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Getting women in the driver’s seat of Africa’s agribusiness revolution

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Monica Musonda, CEO Java Foods shares a joke with colleague as they package Supa Cereal Bags (Photo: AfDB)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, November 25, 2019- Monica Musonda, CEO of Zambian food processing company Java Foods,  certainly faced hurdles in her rise to the top, but she overcame them.

“Although the barriers to entry for women can be frustrating, they are often basic and relatively easy to resolve,” she said, playing down her struggles. “My climb up the agribusiness ladder has been challenging but definitely worthwhile.”

Musonda, whose company produces affordable and nutritious food snacks made from local ingredients, is one of just a handful of female agripreneurs who have successfully broken through the proverbial glass ceiling in Africa’s agribusiness industry.

Women are the backbone of Africa’s agricultural sector. From farm to fork, African women are players along the entire agricultural value chain, be it as farmers, livestock breeders, processors, traders, workers, entrepreneurs or consumers. While their influence on the continent’s growing agribusiness industry is undeniable, more solutions are needed to address the gender-specific challenges they face to boost their participation.

The average African woman is a budding entrepreneur either by choice or by circumstance. According to the  Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report 2016/17, the continent has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs in the world, with one in four women starting or managing a business. The agribusiness industry is often the natural focus of this entrepreneurial drive.

Across the continent, women dominate as primary processors post-harvest, as traders with bustling market stalls, as owners of fast food restaurants and with increasingly frequency as manufacturers of packaged ready-to-eat food products. Yet despite this dynamism, female-led agribusinesses tend to remain small, fragmented and informal in nature. They struggle to sustain and scale-up their agribusinesses into well-organized profitable enterprises.

Admittedly, the challenging business environment in many African countries including poor infrastructure and unreliable legal and regulatory systems affects all business activities of both men and women. However, in addition women-led businesses must also grapple with a number of gender-specific constraints, inhibiting their expansion into more lucrative market segments.

Firstly, African women often lack the technical know-how.  Despite the gains in female education on the continent, highly productive agribusinesses require specialized vocational and technical skills in fields such as food safety, food conservation, packaging and product certification which many African women do not readily possess.

Access to finance is the most frequently cited obstacle by African SMEs. Women entrepreneurs face multiple difficulties in securing funding mainly due to lack of collateral in the form of land and other tangible assets and a high-risk perception. According to the African Development Bank, an estimated $42 billion financing gap exists for African women across business value chains, including $15.6 billion in agriculture alone. Women are forced to rely on personal savings and family loans which are rarely enough to fund their businesses to scale.

Thirdly, socio-cultural barriers and stereotypes persist. African women remain the primary caregivers in families meaning that managing those responsibilities while growing a thriving business can become a difficult balancing act.

Over the last two decades, many governments and development institutions have rolled out programs to promote access to finance, agricultural inputs and provide technical support and business training to female agripreneurs. The African Development Bank recently set up the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), a bold pan-African initiative to bridge the financing gap facing women. It adopts a three-pronged approach centered on improving access to finance, providing technical assistance and strengthening the enabling environment.

It often takes very little to make a difference. The capital injection required by the majority of female led SME agribusinesses on the continent is typically less than $50,000. And women have consistently proven to be more credit-worthy than men, usually paying back loans within agreed timeframes. Successful solutions by women for women such as microfinance and saving groups, peer-to-peer training and information sharing should also be reinforced and taken to scale.

More of such initiatives are urgently needed across the continent. Solutions must be based on in-depth engagement with the women business owners themselves to properly understand their frustrations and needs. Tailored programs designed to specifically address these pain points are critical. The Global Gender Summit is a timely opportunity to drive this forward.

Women are central for Africa’s agricultural transformation to be successful, sustainable and inclusive. More African female agripreneurs must be supported to grow and progressively transition into the business segments of agricultural value chains which are most profitable. It has been proven time and time again that when African women thrive the entire society shares in those dividends.

Also Read: Meet Sivi Malukisa, The Congolese Entrepreneur Whose Food Startup Is Promoting DRC Cuisine

By: Mariam Yinusa and Edward Mabaya are Principal Economist and Manager, respectively, in the Agribusiness Development Division of the African Development Bank.

African Development Bank Group (AfDB)

Agriculture

Important Food Habits You Should Adapt This Year

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food production

It’s a new year and while you’re writing up your new year resolutions, we hope “contributing to food security” is one of them. If it isn’t, there’s still time to add it.

One of the biggest threat to food security is Food loss and waste (FLW). According to the FAO, approximately one-third of all produced foods (1.3 billion tons of edible food) for human consumption is lost and wasted every year across the entire supply chain. When food is wasted, the resources such as water and nutrients which were used to produce that food, are also wasted.

With numbers that high, it might seem like adapting the food habits which will be discussed later in this post will not solve affect anything. However, if we all make our own little efforts from our various homes, the results might surprise us.

Shop Smart: Have you ever found an old banana you bought rotting out in the fridge because you bought it and forgot about it? Probably. 

Shopping is not easy. Sometimes we end up buying and forgetting about the existence of what we bought, sometimes we end up buying more than we need, or sometimes we don’t buy enough. To be a smarter shopper, it is important to not only make a shopping list, but to stick to it. This will help reduce impulse buying which could lead to food waste.

