Mini-Farming book on Women Food Entrepreneurs: A case of Kenya and Burkina Faso

By Hannington Odame,

This book provides an all-inclusive approach to farming in small spaces, especially in urban, and peri-urban areas. The book contains food recipes of African indigenous vegetables and fish from the Lake Victoria region of Kenya.

The ‘Women Food Entrepreneurs book’, consisting of 8 chapters, is based on a research project undertaken by multidisciplinary experts between 2015-2019 in city slums in Kisumu, Kenya and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The Women Food Entrepreneurs (WFEs) research project was implemented by social and natural scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Kenya and Burkina Faso, as well as with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and community-based women groups. The project aimed to strengthen women’s food entrepreneurship in city slums based on an understanding of the interactions between soil quality, food production and marketing for vulnerable groups.

The book focuses on six themes comprising constraints on women food entrepreneurs, soil, water, and food quality interactions. It also integrates women’s knowledge on food production and processing to add value and enhance business skills. This chapter presents important ways to improve market access, contribute to the development of enabling policies for women food entrepreneurs as well as share lessons and best practices for upscaling (Ch 6). In efforts to contribute to development of the private sector, the book presents opportunities whereby women farmers can strengthen their position in the value chain and business knowledge and skills and networks.

In view of the findings, the book proposes recommendations for consideration in policy making processes. A few outstanding recommendations include first the need to recognize women food entrepreneurs’ role in the provision of fresh foods to city populations. Secondly, women food entrepreneurs’ innovative traditional and scientific knowledge in food production, processing and marketing should be valued, documented and upscaled. In this regard, this book highlights two stories of change. In the first one, a leading female trader champions the use of organic fertilizer among WFEs and subsequently gets nominated as a finalist for the Agrofood Broker of the Year Award. The second story highlights different policy moments in which some of the books’ recommendations have informed policy making by Kisumu County government.

Finally, the book presents the project’s impacts which can be upscaled. A notable impact is the ‘Connector-model’, which arose from the continued involvement of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs); the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE), Nairobi; Victoria Institute for Research on Environment and Development (VIRED) International, Kisumu; Ėtudes Actions Conseils (EAC) in Burkina Faso; Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), the Netherlands; Netherlands Agro, Food &Technology Centre (NAFTC) Africa; Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics(IBED), the Netherlands; Institute of Soil Science and Site Ecology, Germany; Dresden University of Technology, Tharandt, Germany; BodemBergsma, the Netherlands; Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé, Burkina Faso; Institute of Social Science Research (AISSR), and University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Netherlands. The model has successfully connected WFE groups with each other as well as with the public and the private through innovation and capacity building. The result is stronger synergy among the Women Food Entrepreneurs for an inclusive business model. The Annex, provides illustrations of food recipes of African indigenous vegetables and fish from the Lake Victoria region of Kenya. The food recipes are both English and dholuo.

Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Research Programme Consortium Agricultural Policy Research in Africa

APRA  in Partnership With Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE),



About the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Research Programme Consortium Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) is a new, five-year, Research Programme Consortium (RPC), includes regional hubs at the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE), Kenya among other partners in the region, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and will run from 2016-2022. The new programme will be based at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK ( ) and will build on more than a decade of research and policy engagement work by the Future Agricultures Consortium ( ).

APRA aims to produce new information and insights into different pathways to agricultural commercialisation in order to assess their impacts and outcomes on rural poverty, women’s and girl’s empowerment and food and nutrition security in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Consortium has four interlinked objectives: 

  1. generating high-quality evidence on pathways to agricultural commercialisation in Africa, using a rigorous mix of quantitative and qualitative methods. 
  2. undertaking policy research on agricultural commercialisation to fill key evidence gaps and define policy options. 
  3. ensuring the sharing and uptake of research by a diverse range of stakeholders. 
  4. strengthening the capacity of the research team, and associated partner institutions, to deliver high-quality research and advice. 

Beginning in mid-2016, APRA is work in six focal countries across East, West and Southern Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe), representing both DFID priority countries and New Alliance countries.

