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Reinventing the Co-packer model in Rwanda

We increase farmer and entrepreneur incomes and reduce post-harvest losses by providing affordable quality packaging and processing services

Photo of Tendai Pasipanodya
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Our model is a game changer. For the first time in Rwanda, it will be possible for farmers and agroprocessing entrepreneurs to process, package and market premium products effectively, at at an affordable cost and at high quality. We will do this by re-inventing the co-packer model and adapting it to our target clients needs. Our copacker will provide farmers, young entrepreneurs and exisiting agroprocessing companies with a customised support package that includes product development, quality control, branding, processing, packaging, marketing and financing. These services will be available at a certified processing space. A mobile-based IT platform will guide the clients through the process, provide transparency along the value chain, up-to-date market prices and standardized procedures. We offer both the option to sell the final processed products under the co-packer brand or under our clients own brand. We provide all clients access to supermarkets and other retail outlets.


The pilot aims to bring 3 co-packer brand products to market. We will work with five coops each with about 50 members. As the average household in Rwanda is 4.3 members, we estimate that the pilot alone will directly benefit over 3000 individuals in farming households. We also aim to have five coops or entrepreneurs as clients with their own products; they will also source their raw products from farmers.


We’ll pilot the co-packer in Rwanda. However as mentioned in the full description our customizable business model has great potential across Africa.


  • Yes


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year


  • Yes, for more than one year.


Our diverse and experienced team is associated with Endeva and united by our shared motivation and belief that the co-packer model will transform the lives of farmers and young entrepreneurs in Rwanda and beyond. See more on our profiles in the full description.


Our team has been working to find an effective way to help farmers and young entrepreneurs earn more by accessing premium markets over the past 3 years. We had the opportunity to explore how to help get the products of young African farmers into Whole Foods Markets through the Youth Trade Initiative. Our meetings with the Whole Foods buyers in the US confirmed a strong interest in stocking more products from African youth. However, existing solutions to get them into premium outlets are simply not effective enough. We therefore created our own solution: a co-packing facility for the African context. To implement the solution in Rwanda, we set up a spin off organization this year, a mission-driven start-up. Endeva is a company of experts with a common mission to accelerate entrepreneurial solutions for development challenges. Our core business is providing researching and consulting services as well as building ecosystems that support inclusive businesses. Endeva, encourages its experts to capitalize on their insights and networks to realize innovative and sustainable solutions through spin off ventures like this one. Agriculture is one of our key focus sectors.


Existing solutions tend to overwhelm the farmers. They provide farmers with processing machinery, simple packaging and some training, basically asking the famers to run both their farm and a processing unit. This approach always fails. In the US, farmers and cooperatives can bring their products to a co-packer, who offers a wide range of services to produce high-quality food products. We are the first to adapt the co-packer business model to the African context. This new approach will drastically reduce the barriers to accessing premium markets. The co-packer will offer a full suite of affordable services, including, among others, processing, packaging and marketing. Our unique advantage is our team, which brings the right set of experiences and contacts (see next section). We also have the support of the Rwandan government. Rwanda is an ideal pilot country, with one of Africa’s most productive and organized farming sectors. Improving the quality of Rwanda processed agricultural products is an explicit government priority. The government has also signaled interest in co-financing the initiative.


In Rwanda: Bruce will lead the in-country implementation, working full-time on general management and operations of the co-packer. Christian will support on a part-time basis with establishing partnerships and fundraising. From Germany: Tendai will provide overall management for the project and Megan will support with research, communication. Both will spend 1 day per week. Christina will provide strategic direction at 2 days per month. We are also creating an advisory board to support us.


The user experience map helped us clarify the flow of activities. We managed to simplify a rather complex process into four steps, that we can clearly communicate to our clients. Our new initial service package - the "starter package" - makes it easier for users to start using our service, knowing exactly what they pay and what they get for it. The feedback exercises also confirmed some of our critical hypotheses. • Interest of farmers and entrepreneurs in the service is high. • While farmers are skeptical about paying for support, they are willing to pay for packaging in particular, and their willingness to pay was higher for complete packages than for individual services. • Supermarkets are interested in stocking local products. • High-end consumers were unsatisfied with existing local and imported products, and articulated a demand for high-quality local products. Our images provide more detail on our feedback process and what we learnt.


