From Neglected Crop to Leading Brand: The Inspiring Success Story of Zima Healthy Group

In 2017, a remarkable journey began with a vision to transform overlooked potential into a thriving venture. Zima Healthy Group emerged as a testament to the power of innovation and determination. Founded by Marie Ange Mukagahima, while pursuing her studies in International Economics, the company has since evolved into a symbol of excellence in both food production and cosmetics. This is the story of how one woman’s passion brought about a revolution that has not only rekindled interest in a forgotten vegetable but also created a wave of positive change in Rwanda’s dietary habits and lifestyle.

Marie Ange’s journey began with a simple observation in her community: pumpkins, once revered in Rwandans’ tradition, had lost their place over the years. Armed with knowledge of their undeniable nutritional value, she saw an opportunity to breathe life back into this neglected crop. Thus, the idea for Zima was born.

The turning point arrived in 2017 when Marie Ange entered the Youth Social Innovators Competition organized by Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) Rwanda and funded by Global Affairs Canada. Her prototype pumpkin cake and pumpkin bread caught the judges’ attention, showcasing her innovative approach to utilizing pumpkins. This victory marked the inception of Zima Healthy Group.

From those humble beginnings, Zima Healthy Group has undergone a remarkable evolution. With nearly 100 out-growers in their network, a sophisticated semi-automated production line, and a distribution network spanning over 60 outlets across the nation, the company’s growth has been steady and impressive. What began as a single innovative product has blossomed into a diverse range of offerings, including virgin oils, snacks, and ingredients, all derived from the humble pumpkin seed.

Notably, Zima’s impact extends beyond its product range. The brand has single-handedly revived interest in pumpkin cultivation and processing, forming partnerships with fellow pumpkin producers in East and West Africa. Through strategic initiatives, they have introduced superior seed varieties that yield higher quantities of seeds with greater oil content. The focus on sustainability is evident in their professional and eco-friendly packaging introduced in 2021.

Behind this remarkable success stands a team of 30 dedicated individuals. Guided by a management team of five, Zima’s day-to-day operations are orchestrated seamlessly, from production to finances. The team’s versatility and commitment have been instrumental in the company’s growth trajectory. As advocates of growth and learning, Zima Healthy Group invests in its employees’ career development, creating an environment that fosters skill enhancement and personal growth.

Looking forward, Zima Healthy Group envisions sustained growth and diversification. The company’s dedication to product quality and social impact remains unwavering. Expanding beyond borders is also on the horizon, as Zima aims to grow its export market within Africa and beyond. As an employer of choice in Rwanda, the company remains committed to nurturing its employees, fostering a culture of excellence, and contributing positively to society and the environment.

The success story of Zima Healthy Group is a testament to the potential lying dormant in overlooked resources. Marie Ange Mukagahima’s journey from an idea born out of concern for her community’s well-being to establishing a thriving enterprise is an inspiration to all. Through unwavering dedication, innovation, and a commitment to positive change, Zima Healthy Group has not only transformed its fortunes but also the lives of countless individuals embracing healthier choices and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Click here to see more success stories from our social enterprise program.

Written by Imelda Ishimwe

DOT Rwanda YLAB Member

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