By Elias Hakizimana.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its project Private Sector Driven Agriculture Growth (PSDAG) launched partnership with Panovita Ltd to upgrade their factory that supply bio-fortified foods for infants, lactating mothers and children.
The food processing facility was established in 2012 by a local entrepreneur and engineer, Jean Bosco Bizimana, after he spent years studying and working with health centers.
They process five varieties of food namely: Trismal/Isumbwe which is a porridge flour for infants, Shisha mama, family porridge, kawunga and branda which is animal feed. The main raw materials used are maize, soybean, sorghum and Amaranthus.
Bizimana said that he had the idea since he gained the Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture engineering and conducted laboratory research to start a bio-fortified food processing facility in Kazo Sector, Ngoma District of Eastern province with the intention to tackle malnutrition.
“We used to have flour from USA and elsewhere while our farmers grow cereals in Eastern province, I joined Kibungo laboratory and first tested porridge flour for mothers and children and later, I decided to look for machines to start the processing facility,” he said.
With the district’s support, he started with rudimentary hammer milling and poor infrastructures before the USAID funding.
USAID-PSDAG donated semi-automatic machineries to the company that enabled them to produce 10 MT from 3 MT per day and they are seeking a standardized mark (S-Mark) certification.
The current total value of the facility is Rwf 109 million including the company’s startup of Rwf 83 million plus USAID’s funding of Rwf 26 million.
“We are thankful to our partners who also built us the system to calculate and manage our financial data, they enabled us to establish our website to market our products and they trained staff,” Bizimana noted.
Panovita Ltd collaborates with 2,100 farmers from 11 cooperatives that grow maize, soybean, sorghum and Amaranthus.
The company received an award from Rwanda NATIONAL Youth Council in 2013 as the best young innovator among 600 contestants. It also signed a co-investment grant with PSDAG in 2018 to upgrade the processing facility.
Speaking at the launching ceremony on May 29, 2019 in Ngoma District, Melanie Bittle, the PSDAG Chief of Party said that the support to the food processing facility is in line with USAID’s Feed the Future project to increase food security and production and that PSDAG has been focusing on increasing investment in agriculture of private sector.
“In developing world, we realized that in order to make interventions sustainable you need to engage private sector especially in business, this project of Panovita is a perfect example of innovation in food security from private sector investment perspective,” she said.
Various Government officials, development partners, farmers and the private sector were at the launching ceremony. The factory was pledged more efforts to tackle some existing challenges including lack of enough electricity.