Women entrepreneurs empowered through beans – Christella, Tei, Sheila

Sheila Alumo, East Africa Development Company, Uganda

Sheila Alumo is the Managing Director of the Eastern Agricultural Development Company Ltd (EADCL) in Soroti town of Eastern Uganda. She is passionate about investing in affordable and yet nutritious products. A lawyer by training, Sheila found her passion in social entrepreneurship. She worked the city life and decided she had had enough of it. She wanted to work with rural populations, to contribute to their livelihood improvements, in particular improve nutrition. She chose to start a factory in her home in eastern Uganda, where she was born. She chose to invest in nutrient-rich products only, and her crops of choice were high iron beans, that had recently been released by National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in partnership with PABRA in Uganda in 2018 and orange flesh sweet potatoes that are rich in vitamin A. She aims is to process nutrient-rich flour combining both bean and sweet potatoes flours.

Through its agricultural business, EADCL is pursuing improved socio-economic and human development of rural smallholder farmers who are the growers of its products. The company has a network of 3,117 farmers, 40% of whom are women, from Bugisu, Karamoja and Teso regions of Uganda covering five districts that feed into its production supply chain. She says she is in the business of supporting farmers and trading in nutritious products to reduce the plight of Uganda’s malnutrition deficiencies.  Sheila decided to collaborate with bean program at NARO when she learned of the newly released high iron sugar bean in Uganda in early 2019. She started off with 2.2 tons of the seed of the variety and worked with producers.

Though the company is actively working with 1800 producers, it intends to grow the numbers to 3000 by the end of 2020 and sees itself working with more than 8000 producers in the medium term. In fact, to make it easier to work with the bean and potato producers, Sheila has introduced the use of a digital payment system in collaboration with MasterCard and PABRA to make it easier to buy from and pay the producers. The trial with the platform was quite successful, she will have it in her operation model especially to promote trade and financial inclusion of her women farmers.

Sheila has entered into an agreement with more than 20 producer cooperatives in eastern Uganda, to raise volumes of bean produce and ensure enough quantities for processing and enough to export and sell.

She sees herself contributing substantially to the development of a bean corridor in eastern Uganda; a region she feels has not been well attended to.

In the future, Sheila wants to expand her investment beyond bean flour to other bean-based products. She intends to go into precooked bean processing, value addition to hitherto low value-added beans is what will create the most value for her and those she works with, she says.

Christella Ndayishimiye, Totahara Ltd, Bean processor, Burundi

Christella Ndayishimiye is the proprietor of Totahara, one of the premier bean product processors in Burundi. Christella has collaborated with both the national research organization, Institut des   Sciences   Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU), and PABRA for the last ten years and she is convinced that bean is good business and is good nutrition for families.

Some of the Totahara bean porridge flour on display

Christella began her business as a cottage industry working from her backyard and using open firewood to roast her beans and tarpaulins to dry the materials in Bujumbura. By consistently reinvesting in her business, her growth has been exponential. She has upgraded her facilities better technologies with support from PABRA to develop and distribute bean-based products suitable for children and women thus contributing to addressing income and nutrition concerns. At the moment, her processing is almost semi-automated with on-going investments in place.  Her firm has seen volumes grow from one ton per month in the initial stages to more than 10 tons per month. She is still aiming higher. She is working with 12 employees at the factory. With this expansion, it only means that the demand for her products is growing. She has also supported five other bean flour processors in the country and they are thriving. Recently she has started exporting the bean products to Congo, DRC. Totahara is contributing to an emerging bean value-added industry in Burundi, with affordable nutrient-rich products. Christella sees herself as an investor in beans, a niche she has consistently invested in for more than 10 years and sees herself growing further in the future, to be able to supply products to neighboring countries as well.

Tei Mukunya, Toto and Jamii Tosha, – Azuri Health Ltd, Kenya

Azuri bean-based porridge flour for children and the entire family

When one hears Azuri, a Swahili word, something good comes to mind. Azuri literally means good, fine, and that is what motivates Tei, to make good food products that are nutritious and healthy. for the entire household. Tei’s passion as an entrepreneur in the last eight years has been key in establishing Azuri Health Ltd, spearheading its successful growth and development. She is inspired by good health and nutrition judging by the choice of products on her company’s portfolio. Nutrition through commercialized foods is a new angle, to cover the entire family’s needs, from little children to adults. She uses highly nutritious ingredients in her products such as common bean, amaranth, and orange-fleshed sweet potato. In her range of products are healthy also dried fruit snacks.

Azuri Health Ltd’s processing unit is in Thika town in Kenya. For Tei, innovation is her hobby, driving everything she does to ensure that families get value from the foods they consume. Collaboration to include common bean has produced more affordable but highly nutritious bean-based porridge for the urban and rural population.

Azuri bean-based porridge flour for children and the entire family.

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