TEF Alumni 2015
This is My Story
My sister and I were raised by my grandparents in a small family in the Serenje district of Zambia. My mother had passed away when I was barely 5 years old and my sister and I did not get along with my stepmother. We were sent off to live with our grandparents who were smallholder farmers surviving on the proceeds from their small farm. We ate most of the farm produced and sold the little left for some cash to take care of other needs.
After my Secondary education, I worked as a teacher in a school close to my home for one year, then served as a train examiner with a train maintenance company for another year to raise funds for my higher education. When I proceeded to study for my accounting degree, I continued working in the accounts department of the railway company. Upon my graduation, I took on accounting and audit roles for a few other companies until 2011 when I left paid employment.
How it Started
As a Zambian, I had seen unrest, economic downturn and food shortages ravage a neighboring country. A country that once had a high concentration of profitable farms as one of Africa’s biggest exporter of agricultural products, was now dependent on foreign aid to feed its population. I knew I had to act.
I decided to tap into my experiences with smallholder farmers by creating Muchinga General Enterprises Ltd. My agribusiness aims to alleviate some of the challenges that smallholder farmers experience by providing quality seeds, irrigation solutions and ensuring a readily available market for the cereal and legume crops grown by the farmers in this district.
In addition to addressing the issue of food shortages for our fast-growing population, it also helps prevent further damage to the environment as these farmers mostly result to cutting down trees for charcoal to substitute their income.
I sold my plot of land to raise the initial capital required to start my business. This small capital, helped me buy some seeds and construct a small office in the rural area, fitted with solar power for office equipment. However, the funds were not enough to make any real impact within such an impoverished region.
Then I got lucky
On one of my trips from Muchinga to the township, I stumbled on an advert calling for applications into the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme and I applied. I was fortunate to be one of the 1000 entrepreneurs selected into the first cycle of the programme in 2015.
I went through the 12-week training, developed my business plan with the help of my assigned mentor, and I was awarded the non-refundable seed capital of $5000.
The capital received from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, helped us create our irrigation system using solar water pumps. We purchased a sales outlet in Kabwe town in the central province, a motorcycle to mobilise smallholder farmers in Mafinga and lots of common beans seeds for the farmers.
Over time, we had Milestones
In April 2017, I was one of the 25 entrepreneurs selected from Central and Southern African Countries for innovations addressing gender issues within the agribusiness space by the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD).
In December 2017, I was one of the 10 entrepreneurs chosen from 2000 applicants in Africa and sponsored by Tony Elumelu Foundation and COMESA to attend the Africa 2017 Business Forum in Egypt.
In December 2017, I was selected by Thought for Food (TFF) as 2018 Thought for Food Ambassador because of my passion and unique innovation to feed over nine billion people by 2050.
Still experiencing the Impact
The Tony Elumelu Foundation has changed my life as an individual but even more than that, its impact extends to the rural smallholder farmers and the entire community of Mafinga district, Muchinga.
One of our smallholder farmers from whom we purchased common beans in 2016 used the money to construct small houses which he rents to teachers at the nearby school so that children could have access to education, another one bought a hammer mill so that women would not have to travel long distances to grind their maize, while a third farmer built a house with iron sheets so that he doesn’t have to look for grass every year to re-thatch his home.
For the Future
We need to get the smallholder farmers to extend their production cycle beyond the rainy season to increase production and discourage deforestation for charcoal as a source of income in the dry season. This requires further investment in irrigation systems, and we are seeking partners for this.
In closing, I have learnt some interesting lessons and I hope that they can help someone.
- Don’t be afraid to start something new.
- While you might not have a lot of money, there’s always something in your hands that can help you get started.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Don’t give up!
Our Contact Details
Address: Muchinga General Enterprises Limited. Along Muyombe Road, Thendele Mafinga District Muchinga Province Zambia.