We identified these key questions we need to answer to confirm assumptions made in the user experience map. • How can we ensure consistent cash flows given the long delay between developing products and getting paid? • How can we adequately price the various services and packages? • How can we guide clients through the product development process via an app, thereby minimizing staff hours spent per customer and enabling an affordable price of our service? • Can we assume that all clients will be able to interact with us online, e.g. to submit an application? • At what stage do we link our clients with other service providers and what kind of agreement do we need with these partners?


Existing solutions focus on only one aspect of the problem. Our solution will change this monotonous pattern by bundled services into a comprehensive package and providing credibility for farmers to access premium markets. Until now, such a service has not yet been offered in Rwanda for several reasons, including: • the need for specialized skills to operate advanced machinery • the high costs of setting up and maintaining a facility and obtaining certifications • a lack of materials necessary for processing and packaging within Rwanda. As a German-Rwandan venture, FreshBlends can bring high-quality processing and packaging technology and knowhow to Rwanda.


We want to catalyze a local food industry led by farmers and young entrepreneurs producing innovative, healthy and sustainable food products. Local production will create a range of positive effects in Rwanda: • reduce post-harvest loss by creating food products with longer shelf-life • increase income of local farmers by connecting them to premium markets • diversify local products for consumers • raise overall standard of packaging and processing Our next step is to pilot our idea!


  • More than a year


  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work


  • Under $100,000

What problem are we trying to tackle?

Agriculture is the backbone of the Rwandan economy, it generates more than 70% of the country’s export revenues, accounts for a third of GDP and engages close to 80% of the total population. However, the majority of smallholder farmers remain poor and the scarcity of land closes opportunities for young people in the sector. The government and experts alike have stressed that agro-processing is the key to unleashing the full potential of the agricultural sector in Rwanda. However, at present the sub-sector remains very weak.

Major constraints include inadequate processing methods and standards, a lack of access to equipment and unsatisfactory marketing and packaging of products. The cost and complexity of turning agricultural products into high-quality processed products that can be sold in supermarkets and compete with imported products are insurmountable for farmers and young entrepreneurs. Value addition is, thus left to entrepreneurs with the backing of big investors, leaving the sub-sector largely underexploited. This results in a high post harvest losses of about 30% on average.

To date, supermarkets offer mostly imported products and a few poorly packaged local products.  The problem extends beyond Rwanda. These challenges can be observed across the continent, which is a growing importer of processed foods. According to the World Bank, it imports nearly $400 million of processed fruit juices and canned fruits and vegetables. The irony is that many of the processed products are grown in Africa, shipped abroad for processing only to be returned as higher value products. There is also a demand for quality, fair trade and inclusive African products in Europe and the US, however the low quality and packaging of products remains a barrier for exporting processed goods.

What is our solution?

We believe that a key ecosystem player is missing! In high-income countries, like the U.S., farmers as well as micro- and small entrepreneurs can contract a co-packer that can cost-effectively produce high quality products according to their specifications. Co-packers allow small players to be able to enter the booming specialty food sector without the constraints of setting up their own certified manufacturing plant and distribution logistics. The co-packer offers this, as well as advice, guidance and a range of complementary services to support entrepreneurs and farmers successfully get their products to supermarkets.  

We are reinventing the co-packer for Rwanda; a one-stop service center that enables farmers, cooperatives and young entrepreneurs in Rwanda to access specialty food markets by offering a comprehensive support package consisting of a range of services. We will link clients to already existing services and provide in-house only those services that fill current gaps in the market. Every new client will receive a business-checkup to determine specific needs. From there, we will, together with clients, develop a premium product, create a brand (incl. logo, corporate identity and marketing materials), and link them to potential financing partners and retailers. Services are bundled into 3 basic support packages that are targeted to the specific needs of clients, as detailed in the photo below. 

Our services are bundled into 3 basic support packages that are targeted to the needs of clients.

What services will we offer?

