Local honey company gets ‘big break’, following five-month ITC programme

Marianne, owner and director of Rwandan company, is excited to have received an order from an international buyer for her prized locally-produced honey.

Marianne Habinshuti, owner and director of Rwandan company, Uburanga Honey, is excited to have received an order from an international buyer for her prized locally-produced honey. It’s her first ever export – one tonne of honey per month to Turkey.

Marianne is a participant of the ‘Mitreeki East Africa-India Partnership’ (Mitreeki) – a programme of the Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project, implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development.  

 “Mitreeki opened my mind to a world of possibilities. The programme encouraged me to think about how I can expand my business and access new markets”,

said Marianne, who is now working to fulfil the requirements of the international buyer. The Mitreeki East Africa-India Partnership is designed to support East African women entrepreneurs, like Marianne, develop business and technical skills with the ultimate objective to tap into international markets.  


How does Mitreeki support women entrepreneurs? 

Small but promising women-owned companies are provided with:

  • Training;
  • Networking opportunities;
  • Factory visits;
  • Access to trade fairs; and
  • Needs-based company-specific mentoring and advice.

In Rwanda, Mitreeki is currently running a 5-month training and mentoring programme, called the Mitreeki Agro-processor Advancement Programme. It’s designed specifically for women in agro-processing. Twelve companies are participating, including Marianne’s Uburanga Honey.

Marianne explains how Mitreeki has changed the way she thinks about her business:

“After the trainings I became more confident, more organized. I started to have thoughts of becoming an exporter.

“Before joining the programme, I was only looking at the Rwandan market and I did not have any idea about the requirements to export – nor the means to find out. And I was not confident at all about the idea of selling my product outside of my country.”

Through the above activities, Mitreeki participants become proficient in how to run a successful agro-processing business, including :

  • Obtaining quality certifications;
  • Food safety;
  • Record-keeping;
  • Management systems; and even
  • Graphic design and marketing.

In this sense, the support is high-impact and comprehensive.

Marianne, with her 'Uburanga' honey, at the packaging stage


The story of Uburanga Honey

Marianne has come a long way in developing her business.

Reflecting on how it all began, she explains:

“When my child had the flu, I was told by some of the other parents that in order to make her heal, I should give her a mixture of natural honey and onion. However, the honey that I had bought was artificially altered – it was not natural. I continued searching for natural honey, but I couldn’t find it. I had to go all the way back to the village where I was born to get the natural honey.  I brought 7 kgs!

Friends and house guests liked the honey a lot, because it was natural and unprocessed, and they began asking me for orders.”

This is the point at which Marianne began developing the idea of starting a small enterprise:

“I was enjoying helping people by using healthy honey (instead of sugar) because it protects them from some diseases, like diabetes and heart disease. This setup grew, and I even started to distribute the natural honey to local supermarkets.”

As the enterprise grew, obstacles started to emerge:

“After some months, I found that the bigger supermarkets could not take my honey, because it was not certified by the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB). The idea of expanding my business was seeming too complicated and out of reach. I was going to stop, but my customer kept calling me asking for my honey and at the same time, I could not find a job. After talking with my husband and sharing some ideas, we realized that if I was going to run my business professionally, I could make a profit rather than continuing to stay at home. I started to look for a location for the business and to prepare the necessary legal documents. This was in 2017.”

Through the ’Mitreeki Agro-processor Advancement Programme’ (MAAP), it has taken Marianne little over five months to transform her business.


Marianne’s Agro-processor Advancement

Marianne has benefitted from the group training, as well as needs-based mentoring from MAAP business experts in:

  • Business plan development
  • Applications for finance
  • How to better record financial data.

On the technical side, the tailored mentoring included the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and adhering to the requirements of HACCP – an internationally recognized food safety certification.

In addition, Mitreeki is supporting Marianne to develop new branding for the international market, and  also facilitating her attendance at the World Export Development Forum in Ethiopia in November, where she will attend business-to-business meetings; she is hoping to meet new buyers and packaging suppliers.  

With ITC support, Marianne’s honey business is moving forward in leaps and bounds, and looking for the next sweet deal.

12 happy Mitreeki participants, after one of their group training sessions

Mitreeki is implemented under ITC’s Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa Project, which is operational in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. 

UN entities involved in this initiative
International Trade Centre