Building a Sustainable Macadamia Nut Market in Rwanda

After years of upheaval in the 1990s, millions of Rwanda’s people living in rural areas suffered from poverty and food insecurity. 78% of the country’s forests disappeared as the country worked to resettle refugees and rebuild infrastructure. To restore both the land and economic opportunity for rural communities, entrepreneur Norce Elysee Gatarayiha founded Norelga Macadamia.

Norelga Macadamia was the first business to introduce the highly profitable nutritious macadamia nut, which grows on trees, to Rwanda. By training farmers to care for macadamia trees, building local centers to efficiently collect nuts, and using zero-waste machinery at its central processing facility in Kigali, Norelga Macadamia can quickly provide high-quality nuts that can satisfy demand from both average consumers and industry.

The company has grown tremendously since its humble beginnings in 2005 – a group of 50 farmers and 5,000 total seedlings – to over 500 farmers and 4,000 seedlings per year in 2019. Norelga Macadamia’s main product line consists of macadamia nuts, oil, and butter, but it also harvests peanuts to produce peanut flour and butter and produces sunflower oil, bread, and raw sugar cane juice. In total, it has conserved 41 hectares of land and planted over 13,000 trees since its founding. The company's use of intercropping practices helps preserve biodiversity, and reforestation plays a key role in preventing devastating landslides and flooding.

Local supermarket chains, hotels, and Rwanda’s national Rwandair airline are major customers of Norelga Macadamia. It also exports its high-quality products to African and international markets like Kenya, Japan, and Turkey. The company generated $100,000 of revenue in 2020 and anticipates further growth after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

As the business expands, Norelga Macadamia continues to prioritize efficiency, service to the local community, and expansion into additional markets. A $200,000 loan would allow the company to increase their processing capacity to 250 metric tons per year with new machinery, establish a new seed nursery and four local collection centers, and hire a team of agronomists to train local farmers in better growing and harvesting methods. With this investment, Norelga will work directly with 1,000 farmers, boosting each outgrower’s income from $630 to $790 per year.

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Norce Elysee Gatarayiha, Founder, Norelga Macadamia,