Laureate of the Light University of Bujumbura in Public Health, Kathia Gretta Iradukunda defies unemployment by transforming water hyacinth!

After winning the “Boss Lady Challenge” competition organized by Econet Wireless, Kathia Gretta Iradukunda is valiantly forging her way into entrepreneurship. After setting up her company Hycinth Art House, she is fully involved in the transformation of water hyacinth into various products such as placemats, baskets, desk organizers, vases. Soon she will also start producing chairs and tables.

Kathia Gretta Iradukunda won the Boss Lady Challenge first place. Picture by Econet Wireless

Kathia Gretta Iradukunda had had the idea of ​​starting her own business since 2019.But did not want to reveal it to anyone. She had only told one of her friends about it. In December 2019, when Buja Hub organized the first edition of Women Entrepreneurs Circle, she thought it was a training. But when the session begins and they present what each participant does, she was obliged to reveal her entrepreneurial idea. “I was scared , I who hadn’t started yet. But I dared to share my idea for the first time,” she reveals.

From water hyacinth to entrepreneurial opportunity

Passionate about entrepreneurship, Kathia Gretta used to participate in training sessions about entrepreneurship and leadership when she was still a student in Public Health at the Light University of Bujumbura. This is how she will find herself in a WhatsApp group Burundi Awaken Youth where they shared ideas of entrepreneurship. “One day one of the group members talked about how we can make sanitary napkins from water hyacinth. I was blown away how a harmful plant could really be useful. I started to do research. I couldn’t manage to find anything about sanitary napkins. However, I discovered that we could braid. Suddenly, I started like this”, she tells

Kathia Gretta Iradukunda and her friend looking for hyacinth at the banks of the Lake Tanganyika

In March 2020, Kathia Gretta will be lucky to participate in the Boss Lady Challenge competition organized by Econet Wireless. “I participated in the competition and I won BIF 2,500,000This helped me to create my company “Hyacinth Art House” which focuses on the transformation of water hyacinth. My main objective is to contribute to the protection of rivers and lakes, in particular Lake Tanganyika since the hyacinth is very harmful and proliferating. If we let it multiply without providing solutions, we will wake up when it will be too late,” she says.

Although she got started, Kathia Gretta faced quite a few challenges, especially the lack of local artisans who could weave the hyacinth. “I was even lured twice. I placed an order against payment of an advance but the order was never made. This is how I decided to work in collaboration with well-organized cooperatives”.

Kathia Gretta Iradukunda in WEC Hayanisha organised by Buja Hub. Picture by Buja Hub

And to add: “today I work mainly with a cooperative in Bubanza. But, here too, we come up against the cramped space for drying. Fortunately, I had the support of the environmental activist Albert Mbonerane and the « Cercle Hyppique »committee of Bujumbura who lent me a large space”.

Now, a pride!

At first, it was complicated for Kathia Gretta, but now she says she is proud. “There is a big change. Previously, my business had not yet found its shape and the beauty of the finished products was not there. No salable prototypes had yet been found. But now we are there, ”she rejoices.

Kathia Gretta’s company produces placemats, baskets, desk organizers, vases and soon chairs, tables. Most of its customers are more young people and especially Burundians living abroad. “We also hope to interest hotels, decoration houses, companies, …”, she adds.

Hyacinth Art House products. ARR

Kathia Gretta advises young people, especially girls, to train themselves in entrepreneurship by participating in exchanges to benefit from the experience of others. “In addition, you have to share your idea without being ashamed to express your challenges. That’s how you’re going to find people who can support you. Finally, you have to participate in competitions because it allows you to mature your ideas. Above all, never give up, never get discouraged

The Hyacinth Art House company is located in the riding club of Bujumbura.

For your information

Kathia Gretta Iradukunda in WEC Hayanisha organised by Buja Hub. Picture by Buja Hub

Second child in a family of five children including three girls and two sons, Kathia Gretta Iradukunda was born and grew up in the town of Gitega. She studied at the International School of Gitega before continuing her studies in public health at the Light University of Bujumbura. She was part of the child journalists program of UNICEF Burundi. Among her favorite extracurricular activities were traditional dancing and the choir. She is now an eco-entrepreneur. She is also a social entrepreneur in the field of protection and promotion of children’s rights.