From waste to wealth - how one social entrepreneur & his team became energy innovators


“OYE has really helped my staff and I. Now we work as a unit towards the common goal of making Habona ltd a success." says Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, social entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Habona Ltd, producer of eco fuel briquettes. Nzeyimana has been selected to attend the Skoll World Forum as part of the Young Leaders Initiative, a program for young leaders in the field of social entrepreneurship. Nzeyimana has been invited to participate due to his engagement with SNV's Opportunities for Youth Employment programme, which provides business development services to Nzeyimana's enterprise and workforce, in partnership with The Mastercard Foundation.

Nzeyimana says he is elated and honoured to have been selected to attend the youth summit. “First and foremost, I want to network. I also hope to find opportunities for funding to expand the business and to learn what others are doing in the clean energy sector”

Jean Bosco Nzeyimana grew up in a community dependant on woodfuel for cooking, a reliance that was impacting local forest cover. Nzeyimana researched online new methods to ease the fuel burden at home in an ecological way. He developed a way to make fuel briquettes made from compressed biomass like farm or houshold waste. Using the local village waste he began making fuel briquettes and giving them for free to the community. The briquettes were such a big suceess that he realised he could develop a business, if only he had extra labour and a larger supply of biomass to meet demand.

His local district waste facility was being overwhelmed by garbage piles so Nzeyimana proposed to take over the dump and set up a station manufacturing briquettes on site. The district office accepted the proposal and also invested in briquette making machines. Nzeyimana then hired a team to sort the waste, so that the degradable waste could be turned into briquettes and fertiliser for sale, and the non-biodegradable waste sold to recycling companies.

But scaling up his business came with some additional challenges. Nzeyimana had a hard time convincing his team to take ownership of the company’s success.  “My workers felt they were only required to put in a day’s work to earn their wages. They figured they were just working to make me succeed.” he explained. To resolve this, the OYE project got involved and provided his staff with essential business training which fostered greater teamwork. OYE also supported Habona Ltd. to develop a business plan to professionalise the enterprise, to expand the capacity for on the job training, and to provide coaching for self-employment; enabling production to grow and expanding rural employment opportunities.

Nzeyimana’s business is now employing 30 permanent employees and 20 casual workers, 26 of whom have been trained by OYE in essential life and business skills. He is currently producing many tons of fertilizer from treated solid bio-degradable waste, which he sells for a profit. Thanks to OYE’s intervention and training, Habona employees have embraced the enterprise and work as a team to keep the business profitable. With their help, Nzeyimana has diversified into agribusiness, planting and selling seedlings of fruit and vegetables using the fertilizer from the dumpsite.

“The land surrounding the dumpsite has been cleared and turned into demonstration plots to show that the fertilizer is actually healthy for crops and does not cause harm or risk of contamination” Nzeyimana said. ""Some of my staff have taken seedlings home and are making demonstration plots at their homes to create market for the fertilizer." The young entrepreneur has also achieved his objective of supplying clean fuel, selling affordable briquettes to nearby schools, homes and local brick makers.

In addition to establishing a thriving business, Nzeyimana also completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration last year. OYE continues to support his vision through  links to financial service providers to enable him invest in larger capacity and professional machinery so he can scale up the business to meet demand.

“There is demand for the product. I have visited other provinces and my eyes have opened up to new opportunities. SNV recently linked us to PUM Netherlands Senior Experts to brainstorm the possibility of waste collection and briquette production at Kigeme refugee camp. I believe I will realize my dream of employing 3,000 people, and having a factory in every province, so that people can stop cutting trees for fuel. I also plan to install a biogas plant that uses the waste to power my machines instead of electricity,” said Jean Bosco “OYE has really helped my staff and I. Now we work as a unit towards the common goal of making Habona ltd a success.”

Opportunities for Youth Employment is a five-year SNV programme in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, operating in Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda, with an aim to improve the livelihoods of over 20,000 out-of-school youth through creation of youth-led enterprises and (self-) employment opportunities.

The 2016 Skoll Forum will convene 1000 young leaders from all over the world at the Saïd Business School in Oxford, UK where they will share experiences, best practices and new innovations in their respective social enterprises. The Skoll Foundation drives large-scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world's most pressing problems.