Introducing the first cohort of entrepreneurs accepted to the Technical Assistance Facility
Across Africa, an estimated 100 million people faced catastrophic levels of food insecurity in 2020. The latest data show that 40.2 million people in Central and Southern Africa, 32.9 million in East Africa, and 24.8 million in West and Sahel Africa faced food crisis and starvation.
At the same time, sub-Saharan Africa loses significant amount of food, with grains alone accounting for $4 billion a year. This is more than the value of total food aid received in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade, and equivalent to the annual value of cereal imports. Reducing food loss and waste is essential to achieve a sustainable food future in Africa and globally. We need to move towards circularity and zero-waste principles in all areas of the food value chain, from production to consumption.
The Circular Food Systems for Rwanda program, funded by the IKEA Foundation, seeks to create a circular economy for food and promote sustainable food systems in Rwanda. The program is working to translate global ambitions of a circular economy on food systems into real outcomes.
Rwanda has the unique opportunity to revolutionize its food systems through a circular economy. More than 70% of its population are involved in agriculture, with six million of them being small scale producers. The sector accounts for 33% of the country’s GDP. At the same time, UNEP’s Food Waste Index 2021 report estimates that Rwanda wastes a staggering 164kg of food every year. A transition to a circular economy could dramatically improve the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the food system.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Rwanda’s economy, providing 41% of private sector jobs. The Rwandan Ministry of Trade & Industry reports that 98% of businesses in the country are small and medium enterprises.
They have the opportunity to capture meaningful market share in newly emerging circular food systems. However, SMEs lack sufficient resources and capacity.
The Circular Food Systems for Rwanda Program, through its Technical Assistance Facility, provides SMEs with access to education, technical assistance, and networking opportunities to help them build and sustain successful circular business models.
In June 2023, the application process for the first cohort of the Technical Assistance Facility opened. Seventy-five applicants from across Rwanda applied and seven were chosen to receive technical assistance provided through the Technical Assistance Facility. Selected SMEs will be paired with technical assistance providers in their sector to receive the support they need to grow their businesses and explore circular economy opportunities in their country.
Meet the Seven SMEs: from sustainable agriculture to innovative technology, these entrepreneurs are making an impact and driving positive change.
Africa Food Supply (AFS) was established in 2016 to provide locally grown and sourced, high quality, nutritional, fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains. They are currently growing tomatoes, sweet potato, zucchini, pineapples, and cucumbers. The company applies a farm to table concept whereby they grow crops for their restaurant and provide surplus for other markets. The company currently caters for local markets in Kamonyi and Kigali, with plans to expand nationwide. While much of their production comes from their own fields at present, they started out by working with farmer cooperatives in the area. These farmers have now been integrated into the production and sales system AFS established. The company is currently expanding the business into a bakery, coffee shop, and a small processing facility.
MNB Ltd was established in 2012 with a vision to fight against hunger and malnutrition, while creating sustainable jobs in both rural and urban areas in Rwanda. MNB recycles agricultural waste, such as soya residues and dried coffee pulp, to produce various eco-responsible circular food products. Using a zero-waste mushrooms value chain, the company produces organic compost and sells it to local farmers. The company wants to promote a similar business model of circularity to low-income farmers, especially women and youth with small land, to enable them to grow into sustainable agro-entrepreneurs.
Next Farm was created with a mission to promote the efficient and effective use of agriculture subproducts and waste by reusing and recycling them. By doing so, the company strives to improve the livelihood of nearby communities through sustainable food supply. Next farm specializes in pig farming. They produce sausages and sell pork to local customers. They also engage in growing crops, such as banana, Irish potatoes, and maize, mainly as feed for their pigs; and produce and sell compost they make using animal manure.
Tech Adopter is an Agri-Tech engineering company with a mission to empower Rwandan farmers with innovative agricultural solutions that increase productivity, reduce costs, minimize waste, and improve livelihoods. The company manufactures affordable and customized agricultural equipment for harvesting and processing crops.
Glory Mixed Farm is a privately owned business that practices a range of agropastoral faming activities, producing and selling animal and crop products such as pigs, chicken, eggs, maize, tomato, rice, and banana. The company also produces and sells manure to local farmers. The company started operation in 2008, producing and selling crops, such as maize, beans, and soybeans, and livestock farming including cows and goats. The company has its corporate office in Kigali, Rwanda with farmland in Nyagatare District, Eastern province of Rwanda.
Golden Insect LTD is a company that specializes in commercial breeding of insects and insect-related macro and microorganisms for feed, food, and organic fertilizer. They breed black soldier flies, giant African land snails, and earthworms (red worms). Their main activities focus on minimizing food loss and waste through the conversion of bio-waste into high-quality organic fertilizers in solid (vermicompost) and liquid form (vermiliquid) by employing red worms at large scale. So far, they have been able to transform 10 tons of food waste every month.
Kigasali Coffee Company has been engaged in coffee processing since 2016. It exports its products, as well as sell in the Rwandan market. Kigasali employs 5,108 farmers and hires only women for selection of coffee before processing. Recently, the company has started using fresh coffee waste to produce organic fertilizers.