Severina Paul Mwakateba inside her business, AA Nafaka Store Supply Limited / Photo Credit: Bobby Neptune
Severina Paul Mwakateba, a businesswoman in Songwe, Tanzania, is the director of her own food processing business called AA Nafaka Store Supply Limited that mills and sells a variety of flours. More than half of Mwakateba’s workers, and many of the farmers she partners with, are women.
Like so many women business owners, Mwakateba has experienced challenges that can lead to lack of confidence in their businesses. In a culture where women are often expected to stay at home, Mwakateba found minimal leadership development opportunities and limited access to credit.
That’s when Mwakateba started working with Feed the Future’s Alliance for Inclusive and Nutritious Food Processing (AINFP). AINFP connects African food processing businesses, especially those owned by women, with access to technical advice, financing and market connections to grow their businesses.
Through this two-year collaboration, Mwakateba received on-the-ground technical assistance and advice uniquely tailored to her business. AINFP assisted Mwakateba in expanding her product line with fortified flours, helped her how to talk confidently about her products and collaborated with her on a marketing strategy to sell fortified maize flour to different types of retailers.
“[Feed the Future] has really helped us in producing proper meals. With the use of [their food processing] technology, we have learned ways to add nutrition to our products,” says Mwakateba.
The Pandemic Effect
To reach those in need during the pandemic, AINFP shifted the way they provided outreach and services to business owners like Mwakateba with digital access. AINFP set up an online site for participants to engage and now use it to reach more people.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mwakateba had to decrease production and reduce staff with her sales dropping by 40 percent. She also struggled to source the materials she needed from smallholder farmers and pay them on time.
After the introduction of the vaccine in Tanzania, Mwakateba bounced back with AINFP’s help. She obtained a loan to get her business started again and worked on understanding what kinds of products were in demand during the pandemic. Mwakateba trained her sales agents on selling her products in a safe, socially distant way and utilized social media to market her products and reach more customers.
Mwakateba leveraged AINFP’s support to apply for a $45,000 grant from the VISA Foundation to support her growing roster of employees. Mwakateba built back her business, hired new staff and paid the farmers she worked with. By 2021, Mwakateba saw a 10 percent increase in sales.
AA Nafaka Store Supply Limited in Songwe, Tanzania / Credit: Bobby Neptune
Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa
In Tanzania, more than a quarter of children under five are stunted, which is a form of undernutrition. At the same time, millions of smallholder farmers across the sub-Saharan region struggle to find profitable markets for their food crops. Food processing companies like Mwakateba’s address both of those challenges by increasing the supply of nutritious food available for consumers at an affordable price and providing a profitable, stable market for farmers.
Mwakateba’s company is one of 84 food processing companies participating in AINFP across Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia – of which 50 percent are women-owned or led. Mwakateba’s collaboration with AINFP has increased her community’s access to more nutritious foods. She now offers three types of fortified flours and educates her customers on the nutritional benefits of the ingredients.
“I think it’s very important for a country and society at large to access nutritious meals,” said Mwakateba. “Our goal as a company is to create opportunities for farmers in Songwe, and also to produce different food products for our customers.”