As large contributors to agriculture, rural women are critical to addressing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition around the world. According to the United Nations, women account for as much as 64% of agricultural labor in low income countries and, in sub-Saharan Africa, 66% of women’s employment is in agrifood systems. Despite their important role, rural women in Kenya are adversely disadvantaged when it comes to accessing essential resources including land ownership, financial capital, and digital technology. They also disproportionately encounter barriers at the household level and within markets that prevent them from improving their productivity and growth. This is compounded by economic and environmental events such as the global pandemic, food price fluctuations, and the adverse effects of climate change.
Long considered a domestic chore, women are overwhelmingly responsible for postharvest processing in particular. Because of this, there is a lack of investment in mechanization and support. This means much of the work is still done manually which is time consuming and extremely laborious, leading to high levels of food loss, physical pain, and exhaustion.
Bountifield’s She Feeds Africa Initiative
Bountifield is working to create postharvest solutions for women and youth in agriculture to overcome these challenges. With support from Zinpro Corporation and Anderson Foundation, Bountifield launched the “She Feeds Africa” to create a network of women-owned postharvest businesses to make mechanized processing equipment accessible to rural women farmers. Over the past few months, we partnered with Cereal Growers Association (CGA) to identify and onboard 10 new women entrepreneurs and, in September, these women and their operators underwent a bootcamp training where they were taught the essentials of running a profitable postharvest processing business. Topics covered during the training include:
- Business planning and strategy
- Digital marketing
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Financial management
- Equipment mechanics, maintenance, and safety
As part of the training, Bountifield invited top performing entrepreneurs to share their story. Newly onboarded entrepreneurs expressed how encouraging it was to hear the stories of how postharvest processing businesses can transform entire communities.
By the end of the bootcamp, the entrepreneurs were energized and ready to grow their own businesses. Elder, one of the bootcamp participants and owner of Ikondokhera Farmers Centre, shared what she is looking forward to as an entrepreneur in Bountifield’s “She Feeds Africa” initiative. “My hope is to reach more farmers and help ease their work through my services,” said Elder. “I will earn money that I will use to pay off my loan, increase my wealth and improve my life and that of my neighbors.”
Women Lead the Way
Increasing Revenue and Household Income
Since the training, two women are already demonstrating great success. Janet, owner of Janasi Farmers Service Centre, is from Kakamega County where she farms maize, beans, and sweet potatoes and runs a Farmer Service Center under the CGA Farm to Market alliance program. Within this role, Janet acts as the gateway between farmers in her region and essential agricultural production input products and market services. She has now integrated mechanized postharvest services among her many other offerings that she provides to her farmer clients.
In just one month, Janet has processed over 1,180 bags of maize, an estimated 106,200 Kg, making her one of the fastest earning entrepreneurs in the Bountifield Kenya network. Within the first month of operation, she is almost able to pay off her equipment loan. “I have been able to clear my children’s school fees and improve my household cash-flow through the proceeds from my shelling business,” said Janet. “And, I plan to acquire a motorbike as well as fully stocking my agro-vet shop by the end of the year through the proceeds from my business.”
Fulfilling Contracts with Crop Aggregation
Grace, owner of Kessy Discount Shop, is another newly onboarded entrepreneur. Hailing from Bungoma County, Grace is a mother, a businesswoman, and a smallholder farmer. Besides her day job running a Farmer Service Center, Grace operates a retail shop, an M-PESA outlet (Kenya’s national mobile money transfer service), an inputs store, and she farms sugarcane, maize, beans, and indigenous poultry.
Like Janet, Grace has leveraged her long-standing relationships with farmers in her region to integrate her newly established postharvest services into her line of agricultural support offerings. Since receiving her machine in September, Grace has shelled over 600 bags of maize, an estimated 54,000 Kg. With this new business, Grace acquired a contract with two local schools to supply maize this term. So far, she has been able to utilize her proceeds from her maize shelling business to purchase additional supplies needed to fulfill her new contracts.
With the maize harvest season coming to an end in her area, Grace plans to move her sheller to the Mount Elgon region to serve farmers who have just begun harvesting.
Investing in Rural African Women
The stories of Janet and Grace highlight not only the immense potential of mechanized postharvest processing businesses, especially among rural communities in Kenya, but also the resourcefulness, ambition, and potential of women entrepreneurs. With the right tools and resources, women leaders are poised to improve food security throughout the country.
On this International Day of Rural Women and World Food Day, we celebrate the women who are feeding Africa and transforming food systems for the betterment of their communities and the world. Thank you to Zinpro Corporation and Anderson Foundation, as well as our partnership with CGA in Kenya for making this work possible.
Support women like Janet, Grace, and Elder with a gift today.