Among things Safina Mukagatete is proud of at the moment is ability to make her own decisions, being financially stable, and most importantly, being able to improve the nutrition of people around her community.
The 35-year-old says this happened thanks to her passion for agriculture that led her to start an enterprise growing and selling iron-rich beans.
After spending seven years working in the agriculture sector, she says she had multiple ideas about business but didn’t know exactly what to settle on.
In 2018, she was fortunate enough to get some training and mentorship from HarvestPlus, an agricultural organization striving at improving nutrition and public health in Rwanda, by promoting beans that provide more iron in the diet (Iron-rich beans).
Mukagatete in her piece of land in Eastern province where she grows iron rich beans. Photo: Courtesy.
The mother of three says that from there, she was able to gain knowledge not only on the importance of high iron beans but also everything concerning how they can be grown and maintained in general.
“This is where I got an idea on what kind of enterprise I should focus on. As a mother, I thought this was a great idea to buy because of the many health benefits that come along with consuming this type of beans,” she says.
She also points out that beans being among the staple food in the country, motivated her to try out the variety.
Rwanda has one of the world’s highest rates of bean consumption per capita, including among rural communities and resource-poor households most at risk of iron deficiency.
The desire to help fight malnutrition is why Mukagatete became interested in this particular business.
Iron deficiency impairs mental development and learning capacity, increases weakness and fatigue and, when accompanied by severe anemia, may increase the risk of women dying during childbirth.
Also, 33 per cent of Rwandan children under 5 are estimated to be iron deficient based on the 2020 Rwanda Demographic Health Survey.
All these prompted Mukagatete to start venturing into iron-rich beans in the year 2019, where she started growing the beans on her small piece of land in Eastern province.
At the moment, Mukagatete has her own company known as Aggregator Trust Rwanda Ltd and plants the iron-rich beans on her 10 hectares of land.
Due to the high demand for beans from the market; she also works with 2,300 farmers in six districts of Eastern province, in order to satisfy the market.
In a year, there are two seasons and from here, she is able to harvest around 1.5 tonnes of beans per hectare. However, she notes that with improved fertilizer, she can get up to 2 tonnes per hectare.
From her 10 hectares of land, she harvests around 18 tonnes of beans every two seasons, and with the farmers, she produces around 50 tonnes of iron-rich beans.
In addition to this, she has also managed to secure a market with different public schools across the country, where she supplies them with iron-rich beans per term, helping to fight malnutrition among children under five.
This year, she has more than 350 tonnes to supply in different schools across the country, until July next year.
From the business, Mukagatete has managed to buy a piece of land in Kayonza District where she plans to build her own warehouse for storing the beans.
The warehouse, she says, will have the capacity to store around 3500 tonnes of beans.
She started with three employees and has now 12 permanent ones with 100 working on a casual basis.
From this, the least an employee is paid she says is Rwf 100,000 per month, and after all the expenses, she makes one million Rwandan francs in a month, something she says wouldn’t have happened when she was still working for someone.
One of the major challenges she is facing at the moment is climate change (droughts), which affects her crop leading to low productivity in some seasons.