Winner of SusTech4Africa: additional income for coffee farmers

Zilipa Nyirabyago van MNB. (Foto: Peter Mockers)
MNB is one of the winners of the first SusTech4Africa competition

The three winners of the Sustainable Technology for Africa event have been announced. MNB won the panel over and walked away with the main spoils. The start-up wants to drive down the import of mushrooms into Rwanda by getting local coffee farmers to grow them using coffee waste as fertilizer. “This will give farmers an income throughout the year and it will complete the coffee cycle.”

 
 “Rwandan coffee growers only have an income for a few months a year: when the coffee beans are ripe. We must change that”, says Zilipa Nyirabyago from MNB. The start-up wants to get local farmers to grow mushrooms. “The farmers can use the waste products from coffee farming as fertilizer. It creates a stable income for the local population and it also completes the coffee cycle.”
 
The start-up has been managing a pilot project in Rwanda for two years already, where the locals are taught the correct techniques. “That is our biggest challenge. Growing mushrooms using coffee pulp as a fertilizer is unheard of. But I have no doubt whatsoever that MNB will succeed, and certainly now that we can add winning the main prize at Sustainable Technology for Africa to our CV. We are aiming for a crop of sixty tons of mushrooms in the first year, which we intend increasing later. You’d be right to call us ambitious”, Zilipa chuckles.
 

Sustainable and social impact

 
Among other things, it was this ambition that won the panel over to award MNB first prize. “This project meets all the criteria. Not only is the concept innovative, but it also has a sustainable and social impact”, states Walter Eevers , director of Research & Development at VITO. “MNB is a prime example of the circular economy. What is more, the barriers to joining the program are virtually non-existent: the entire Rwandan population can join in.” MNB received a social loan and intensive coaching. “I still can’t quite believe it”, says Zilipa. “For two years already I’ve been weathering storms every day to protect my start-up. I’m so happy that my dream is coming true.”