How Africa Harvest helped connect 2,000 farmers to regional markets
"Start where you are, with what you have, but don’t stay in one place: that was Beatrice Nkatha’s advice to a group of young women who found themselves in a cul-de-sac.
Starting out as a tailor, Beatrice is now a regional businesswoman, trading in sorghum between Kenya and Tanzania.
“I had no money and no experience when I started,” she says. “But I was determined. At no time did I think it would not work”. Her story is one of tenacity. When tailoring failed to give her adequate returns, she started selling grain using “goro goros” (2kg tin cans) to make ends meet.
Later, she joined a group of women who were buying cereals in bulk to sell them in Meru. Soon, she became a trustee, managing and maintaining a rented wholesale outlet. Determined to turn it around, she began leasing land and farming to increase her earnings. In three years, she accumulated enough money to start investing. That’s when her involvement with Africa Harvest started.
“It was like a link from heaven” when Africa Harvest, a foundation focusing on farming and biotechnology, introduced commercial sorghum production in tharaka in 2009, she says. Today, Africa Harvest works with UNDP’s African Facility for Inclusive Markets (AFIM). Beatrice already considered herself successful, but she says the involvement of UNDP made a huge difference.
Beatrice also works with the East African Breweries Limited (EABL), East Africa's leading branded alcohol beverage business. “I later became a full agent for EABL, working closely with Africa Harvest, which was supporting farmers with agronomy and seeds”.
In 2011-2012, she helped deliver 1,450 metric tonnes of sorghum to EABL. “I believe sorghum has truly changed the lives of farmers, as they are now able to pay school fees,” she says. “Buildings have popped up in the area and the youth have embraced farming, having tasted good money from the sale of sorghum. If you look around, many have bought boda-bodas (motorcycles) and have branded sorghum on them,” she says, with a smile on her face.
Beatrice is among the five "aggregators" (people who do brokering, marketing and distribution) working as part of UNDP's regional sorghum project, which operates in Kenya and Tanzania. The project works to bolster food security and business development among 2,000 smallholder farmers and 10 micro and small enterprises in Kenya and Tanzania.
Africa Harvest is the project’s implementing partner. The two partners have refined the aggregator model, a platform upon which future interventions will accelerate commercialization and trade in sorghum.
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