By Lisa Osiako
The 1st African Women Agribusiness Network continental conference dubbed #Value4Her kicks off today at the Radisson Blu Hotel, in Nairobi. This is a platform that seeks to discuss the future of African women in agribusiness, and help them derive more income from agri-food markets.
Value4Her targets market access, improving knowledge, skills and networks and global advocacy to address key barriers to women’s empowerment high up in agricultural value chains. The belief is that a critical way to make progress is to empower women to take stronger roles at the business end of the value chain. It is all about recognizing potential and giving it room to grow, and through it engage 100,000 women agri-preneurs in Africa.
This gathering will include women in agribusiness from more than 27 African countries, development partners, public and private sector, business officials, International organizations and government officials.
During the conference, selected women and youth in agribusiness will be sharing their success stories and exhibiting in the various areas of the agricultural sector.
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Agribusiness in Kenya is flourishing and now the youth are being encouraged to venture into the farming business.
When Elizabeth Gikembe, a software developer decided to start up a business in cassava, she had looked at other African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania and even Nigeria, which rely on cassava as their staple food.
It is a gap in the country’s food security industry that she intended to fill and therefore decided to start processing cassava.
Because the crop is regarded as a poor man’s crop, many cassava farmers who grow it do not know the value that the crop holds.
As urban Kenyans become health conscious in their diets, demand in mainstream supermarkets for traditional foods like cassava has increased.
She is processing gluten-free cassava flour and cassava starch targeted to consumers allergic to gluten.
Elizabeth’s business, Mhogo Feeds, has gained access to over 40 farmers from various regions in the country such as Busia, Makueni and Embu, who supply 30 to 40 tons of raw cassava. The dried cassava is processed into 20 to 30 tons of flour which are then distributed to shopping outlets in regions where it is on demand. The company makes a turnover of about Ksh300,000.
Even with the strides Elizabeth and her company have made, there have been challenges. For instance, many of the country’s top supermarkets that have a wider reach ad customer base view Mhogo Foods as a small company. This has made it hard for them to reach potential customers around the country.
According to data by Food and Agricultural Organization, Kenya’s annual cassava fresh root production is estimated at 662,405 tons, against an estimated annual demand of 301,200 tons of dried cassava and 1,204,800 metric tons of fresh roots (one ton of cassava flour is obtained from four tons of fresh cassava roots). That demand gap is what Elizabeth is keen to exploit to the benefit of smallholder cassava farmers in the country.
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With women and the youth continuously seeking inclusivity in various sectors, Value4Her is a great avenue to build and encourage women seeking to join the agricultural sector. You too can attend the conference and get a chance to participate in the project’s activities, including training and the chance to apply for a competitive grant aimed at spurring innovation.
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