Agenda: Empowering women entrepreneurs in agricultural value chains for rural livelihood transformation
Zuhura Abdul Mpinga is a sunflower processor under the micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) category in Wanging’ombe village in Njombe region, in southern Tanzania. She started sunflower oil trading in 2012 and currently owns a small sunflower processing machine in her community. She is a mother of three and her entire family is involved in the business.
In 2017, Zuhura started engaging with a private sector actor which helps farmers and entrepreneurs to develop their businesses through an intervention facilitated by Agricultural Markets Development Trust (AMDT), with operations in Iringa and Njombe regions. When the project noticed Zuhura, it was only three months since she had installed her processing equipment and the facility was not well organised nor was she following good manufacturing practices.
She was guided on how to set up her processing plant and organize storage space in a way that will enable her to observe the required hygiene standards. She then witnessed growth and business improvement in her operations. Her business was properly registered and she added products identity, logo and labels. Her products brand is Heshima ya Mama, Swahili for Mother’s Honor.
Labeling her products has led to increased sales because of the brand name. People like the message on her label as it carries a good message. It fits to be presented to a woman as a gift.
Growth through contract farming
Zuhura has gained a wealth of knowledge from the agribusiness training she received on sunflower farming. She knows how to properly run a small processing plant and sell her products. She has been empowered and her self-confidence has grown so much that she can now speak in public without fear.
In the past, she would shy away from tax and regulatory authorities’ inspectors and lock up her store whenever she saw their vehicles. However, now she faces and engaes them with conviction. Her awareness on contractual agreements increased. She also discovered the secret to productivity lies in using quality seeds. She has never looked back. Currently, she has contractual arrangement with Twilimba Farmers Group where she accesses more raw materials. Within their agreement, she supplies group members with farm inputs enough for an acre.
Initially, Zuhura had one small oil processing machine operating in a small room with another small room for storage. Today, she has two processing machines, with a total daily milling capacity of four 94) tons of sunflower seeds operating in one big room. She has started building another bigger storage facility near her processing plant. She believes that her business will expand and so as a backup plan she has bought a nearby piece of land to relocate her processing plant in future.
Zuhura acknowleldges that capacity development she received from private sector actors and other value chain stakeholders have helped her to grow her business, increase her revenue, and improve the welfare of her family. She wishes more women would access that resource.
Apart from sunflower oil processing, she also owns a flour mill that produces fresh maize meals and supply in her community and to wholeselers as far as in Makambako town.
Growing despite challenges
Zuhura’s current main headache is insufficient space for the storage of raw materials and finished products. She allows her customers (farmers) to use her storage space at no cost if they process their produce at her facility. However, during high season, Zuhura no capacity to store all her customers’ produce and process it unless she expands her storage and processing facility.
When she processes oil for her customers, she is assured of the availability of raw materials and sunflower cakes, mashudu, which she retains as an additional benefit from the service she offers her customers. These are used to produce animal feeds, another range of products in her agribusiness.
Another challahneg she and her peers face is the lack of access to financing to establish and grow sustainable agribusinesses. Farmers need help in obtaining funds from financial institutions to enable them to improve their farming practices for more efficiency. This include purahcsing machinery such as tractors and other farm implements.