Many people dream of a job. Others create their own job. At the sight of what she calls “cemeteries” of unharvested mangoes lying on the ground in the Bas-Congo region, Gratitude Ntonda Mandiangu decided one day to start her own business. Today she earns a living by turning this unnecessary waste into a resource.

“Passion fruit juice here, mango juice there, the ginger and orange juices at the back. And here the honey and mead used as sweeteners,” says Gratitude.

The sound of clinking glass bottles fills the 25sqm workshop where the young Congolese woman turns surplus fruit into delicious drinks.

“We had to find a way to add value to this readily available raw material,” says the 25-year-old qualified food-processing technician.

Established in 2008, her microenterprise is called Cetrapal, an acronym for the Centre for the Transformation of Local Food Products. Modest start-up funds from the European Union allowed her to purchase necessary equipment for the business.

Today, Miss Gratitude, as she calls herself, employs a score of women from her native Kisantu to clean, cut, crush, sterilize and bottle the fruit.

On her own

At the start, efforts by some to discourage her only strengthened Gratitude’s determination to prove that women can be successful entrepreneurs.

“I pushed forward,” she recalls. Her parents, also employed in agriculture, fully supported the launch of her company. Her mother manages a few fields only a short walk away from Gratitude’s workshop.

Does that mean Cetrapal is a family business? Definitely not.

“She has to succeed on her own,” says her mother. Mixing family and business in this part of the world is a recipe for bankruptcy, she states succinctly.

A plan that makes sense

In the DRC, a lack of vehicles and poor roads make it almost impossible to get most of the fruit to the market on time. So Gratitude’s business plan to convert fresh fruit into less perishable juices makes sense.

(via How a DRC entrepreneur turns mangoes into money | Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

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