The APRA Coordination Team is led by John Thompson, senior Research Fellow in the Rural Futures Cluster at IDS (Chief Executive Officer) and Ephraim Chirwa, Professor of Economics at the University of Malawi (Research Director), along with Regional Coordinators based in Ghana (Joseph Yaro), Kenya (Hannington Odame) and South Africa (Cyriaque Hakizimana and Ruth Hall), an Impact, Communications and Engagement Coordinator (Beatrice Ouma) and a Programme Manager (Oliver Burch). Together, they have extensive experience in leading complex, multi-country, cross-disciplinary, research programmes in Africa.

At the core of the APRA Consortium is a commitment to academic excellence, policy impact, stakeholder engagement and value for money, rooted in long-term partnerships and a solid regional base. In order to achieve its objectives, the programme will work in sites that examine diverse pathways of commercialisation (influenced by the relationship to markets and scales of operation) and linked to different types of commercialisation (e.g. estates, medium-scale commercial farming, contract farming and smallholder commercialisation). 

Consortium researchers will carry out in-depth studies in contrasting sites with varying levels of commercialisation intensity and longevity (i.e. established/ mature vs. recent/emerging sites of commercialisation) and different market connections and infrastructure. To analyse and understand these contrasts, the APRA researchers will employ a combination of quantitative (including quasi-experimental) and qualitative (including participatory and ethnographic) research methods and policy analysis tools to examine different types or forms of commercialisation, including comparing low-value staples, high-value horticulture, and industrial and export crops, and their differential outcome.

Illustrations and Graphic recordings


CABE in conjunction with Tegemeo Institute is organizing a two-day workshop on Strengthening Seed Systems and Market Development.

Seed systems in Africa south of the Sahara have been a central topic in the public discourse as part of wider conversations on policy options for agriculture and rural development. Although seed systems in the region have followed different development trajectories, they do seem to be affected by political economy, farming system, agroecological, and market development factors that policymakers and stakeholders must address if the systems are to thrive. Political economy issues appear to shape the debate, including limited support for agricultural research, restrictive regulations and inadequate capacity of regulatory agencies, and weak vertical and horizontal coordination among different key actors. Political economy refers to actors and coalitions of actors with competing perspectives, interests, and resources shaping seed policy change processes in each country and for each crop (see Hassena et al. (2016) and Alemu (2011) on Ethiopia). Policy and regulatory reforms are purported to facilitate increased production, delivery, and uptake of improved seeds and technologies. Influencing government agencies to initiate the review of existing and enact new policies involves many stakeholders including a range of seed industry players such as regulatory agencies, parliament, agricultural technical groups, government policy directorates, public and private research agencies and seed associations.

Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development of Egerton University and Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) in partnership with International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) conducted a study between June and October 2019 to assess the pace and dynamics of policy change and the factors that affect the development of maize and potato seed systems and of markets in Kenya. The study involved a review of key policy, regulatory, and strategy documents relevant to seed system and market development in the country, with a focus on the progress made in strengthening maize and potato seed systems and markets and political economy factors that have influenced policy adoption and outcomes. The review was augmented with information from key informant interviews and focus group discussions with a wide range of actors in the respective seed systems.

The workshop will be at Sarova Panafric Hotel, Nairobi on 19th and 20th July 2022



Utafiti Sera Youth Employment Creation in Agriculture and Agro-processing policy dialogue


High-level policy forum to explore youth employment opportunities in agribusiness

The Centre for African Bio-entrepreneurship (CABE) on behalf of the Utafiti Sera Consortium convened a workshop to explore employment opportunities for youth in agribusiness along Kenya’s mango value chain.

The workshop which was held from 26th – 27th July 2021 brought together the projects’ funding organization Partnership for African Social & Governance Research (PASGR) and implementing partners CABE and Alternatives Africa, and representatives from National and County governments, the youth, and other stakeholders to further the use of evidence to inform youth employment policies.

Participants listen to Workshop proceedings

The workshop, held at Travellers Beach Hotel, Mombasa explored how the findings of a study conducted by the project can be domesticated to complement existing regulatory frameworks such as the Makueni County Development Action Plan and the Kenya youth agribusiness strategy.

This workshop will contribute to informed policymaking in agribusiness to increase youth employment in the agriculture sector.