  • A business check-up to create a support plan
  • Step-by step support on creating a specialty food product, guided through     an app and individual consultancy sessions
  • Advice on product development to ensure high quality and adding an             innovative edge
  • Support with marketing and communication
  • Support the set-up and management of quality and certification systems
  • Access to processing facilities certified by the Rwandan Standards Board
  • Advice and provision of suitable packaging
  • Access to storage facilities
  • Advice on and provision of transport logistics
  • Access to strategic partners and investors
  • Access to markets through our retailer network

Where did this idea come from?

The idea for the co-packer was inspired by our past experience with the Youth Trade Initiative, which supports young farmers and entrepreneurs gain access to premium markets through their partnerships with leading retailers like Whole Foods Market. Through Youth Trade, we had the opportunity to explore helping young farmers in Sierra Leone get into Whole Foods’ supermarkets. Our meetings with Whole Foods buyers in the US indicated a strong interest in stocking more products from African entrepreneurs, they also helped us understand what it would take to get into such markets and stay on the shelves.

We spent over a year researching  the most effective and sustainable approach to achieve this goal, and discovered that most of the current solutions to value addition were not working. Many programs offered farmers inputs, machinery and training. However this is fixing the wrong problem! As long as farmers don‘t have access to markets, they cannot reap the benefits of increased productivity. Other programs add on processing machinery and more training but that just overwhelms the farmer. They now have to run their farm and a processing unit. When one factors in the cost and complexity of repairing and maintain machinery in the rural context, its easy to see why such programs often yield limited results.

We watched Youth Trade young entrepreneurs and farmers in the US get into Whole Foods within months once they had the right access to marktes. Their advantage was that they could rely on a co-packer to package and process their product at an affordable cost. This is what was missing in the African countries we worked in!  We chose Rwanda as a pilot country and are adapting the co-packer model to this context.

Who are we?

The co-packer is a spin off initiative of Endeva. Endeva is a company of experts with a common mission to accelerate entrepreneurial solutions for development challenges. Since 2007, we have implemented more than 100 projects with a diversity of partners and a global network of experts. Endeva encourages their network of experts to capitalize on its deep insights and broad network to realize innovative, local, sustainable solutions through such spin off ventures

The co-packer venture is implemented by a mission-driven team, seeking the most efficient and sustainable solution to help smallholder farmers and young entrepreneurs add value to local produce. Please see the image below for more details. Our multicultural team based in Rwanda and Germany brings over 25 years of multi-disciplinary knowledge and experience in several key areas:

  • an understanding of sustainable and inclusive agriculture
  • experience working closely with smallholder farmers
  • working experience on specific value chains
  • inclusive agro-processing
  • relationships with key political and private actors in Rwanda as well as           internationally
  • corporate partnerships management
  • starting and managing a business across borders

Image title

Where are we now ?

We’ve achieved a lot on our own, but now we need the support of others to continue our success. So far, we’ve:

  • Conducted extensive research on the co-packer model in the US
  • Conducted a two-month feasibility study in Rwanda to identify partners,       research the market and speak with small holder farmers and young               entrepreneurs
  • Developed an initial business plan and financial model
  • Officially registered as a local company in Rwanda
  • Recruited team members with extensive experience in agri-business in Rwanda

How AMPLIFY can help us move forward?

Currently, we’re seeking partners to provide the necessary financial and technical support to help us implement the pilot phase. If our solution works in Rwanda, we believe it can be adapted and replicated across Africa and beyond.

The Amplify program would be an excellent opportunity for us to take our idea to the next stage. Particularly, we would benefit from:

  • Using a human-centered design approach to guide us further adapting the     co-packer model
  • Design support to help us test parts of our model
  • Seed funding to pilot the idea


Join the conversation:

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Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Tendai!

The Amplify team and our experts have some feedback for you:

This is a really comprehensive idea! What if any parts of it have already begun? E.g. is there a mobile platform or prototype? A processing center?

Could you tell us more about what you mean by associated with Endeva? Is your team a part of Endeva? Thank you for detailing the amount of time each member has to devote to this idea. Is this something that you are working on in your spare time right now? Or as part of an Endeva project? 

Great work on getting feedback! What are your initial thoughts about overcoming the concerns of farmers over the pricing of this service, especially since they perceive their crops to be higher value than their consumers? The value proposition for consumers seems clear, but what makes this a problem that farmers will want to solve? 

