‘Healing Leaves’ an exciting new venture we are involved with in Rwanda. It’s both a commercial business venture, backed by the Rwandan Government and is also a large-scale social enterprise.
Healing Leaves grows stevia, a natural sugar-substitute, for export. There is a growing world-wide market for this sugar alternative which has many health benefits including the fact that it can be used by diabetics, it lowers blood pressure and has virtually no calories.
In Rwanda, thousands of hectares of farmland have been sent aside and are being rented from local land owners for the 5 year project. The Government has already terraced the hillsides to prevent soil erosion and is now installing irrigation systems to ensure that the plants can be grown all year around.
In Nyanza, at the plantations where Healing Leaves is operating, the irrigation is already in place. This is one of the factors that makes this venture so profitable as stevia can be harvested 4 times and year. Once the plants are ready for harvesting, the leaves are picked and dried and are then sent for export, currently to a Canadian company which processes them and sells them on. Meanwhile, the cut-down plant grows back in just 3 months and the process begins again.
We believe that it will be possible to grow stevia in other nations too in time, including Burundi, the main focus of our work at the current time. However, there will of course be a need for people who have the right skills, knowledge and expertise to start growing stevia elsewhere.
Hope for Tomorrow is therefore sponsoring two young men from Burundi to do an internship with Healing Leaves. It’s a full time intensive training programme where they are immersed in farm life, living and working alongside the locals, learning how to grow stevia and gaining valuable insights into the management of this enterprise.
If our two interns continue to do well and come back to Burundi at the end of their training as they are planning, they will be invaluable in helping us establish Healing Leaves there too and will be at the very forefront of helping to bring about change in their own nation; passing on skills, empowering others and in time giving opportunities for employment and also of course helping the economy. This is of massive importance, especially in one of the world’s poorest nations.
The profits from the Healing Leaves initiative in Rwanda are already destined to help those in need back in Burundi. Meanwhile, in Rwanda, hundreds are already benefitting from renting out their land and through having the opportunity to also be paid for growing the stevia on it. Farmers have already told us that their lives are changing as they now have funds to send their children to school and access medical care.
The potential impact is phenomenal and we believe it is one of the keys for bringing about transformation far and wide. The stevia leaves not only have health benefits but can play a part in healing communities and even nations, hence the name for this enterprise – Healing Leaves!