45km from Kigali and the pigs listen to music

Urwibutso Enterprise, Nyirangiarama 45 km from Kigali on the way to Goma, Congo

Kigali day 4: I am at Urwibutso Enterprise in Nyirangiarama 45 km from Kigali and roughly 100 km from Gisenyi, which lies on the way to Goma, Congo.

Its early morning and travellers are queuing up in the boutique. They have stopped to buy strawberry or passion juice, bread, muffins and some small doughnuts called Urwibutso. The two girls behind the counter are busy. When one load of travellers has been served, the next bus or car parks outside – and troops of new customers arrive.

Urwibutso began with the doughnuts. It was in 1987. A young man with a modest background, Sina Gerald set up a small shop by the roadside. He sold doughnuts to the travellers.

The doughnuts were tasty and just what one needed after a long steep mountain climb from Kigali with breath taking views of misty valleys.

Soon the regular travellers on this route to Congo made it an imperative to stop and get an Urwibutso or two at Sina Gerald’s place. The word spread: One had to taste Urwitbutso. The name Urwibutso came by itself: It means souvenir in Kinyanrwanda, something to remember.

Urwibutso survived the 1994 genocide and the only comment Sina Gerald wants to share in this regards is:

To loose hope and stop working is a mistake in life. Urwibutso Entreprise is the souvenir I want to leave behind, he says.

Sina Gerald is a true entrepreneur. Each an every year he comes up with a new product or a new idea for the enterprise. The fruits he grows and the juice he processes are organic. Last year he ventured into grapes, from which the first commercial Rwandan wine will be made. Apart from the original urwibutsos loads of different kinds of bread and cakes come from the newly extended bakery. Sina Gerald also breeds rabbits, goats, cows and pigs.

I hear music when we arrive at the pig stalls. A bit surprised I ask where it comes from. Tuyisenge Jean Beaufort, the Food Production Manager lights up a big smile and points towards the laud speakers in the corridors between the stalls.

The music relaxes the pigs. They become happy, satisfied and breed more, he says and explains that the pigs enjoy various kinds of music; R&B, the gongolese lingala and the traditional Kinyarwandan music.

There are 3000 permanent employees at Urwibutso Enterprise. If one includes the farmers  who sell their produce to Urwibutso Enterprise there are 5000 individuals who’s work or livelihood depends on the enterprise. Being in Nyirangiarama town is like being in Urwibutso land. Everything seems to be part of it and of Sina Gerald’s vision: To be remembered.

Before the Rwandese government put programs that focus on education and health into place, Sina Gerald ran his own CSR initiatives in order increase the human capacity. In 2003 Urwibutso began to give a cow or a goat to the employee’s family so they could learn to care for animals and their children could get milk. In return the family would give Sina Gerald the first calf or kid. Urwibutso Enterprise also runs a primary and secondary school for the employee’s children. The primary school has embraced the One laptop per child program.

Before I leave Urwibutso I have a good look around at the walls of the boutique. I am far from the first visitor. Among a row of other prominent individuals portrait in photos hanging on the walls Tony Blair has tasted an Urwibutso.

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