You mention having the support of government, which is great. Have they agreed to provide a certain level of financing to this idea? Are there other ways they are supporting it? What do you imagine it would cost to begin implementing this idea in Rwanda? What part of your idea would you begin with? 

Looking forward to learning more! 

Photo of Tendai Pasipanodya

Thank you for the feedback! We’ve spent a lot of time working on the details of our idea, and are very happy to hear that it shows!

Here are our responses:

What if any parts of it have already begun? E.g. is there a mobile platform or prototype? A processing center?

Answer: Our goal is to create partnerships wherever possible. Rather than starting from scratch or competing with existing businesses and organizations, we want to leverage their core strengths and build a strong network around the co-packer. By doing so, we can save time and resources for development.
To our knowledge, there are currently no processing centers in Rwanda that are accessible to entrepreneurs and smallholder famers. However, we would like to work with companies with processing machinery to make use of existing resources. We also plan to partner with mobile platform developers in Rwanda, who can tailor their platforms to our needs.
Although both food processing and packing facilities are highly in demand in Rwanda, we’ve learned from our beneficiary feedback that packaging is urgently needed. Therefore, we plan to run a lean pilot before the end of this year, which would initially offer sustainable packaging solutions to farmers and entrepreneurs with their own products, and later incorporate the entire co-packing service.

Could you tell us more about what you mean by associated with Endeva? Is your team a part of Endeva? Is this something that you are working on in your spare time right now? Or as part of an Endeva project?

Answer: FreshBlends is an initiative of Endeva and thus a part of our core internal activities. For nearly 10 years, Endeva and our dedicated network of experts around the world have worked on research and consultancy projects, as well as building ecosystems for inclusive business. Through past projects and independent research with farmers in Africa, and Rwanda in particular, we know that smallholder farmers lack access to premium local and international markets due to the poor quality of processing and packaging. We believe that our model offers a business solution to connect smallholder farmers to these markets.
The initiative was developed by a team within Endeva. As we are moving into pilot phase, we recruited a local team to manage the day-to-day activities of FreshBlends. Bruce will operate the business in Kigali full-time, and Christian will develop the relevant partnerships in Germany and Rwanda with half of his time. The Endeva team in Berlin will maintain a regular role in providing strategic direction and communication with our partners.

What are your initial thoughts about overcoming the concerns of farmers over the pricing of this service, especially since they perceive their crops to be higher value than their consumers? The value proposition for consumers seems clear, but what makes this a problem that farmers will want to solve?

Answer: First, farmers can get a premium price for their products if they are processed and packaged in a way that creates access to high-value markets. This is what FreshBlends offers. Currently supermarkets sell mainly important goods, and locally manufactured products can easily compete with their prices.
Second, FreshBlends will offer different payment options to farmers. In one package, farmers have the option to have their product completely processed, packaged and marketed by us, and they are simply paid for their raw material. Farmers can also choose to market the product themselves, paying Freshblends up to half a year after they receive the finished products.
Our research shows that price in itself is not the main issue, but affordability, which can be addressed through innovative payment options. Our pricing philosophy is based on cost-plus strategy, which is not only justifiable towards farmers but also assures that we recover our costs.

You mention having the support of government, which is great. Have they agreed to provide a certain level of financing to this idea? Are there other ways they are supporting it? What do you imagine it would cost to begin implementing this idea in Rwanda? What part of your idea would you begin with?

Answer: The government has expressed their interest in supporting us financially once a pilot is on the ground and running. In the meantime, they have offered us a range of other support, including connecting us with potential partners for technical expertise, guiding us on adhering to the legal standards and obtaining certifications and officially endorsing our idea!
We expect our first year expenses including capex, working capital and overheads to be around US$ 150,000.
To get the project rolling, we will pilot a lean version this year. As packaging is most urgently in demand, we will start with a purely packaging service. After achieving initial success, we will incorporate the entire co-packing service package and help Rwanda become a model for sustainable co-packing in Africa!

Photo of Chioma Ume

Thanks for the details Tendai!

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Tendai and team!

I notice you haven't filled in the answers to the new phase questions yet. Friendly reminder to do so before the phase ends next week. Remember that the 'full description' field won't be visible to any of your readers.