First of its kind soft drink sweetening plant grown in Rulindo district Northern Province, locals in that part of the country are trending on with the cash crop improving their livelihood.
Stevia sounds like some person’s name but it is simply a cash crop that looks like tea and is grown in swamps with some bit of sandy soil.
It is a paying off crop which when processed is a dollar maker. An unprocessed Kilogram goes for $2.2 and a processed one earns $250 a kilo.
In Rwanda the cash crop is growing on where 1000 hectors were secured to be exploited in nine districts including Rulindo, Kirehe, Nyaruguru, Ngoma, Nyanza, Gasabo, Kirehe, Gatsibo and Bugesera by end of 2016.
Locals and farmers of Stevia in Ngoma sector in Rulindo district laud the introduction of the cash crop as an employer and income generating plant.
Stevia was introduced to Rwanda by Canadian investors Stevialife Sweeteners as fast growing cash crop that could improve their farming incomes way beyond the irish potatoe traditionally grown for the same reasons. The plant grows in three months but because there no processing plants in the country it is exported as dried raw material which when processed in Canada produces the soft drink sweetening sugar and medicines.
In Rulindo the plant now is grown on 60 hectors and there is prospect of merging more farm land for the same investment. The farm activities in that district employ 600 local farmers.
“Now I have a permanent employment. I have bought three plots of farm land, no land problems. And I am in money pooling association where I get money when in call for it,” says Valentine Tuyizere one of the farmers employed by the Stevia growing investors in Rulindo.
“We can now sort our problems without working for a less daily wages and can send children to school,” farmers laud the investment.
Stevialife Sweeteners growing managing director, Bruce Irambona, notes that the farmers’ livelihoods have since the introduction of the plant in Rulindo district improved.
“There are farmers that work for a daily wage and those that have memorandums under which their pays are set per month,” says Irambona.
Daily contracted farmers are paid Rwf 1000 and the more experienced monthly salary workers get Rwf45000 through Sacco banks where every months Rwf12.5million is disbursed.
Prosper Mulindwa districts vice mayor says that the project has since 2016 reduced unemployment and increased savings and access to SACCO services.
He adds that the district is also earning from the investment whose farm land is leased.
Stevia is exported to China and as the farmers and investors increase the area of farm land, a processing industry will be established in the country in 2018.