How Entrepreneur Eric Muthomi Is Achieving Food Security in Kenya
By Eric Muthomi
Entrepreneurs are essential to society. They contribute to its betterment by trailblazing new paths that provide innovative solutions to practical, financial, and social issues. I experienced this firsthand when I was growing up in Kenya. My parents are entrepreneurs and always encouraged us to carve out a meaningful career trajectory, leave a positive footprint, and carry on an impactful legacy. That’s why, despite first pursuing a law career and later earning a master’s in business administration, I felt I could do more for my community by becoming an entrepreneur.
Malnutrition in Kenya remains unacceptably high; 11 percent of children in Kenya are underweight, with 4 percent too thin for their height, while agriculture constitutes the main economic driver. According to the World Food Programme, inefficiencies in food systems lead to high prices and insufficient market supplies, limiting availability and access to food.
Why I Started Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited
A successful entrepreneurial endeavor is one in which a founder can solve a serious problem that affects livelihoods or businesses. This is precisely what I am doing in Kenya. I launched Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited in 2012, an agribusiness with a mission of making high-quality and nutritious food accessible to more people while elevating our communities and making the world a healthier place.
Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited aims to provide economic opportunity, break the cycle of poverty among smallholder farmers, and improve their incomes. By providing a marketplace for smallholder farmers in Kenya who need fair buyers for their produce, my company enables farmers to earn a stable income on their products while positively impacting surrounding communities.
Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited is also working to address hidden hunger among children. Using hydrothermal processing technology, traditional foods can be naturally enriched with iron, zinc, and other essential minerals at a low cost and then used to process nutritious, appealing, and affordable feeding products for babies between six and 23 months old.
Additionally, my goal is to empower women and youth by creating employment opportunities and providing affordable nutrition sources for families. Tapping into women’s potential and empowering them with education, resources, and freedom of action is crucial to ending hunger.
Building a Sustainable Supply Chain That Puts Farmers First
Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited uses food as a force for good in the world – putting humanity first in everything we do. In 10 years, our goal is to feed 1 million children every single day. We plan to distribute our products across Kenya and other African countries through a sustainable supply chain that puts farmers first and supports them with the technology required to grow food using fewer resources.
Our farmers benefit from a digitized supply chain where we equip collection centers with digital weight capture systems for the products they deliver from their farms. Not only does this mean faster payments to farmers, but they also have accurate digital records they can use to secure credit from microfinance institutions.
Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited is also launching a social commerce platform and parallel distribution channel connecting our brands with a network of individual distributors starting in Nairobi and spreading across all counties in Kenya. The longer-term goal is to use the platform to enable local production and provide emerging African brands with nationwide coverage through a network of individual distributors.
Ramping Up Public-Private Partnerships to Reduce Food Insecurity in Africa
In recent decades, development organizations have begun to move away from the traditional indirect, external, and top-down solutions. Instead of relying on outside-driven initiatives, the U.S. African Development Foundation’s (USADF) approach, for example, has always focused on locally driven and participatory African engagement. Working at the grassroots level is a game-changer for positive development efforts because, without a local understanding of our needs, culture, and context, development cannot be sustainable. As the founder of Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited and a Kenyan myself, I have deep operating experience in local ecosystems and long-term incentives to drive successful and sustainable growth in Kenya and Africa.
As a U.S. federal agency, USADF leverages resources from its strategic corporate and African government partnerships and collaborates with the private sector to utilize additional capital and networks for a mutually beneficial partnership that allows for a more significant overall impact.
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