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Rwandan girls ‘discover’ rare plant that’s making them rich

by Dan Ngabonziza
12:16 pm
Niyitegeka during a trade show in Ngoma district, Eastern province

Niyitegeka during a trade show in Ngoma district, Eastern province

Two Rwandan girls in their mid twenties from Ngoma district in Eastern province have suddenly become millionaires in the strangest way.

On one Saturday morning in June last year, Marcella Niyitegeka, wandered around her village at Karembo sector and saw a unique grass.

The grass had a dazzling look, especially its seeds. She moved along the swampy area to discover the plant’s distribution; “It was a real tour of the day,” she told KT Press.

With much excitement about the miraclous plant, Niyitegeka took some of its seeds to her aunt, Sarah Nyiransabimana.

Niyitegeka  and her aunt both Agricultural Engineers, discussed about the plant and later shared news of their discovery with Euphrasie Yadufshije, a close friend and a teacher.

Nyirahabimana advised that they conduct an extended research on the new type of grass and how it would be made useful. Niyitegeka tried making jewelry products such as necklaces, table mats, curtains and other handcrafted bracelets.

They looked very beautiful. “We got surprised how the initial products we made got massive clientèle,” Niyitegeka said.

A curtain is sold at Rwf15, 000 ($20), while necklaces and bangles cost between Rwf500 and Rwf1000.  According to Niyitegeka, 2kg of seeds can make one curtain, while 2000 bangles and necklaces can be made out of 100kgs of seeds.

“Our first harvest generated 200kg of seeds. Out of these, we made 30 curtains and over 100 necklaces and bangles,” she told KT Press. This means Niyitegeka and her friends earned Rwf550, 000 ($748) from curtains and necklaces.

“They were all sold. The only challenge was our capacity to make as many as we could,” Yadufashije says. There’s a huge market for the trio’s products. However, they lack advanced technology in their new business.

“We use our hands in making these curtains and necklaces. Our wish is to get trainings and equipment and ad value to access the international market,” Yadufashije told KT Press.

During an agriculture trade show in Eastern Province in August last year, their ’ business won the best prize in the ‘outstanding innovation’ section.

Trade Minister, Francois Kanimba directed Eastern Province governor, Odette Uwamariya, to provide support and boost their innovation.

Ngoma district mayor, Aphrodise Nambaje said, “We are planning to meet these girls and discuss how we can help them improve their business.”

The plant has been named “Urusaro’, or bead, but it it is probably the most hated plant in Ngoma. “It kills other crops. It is very dangerous,” Janvier Kamari, a local farmer in the area told KT Press.  The new plant needs to be conserved, though, he said.

“We have started contracting farmers to grow the plant in their gardens but most of them hate it.

But thats not how the business girls see it. They see money where others see curse. “Our business can be a solution to unemployment and also tapping into the global jewelry market.”


Displaying some of the Curtains made from grass seeds