It is a well-known fact that women are the backbone of their communities and also play a key role in the economies of their countries. One woman who shares this sentiment is 52- year old Mmakgabatso Shale who has turned her company Eternity Foods into a community wealth-building model to empower other women.
After attending a 4-day Food Innovation and Co-creation Workshop - a partner facilitated training by PK Consulting in partnership with University of Eastern Finland in 2017 and funded by BioFISA II, aimed at training participants in food innovation and product development, Shale said she “came back as an empowered woman ready to conquer the world”.
Eternity Foods was established in 2008 after Shale took a trip to Botswana from where she came back inspired after seeing women entrepreneurs making big strides in their respective communities.
The empowerment of women as powerful agents of change is indeed said to be some of the many ways to strengthen their communities in the face of social challenges.
According to PK Consulting trainer and TUT Professor David Katerere, it is for such reasons that the workshop aimed to develop products from indigenous resources and create new markets for them.
“Often entrepreneurs lack basic business and scientific awareness as well as connections with food manufactures, it is therefore important to empower them information which will enable them to start thinking innovatively about food and food products,” he said.
Shale’s company has in recent years become a beacon of hope for the Ha-Abia village in Maseru. According to Shale, the company supplies its products to school feeding programs, correctional services and the Lesotho Ministry of Social Development.
Eternity Foods produces and supplies soups, spices, instant porridge and sorghum juice made from indigenous plants and crops in and around Lesotho and South Africa.
With no formal or post university education, Shale said she owes her knowledge to her grandmother who taught her to the basic skills of making powdered soups and sorghum porridge.
“Growing up in a disadvantaged community I couldn’t further my studies, but that did not stop me from going after my dreams. I have always been a person who strives for personal and community development and seeing how some young women and girls give their lives to prostitution all in search of better opportunities, I was more determined to pursue entrepreneurship,” said Shale.
Today Eternity Foods has created full-time employment for 5 young people and has further empowered small scale farmers who supply them with vegetables and sorghum crops.
“I believe in the philosophy of shared wealth, that my success is my community’s success, and it is for this reason that I continue to encourage and support women in my community to plant vegetables and teach them how to process them into soups,” she said.
Furthermore, Shale believes her success story would not have been possible without attending the workshop and continued support of Prof Katerere.
“Before attending the workshop, I did not know how to take correct measurements of the ingredients and most importantly my products did not have labelling. It was only through Prof Katerere and his team that the University of Naples Federico II in Italy was able to test the nutritional benefits of my products,” Shale added.
Hosted at the Innovation Hub, the Food Innovation and Co-creation Workshop was attended by 18 women entrepreneurs from different SADC countries , and according to Prof Katerere, Shale – who was the least educated participant – has proved that, “high literacy does not equate successful entrepreneurship.”
“She is indeed the success story of the workshop and we look forward to hosting such programmes in the near future,” Prof Katerere concluded.