In most developing countries junk and fast foods are quite costly, which means they are often eaten by the well to do. And as more Rwandans earn higher incomes, healthy eating is reducing.
Gabriella Nandi and Ornella Bisamaza have decided to push healthier lifestyles. Nandi is a 26-year-old physiotherapist and founder of Rwanda’s first health hub, while Bisamaza is a 24 year-old founder and CEO of Eat Green, a trading and delivery company of greens that operates in Kigali.
Nandi offers body massages, gym services, dietary advice among other things at her health hub located in Gikondo, Kigali. Helping people lead healthy lives has always been her passion since she was young. However, she is shocked at the high number of young people coming to her hub for help. People as young as 28 are coming to her with postural and dietary issues.
“More people are shifting to jobs that require sitting for longer hours, they also drive everywhere instead of walking and eat more processed, fast foods. This lifestyle is attached to the idea of being rich. Cases of non-communicable diseases are absurd in Rwanda. The more people I meet at The Health Hub the more concerned I get,” Nandi said.
She plans to expand her business to reach more people while making her services as affordable as possible. She is aware that a big number of people with health problems such as diabetes and heart problems aren't able to pay for her services.
Currently, the cost of business and lack of incentives do not allow her to lower prices. Health care supplies such as gym equipment can only be imported. While the government has reduced taxes on technology and green energy supplies, it is still a challenge to set up health-related businesses.
For Bisamaza, the cost is not a barrier to healthy eating because Kigali residents have easy access to fresh foods.
“A more concerning issue is that few people understand what healthy eating is. It is a popular assumption that eating vegetables, for instance, is always healthy. But they don’t understand that it starts with how the food is grown, packaged, cooked, served and eaten,” Bisamaza said.
At Eat Green, Bisamaza, along with her team of six women, have made it their mission to make vegetables, and other naturally grown food as accessible to Kigalians as possible. They make sure they work with farmers from early processes of agriculture, packaging and transporting. Eat Green delivers fresh products to 16 restaurants in Kigali and the Central African Republic.
Bisamaza plans to expand Eat Green to a healthy eating hub where people will be educated about healthy food preparation and using food as medicine.
She quit her previous job in real estate to focus on her business. Despite the uncertainty her mission is to empower small-scale farmers.
Non communicable diseases are already on the rise in Rwanda and very soon health will be everyone's concern. Nandi and Bisamaza both hope that education about healthy living and incentivising health businesses would be one way to save lives.