist to put the idea into practice becoz many young guys have only business idea , and no one will invest in you if you are not showing figures and numbers and to have them you must have to be already started.