Shopping smart also means knowledge of that buying in bulk may not always be smart. You might be certain of what you will eat next Monday but by next Monday, someone takes you out for a meal and what happens to the food produce you bought ahead of Monday? It could go to waste.

The reality of life is that plans change and purchasing food items against the unforeseeable future could lead to waste. You could easily see an advert for a nice meal which could cause you to change your plans to cook dinner. What happens to the food produce you had already bought? It could go to waste. 

Also Read: Building Sustainable and Profitable Enterprises: An Interview with David Owumi, Founder of VisionCTRL Africa

A study conducted by Victoria Ligon of the University of Arizona to understand how people acquire, prepare, consume, and discard food. She tracked shopping and food preparation patterns and her results confirmed that bulk-buying too often leads to food waste.

“To me, the big-picture finding is that while this meal planning helps us psychologically feel less stressed about all of the home tasks we have to manage, it is not easy to execute. In the end, it results in inefficiency and waste because food is perishable.”

  • Victoria Ligon.

She also explained that the rapid increase of fast food has created more food options. This has caused people to change meal plans without notice. This could cause the previous meal plan to go to waste if products had already been purchased for it.

These are some key points you should take into consideration when shopping so you can make smarter decisions.

Pay Attention to Expiry Dates: You might feel justified throwing out food because it is expired.  However, this doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to wait till the food expires before you take action.

Another reason why buying in bulk should be discouraged is because we are humans and sometimes, we forget. Purchasing canned food in bulk can also lead to expiration and eventual wastage.

One of the ways of curbing this is by creating a “last in, first out” system in your refrigerator. This means that the last thing you put in should be the first thing out. That way, nothing overstays its welcome in the fridge. You should also use this system for expiry dates. The foods closest to their expiration should be used up before the ones whose expiration is still far off.

Which of the above listed habit will you be adapting? Let’s know in the comments section below.

By: Uduak Ekong of Farmcrowdy

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Agriculture

Elnefeidi Group Secures African Development Bank $60 million loan To Boost Agriculture

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The African Development Bank’s Board of Directors has approved a $60m loan to Elnefeidi Group Holding Company to help finance its long-term agriculture and food expansion programme.

The planned expansion includes increasing agricultural productivity, enhancing related infrastructure, food processing and distribution. It will directly contribute in developing Sudan’s livestock value chain (poultry and beef) by increasing the country’s export capacity for value-added livestock products. This will help reduce the economic value that the country loses by exporting millions of live animals each year.

Also Read: Interview With Deborah Ogwuche, Founder Of Food Channel Africa

“Agricultural transformation is one of the Bank’s top five strategic priorities and the Bank is delighted to have identified a viable private sector actor like Elnefeidi Group which has a proven track record and through which we can channel the Bank’s support” said Atsuko Toda, African Development Bank Director for Agriculture Finance and Rural Development.

The loan is expected to contribute significantly to food security, food import substitution, and household incomes by creating jobs and increasing local productivity and distribution by over half a million metric tonnes each year across several countries. Elnefeidi Group employs over 1,842 people and has distribution networks covering North, East and Central Africa.

 “This approval to Elnefeidi Group is another demonstration of the African Development Bank’s continued support and strong commitment to enable, deepen, and empower the private sector in Sudan, as an engine of economic and inclusive growth,” said Raubil Durowoju, the Bank’s Country Manager for Sudan. “This is also consistent with Sudan’s National Agriculture Investment Plan, which seeks to achieve agriculture-linked growth, largely through private investments.”

Sudan is widely considered to hold immense food production potential. Sixty-three percent of its land area is classified as agricultural, and its competitive advantages include: a promising demographic profile, projected growth in household food demand, and proximity to a range of markets in Central Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, many of them food-deficit countries.

African Development Bank

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Agriculture

Letter to a Farmer

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Wheat Farmer (shutterstock)

Dear Farmer,

You are my hero. You might think your life is mundane, perhaps even redundant, however for millions like me on the outside looking in, you are extraordinary.

For many of us who are not farmers, we drive past your swaying fields and hum about spacious skies and kernels of corn.

You till the soil from morning till night. Waking up every day to ensure the labour of your hands is coming to fruition. You are the epitome of hard work and determination and although that may sound cliche, it is true.

Farmer, you are indeed wonderful. You plant seeds in the soil and watch them grow. You help to build nations and communities both at home and abroad.

Although policies remain in place to stifle your trade or limit the way you import and export goods, you stay committed to your trade and it’s robust returns.  

For the days, months and years that you toil, for the food you give and for the way you inspire millions around the world, I say thank you. 

Please don’t let anyone tell your story, especially those who have no idea what it’s like to produce their best work.

If many of us could work from dusk to dawn, then receive one-fourth of the money that the crop was worth only a year ago, we would not last in our professions.

I doubt most of us would stay in our trades if we received one-fourth pay for our best efforts. 

Thank you for your dedication and contribution to society. Thank you for making the world a better place. Your commitment needs to be emulated by many.

Hopefully, you would pass the torch of your excellence to the younger generation and give them a chance to fill the fields with robust crops and produce.

Your work reminds us that farming is indeed the essential work that needs to be done. 

Sincerely,

A loyal consumer. 

Also Read: Interview With Deborah Ogwuche, Founder Of Food Channel Africa

By Sughnen Yongo


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