Young entrepreneur Diego Dieudonné Twahirwa is supplying global markets with his dry chilli and chilli oil products, whilst providing a ready market for local farmers.
In Rwanda, more than 1,500 chilli farmers are supplying unsold produce to local agribusiness, Gashora Farms, for processing into chilli oil, helping to address the challenge of post-harvest losses in the country. The company, which was established by 30-year-old entrepreneur Diego Dieudonné Twahirwa in 2014, exports fresh and dry chilli pepper to European countries and the chilli oil (branded Didi's Chilli Oil) to Switzerland, the UK and US.
Twahirwa graduated as an agronomist in 2012 and initially worked for a refined pyrethrum producer. In 2014, he left the company to venture into farming. “I decided to take this difficult decision to quit my job since working with the company helped me learn about agricultural practices, and I found my new passion – being on the farm,” he says.
After trying his hand at tomato production, Twahirwa experienced significant losses without a ready market and decided the crop was too perishable. During his transition to chilli, he also experienced post-harvest problems and resorted to drying the produce to increase its shelf life. “Dry chilli can last for up to 6 months,” he explains. “Encouraging local farmers to grow chilli as a unique crop with both local and global market was key to boosting both quantity and quality along the value chain.” The company now harvests about 10 t of dried chilli every 6 months with each kilo being sold at €1.8, generating €18,000 per ha.
Twahirwa is also looking to expand his value-added product line with the production of pulp and chilli powder, and was a finalist for the Young Entrepreneur Awards at the 2018 World Forum for Export Development. “My plan is to take chilli farming to another level. I have already teamed up with a British agronomist and I plan to introduce other modern scientific breeds of chilli into the market,” he concludes.