Two years without a job was enough to persuade Aristide Ihorimbere that he needed to take his future into his own hands. With a small loan and a modest plot of land, this 27-year-old agronomist is now running a profitable agrifood business, adding value to his products to earn higher revenues.
Already providing work for five full-time and ten part-time employees, Ihorimbere is currently planning to expand operations and has set his sights on the export market.
Tell me about the business you have launched
I am an agronomist by training, now engaged in agribusiness. I run a small enterprise called the Safety Health Product Company (SHEPCOM), which is based in Ngozi. The company has three different sectors: livestock keeping, agriculture and processing agrifood products. In the livestock sector, we practise beekeeping and poultry farming, while the agriculture side of the business consists of cultivating various fruits, including bananas.
What gave you the idea of setting up your own agribusiness enterprise?
The idea came to me after I had spent two years being unemployed at the end of my secondary school studies. My uncle, who is also an agronomist, suggested that I start farming, and selling the products that I harvested. So I went to university to study agronomy and I also received training from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). And meanwhile, I launched my agribusiness. My father gave me a two-hectare plot of land, as well as a loan of 500,000 BIF (about €275) to get started.
What products do you make and where do you sell them?
My company’s range includes natural honey, honey wine (mead), jam, eggs and mayonnaise. I sell these products to hotels, grocery stores, bars and restaurants. I’m glad to say that there is strong demand for everything I produce, because the quality is better than that of most products available in the marketplace. Several big hotels in Ngozi and the capital Bujumbura use my products, especially the honey and eggs. That’s because I generally have sufficient quantities to supply them, and I always offer them high quality products. Another reason is that I deliver my products to clients who order large quantities.
Can you describe some of the challenges?
The main hurdles that I have had to overcome have been obtaining supplies of packaging, as well as some of the raw materials that have to be imported from abroad. Also, I really need some food processing machinery that would help me to make jam and mayonnaise in a more modern fashion, as at the moment I am making them by hand. Lastly, I need moulds so that I can make my own packaging (plastic bottles). I plan to overcome all these obstacles, so that I can expand and be in a position to export my products.
Do you believe that agriculture has a bright future?
Yes, definitely, but it requires substantial financial resources due to the shortage of land and the problem of climate change. To address these issues, there is a need for contributions from the governments and large-scale enterprises. Profitable agriculture is one way of combating hunger and poverty, which are devastating the rural population of our country. It can help to reduce food imports, and therefore overall imports, and that will contribute to halting the devaluation of our national currency.
How important is it to receive an education and / or training in agriculture ?
Having training in agriculture enables you to practise modern farming techniques, and that in turn allows you to increase your production. I personally believe that obtaining some sort of agricultural training is essential for young people in developing countries, where agriculture is mainly practised by farmers who have had no access to education.
What does it take to be an agripreneur?
First of all, you need to have an entrepreneurial spirit. Next, it is important to be trained in business planning and in the management of small and medium enterprises. Access to credit can be a great help those who have financial problems.
What advice would you give to other young people thinking of entering agribusiness ?
I would advise other young would-be agripreneurs to have determination, courage and hope. In addition, they should go to fairs and take part in exchange visits with other entrepreneurs, which will help to increase the range of their experience.