Young Rwandan man's success story in the biogas business

October 2016

Blog

Getting a job can be tough. Especially if you lack the education or skills which make you attractive to a potential employer. And because of social, economic and cultural barriers, young people in developing countries are significantly disadvantaged when trying to enter the job market.

SNV’s Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) programme works with youth organisations, vocational training centres, local government, and businesses to identify young people who are out-of- school and unemployed, and then builds their life and technical skills so that they can find meaningful employment or become successful entrepreneurs.

Across Tanzania, Rwanda and Mozambique, we have been implementing our OYE approach through a programme funded by the Mastercard Foundation. The programme is in its third year of increasing employment and income for unprivileged rural youths, and has so far seen some 10,000 youths enter employment and the creation of over 500 new youth-led businesses.

While progress has been made in creating jobs and businesses through our OYE programme, the challenge to sustain these results is always prevalent. Setting up a business is one thing, however, maintaining it is another. Economic conditions constantly pose a threat to youth employment, which can only be curbed by sound economic policy. With these challenges in mind, SNV is striving to make improvements for thousands of young people around the world.

Here is one OYE programme’s success stories in Rwanda. 

Pushed to excel 

Vedaste Haragirimana, 26, is the eldest son of eight children. And when his father passed away, his family turned to him to be the family’s main breadwinner. A huge amount of responsibility fell on him at an early age. “When my dad died, I had to grow wiser. My two elder sisters are married so I had to support my mum and younger siblings. I was looking to gain skills while making money for my family,” Vedaste explains. 

Vedaste applied to join the OYE’s biogas programme in Rwanda and soon later he was selected. He first went through SNV organised basic business and life skills training, and then received technical training in installing fixed dome, fibreglass and canvas digesters. After the training, Vedaste started an internship where he impressed his employer so much that after two weeks he was offered a permanent job as a biogas technician. After gaining experience in this job, he was soon offered an even better job with another company. “In my first job I installed 8 biogas digesters and gained a lot of experience. I then moved to another company and built a further 13. I was really progressing,” says Vedaste. 

Vedaste gave the majority of the money he earned from these jobs to his mother to help educate his younger siblings, who were in secondary school. Life was not easy but he was determined to make something out of it and keep pushing forward to develop himself even further. 

Things took a turn mid 2015 when he was invited by SNV to join other OYE trainees for advanced business training. The training focused on registering new businesses and gaining access to credit. His mind was opened and Vedaste began to see the possibility of working for himself. “That was the starting point in my journey as an entrepreneur, my shovel became my redemption. I was on fire!” he narrated. 

After the training, Vedaste decided to test the market potential for starting his own biogas business. He went door-to-door speaking to farmers who had cows and he managed to convince six farmers to order biogas digester in a matter of weeks. With the confidence that he could make it on his own, Vedaste registered his own company and proceeded to gain permission from his district council to build the six digesters under the national domestic biogas programme. The district agreed. 

Building the digesters meant he needed US$3,330 to buy materials. Because of his family commitments, Vedaste had only been able to save a small amount. He was not about to let his dream go, however, so SNV supported him to borrow the remainder of the money from a bank. With the help of three other OYE trainees, Vedaste built the six digesters in three weeks. The district sent an inspector who found the work impeccable and approved a payment of US$2,800. And with the payment, Vedaste was able to pay off most of his loan. 

His clients also spread word that Vedaste was good at his work, which has led to more work. So far his business has built 16 digesters and he makes almost three times the money he did working for someone else. “There is a lot of potential to grow this business. I have made many connections and am able to make a better life for me and my family.”

This is an extract from our annual publication, SNV Connect 2016. Read the full magazine to find out how our work in Agriculture, Energy and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene is improving the lives of millions of people around the world.

Expert

Roy van der Drift

Global Coordinator Youth & OYE Project Manager