As the African proverb says, “you empower a woman, you empower a nation”. Taking this powerful thought forward, the 2nd season of the FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme aims to trigger the possibility of empowering a generation by empowering the women.
Despite statistical rates of women remaining under-represented in business, this season’s FemBioBiz attracted more than 30 social entrepreneurs who all echoed the same sentiments, to be the drivers of change and make a difference in their communities.
Social entrepreneurship is a technique utilised by new businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups to develop and launch solutions that address specific environmental, cultural, or social concerns.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 12 percent of the global population are undernourished in terms of dietary energy supply.
However, traditional and indigenous food resources constitute the bedrock of the diversity in traditional and indigenous food systems of communities in developing countries.
In Zimbabwe, social entrepreneur Jennifer Mayer saw a gap in the market for the underutilised food resources which she believes could offer her community much higher nutrient content than globally grown species or varieties commonly consumed, and at the same time provide an opportunity to create employment.
Mayer’s company Hutano Foods makes delicious, high-quality and easy to enjoy snacks and porridges that harness the nutritional power of local Zimbabwean ingredients: millets, sorghum, nyimo bean, marula, mongongo nuts, baobab fruit and more.
“At Hutano Foods, our line of snacks, breakfast cereals and porridges address the twin problems of a lack of healthy foods on the local market that are affordable and convenient, and a lack of reliable markets for the traditional crops that grow best for smallholders in Zimbabwe’s changing climate,” said Mayer.
“We source directly from small scale farmers and wild harvesters ; this helps increase the value of the traditional foods while also sharing the delectable fruits of their labour with a whole new generation of Zimbabwean consumers,” she explained.
The company has a core team of 6 people and has also partnered with the Science and Industrial Research Development Centre to undertake their product formulation and optimisation.
“Our contract manufacturer Mr Brands produces the porridge. produces the porridge. We use 100% Zimbabwean-grown ingredients sourced from over 300 smallholder farmers and wild harvesters,” she said.
Established in 2010, the company is located in the city centre of Harare; enterprises like Hutano Foods not only contribute to the value addition of indigenous foods, but also contribute to the economic empowerment of small-scale farmers and social benefits.
Mayer also added that Hutano Foods intends to roll-out their products into school feeding scheme programs in order to reach a wider market.
Meanwhile, in Botswana more enterprises are responding to consumer’s growing interest in nutritional foods that celebrate the true essence of the country’s abundant natural resources and ingredients.
Maungo Craft specialises in making low sugar, gourmet, craft jam that is nutritious with organic indigenous fruits and super foods.
Co-owned by Bonolo Monthe and a group of friends, Maungo Craft seeks to create a reputation for distributing uniquely prepared food products that reflect a truly indigenous touch in preparation and branding.
The company is also a beacon of hope to the Gaborone community; they employ unemployed youths and source their raw ingredients from local small-scale farmers.
Both Monthe and Mayer are among this year’s FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme winners who will be representing their country at the annual Slush start-up event in November.
Social entrepreneurship might not be the magic solution that will eradicate SADC health, nutrition or unemployment constraints, but these women are testament that bringing social entrepreneurs together could bring about the change that we want to see in our communities.