About Us — History/Background
During Rwanda’s colonial period, Belgian farmers supervised the growing and distillation of geranium plants in various areas of the country. Following independence in 1962, geranium fields were converted to grow other crops, and distillation equipment fell into disrepair. Several small-scale efforts to revive the geranium industry occurred prior to the war and genocide in 1994 but failed to achieve commercialization.
In 2002, Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP) performed product and market assessments for agricultural products in Rwanda. ASNAPP recommended essential oils, particularly geranium and eucalyptus, as attractive agribusiness opportunities. Shortly thereafter, a joint project between ASNAPP and World Relief Rwanda (WRR) was established to study the viability of commercializing geranium oil. Initial funding for the pilot project was provided by USAID.
Following successful completion of the ASNAPP/WRR project, Ikirezi was founded as a community-interest company in August 2005. The project’s major accomplishments include:
- Sourcing of South African Bourbon-type geranium
- Mobilization of 100 farmers into two associations, and successful training to grow and cultivate healthy geranium plants
- Construction of two 200-kilogram capacity distillation units to produce international quality oil
- ECOCERT organic certification for land and facilities
- Establishment of a network of domestic and international partners with technical expertise in essential oils
After three full years of production, Ikirezi now works with four cooperatives at four different sites in Rwanda. More than 500 farmers are employed by Ikirezi. ECOCERT certification has been achieved every year and more 500 kg geranium oil has been produced. Distillation units of 250 kg capacity are in use at our sites in Kiyombe and Gasabo and a new modern distillation unit with a capacity of 600 kg has recently been established at the Gahara site.