Youth Employment Creation Through Sustainable Agribusiness – Lessons from evidence-informed policy convening

Youth unemployment remains a major challenge in Kenya, perpetuating the country’s socioeconomic problems such as poverty and hunger. Unchecked, the International Labour Organization fears that youth unemployment, currently estimated at 35 per cent of the population, will double by 2045.

The problem of joblessness in Kenya has been fuelled by the global COVID-19 pandemic, whose effects such as business closure have led to massive job losses in Kenya and across the globe. Increasingly, job losses have led many people to seek alternative employment sources in sectors that may be seen as informal or unattractive, especially for youth.

Agribusiness offers hope, providing the highest level of informal employment in Kenya and contributing 25-34 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. However, although agriculture employs approximately 60 per cent of Kenya’s labour force, the Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy estimates that only 10 per cent of the youth engage in agribusiness. The apparent lack of interest in agribusiness by the youth has been attributed to negative youth perception towards agriculture and a lack of sustainable programmes and policies to steer the growth of the agriculture sector.

An enabling environment, robust evidence and facilitative partnerships are essential factors in expanding employment opportunities for the youth in agribusiness.

The effectiveness of the partnership dimension was demonstrated in a recent collaborative convening which I was lucky to attend. The convening – Institutionalising a culture of Evidence-Informed Policy Making in Africa: Co-Creating, Learning Together – convened by Partnership for African Social Governance and Research (PASGR) brought together its collaborative houses under its innovative evidence-to-policy programme Utafiti Sera. The programme brings together communities of practice and interest or what the programme lead Dr M Atela refers to as ‘epistemic communities’ or ‘houses’ and provides end-to-end solutions to the gap between evidence and policy/programme action. Currently, the houses are using evidence to support stakeholder interests in polemic policy areas such as Youth Employment Creation, Urban Governance, water governance, protests in the energy sector and women voices in local leadership.

Dr. Hannington Odame, during Inter-house collaborative and reflection forum, presenting on youth employment creation in Agribusiness and Agro-processing

Although the forum discussed different topics, I will highlight discussions by the Centre for African Bio entrepreneurship (CABE) and Alternative Africa, which addressed youth employment creation in agribusiness and agro-processing along the mango and potato value chains in Nyandarua, West Pokot and Makueni counties. Through partnerships, the two houses accomplished remarkable success. For instance, the first public participation by the youth of Makueni County, providing their input to the Amendment of the Makueni Fruit Development and Marketing Regulations 2020 Act Youth Forum. The youth also formed WhatsApp groups comprised of youth in potato and mango value chains. The platforms facilitate peer-to-peer learning and have been instrumental in bridging a vital evidence gap by building a database for agribusiness Micro, small and medium enterprises.

Despite these successes, my attention was also drawn to challenges faced by the youth in these value chains. Researchers presented evidence on the challenges through different case studies on the value chains. A case in point is Uganda, where the sorghum value chain was strengthened by a brewery that contracted farmers to produce quality sorghum at agreed prices. This was important because it increased the quantity and quality of sorghum produced and stabilised commodity prices.

A value chain analysis in the Philippines revealed a need for fishermen to supply a uniform size of fish per the fishing regulations. In Rwanda, a dairy chain analysis revealed a need for milk cooling points and increased collaboration between dairy firms and farmers   (Norton,2014).

The above case studies suggest that sustainable agricultural value chains can reform agribusiness in Kenya, leading to inclusivity and beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders, including the private sector, the government, farmers and the consumers. The ensuing policy environment could be modelled around the socioeconomic, political, and ethical dimensions to achieve sustainable and programmes on youth employment.

But how then can this be achieved? This calls for capacity sharing (such as the peer-to-peer learning initiated by youths in this programme), meaningful stakeholder engagement, collaborations, and co-production. In addition, government support (financial and technical) to small scale farmers, provision of storage facilities, quality seeds, and access to land, water, and the market would cause a shift from subsistence farming to commercialisation.

Such reforms may cumulatively seal the gaps in the current agricultural systems and strategies and increase revenue first to the youth and then the government.

I want to acknowledge PASGR for its efforts in creating a space where the houses get to learn from each other and, most importantly, the importance of institutionalising the use of evidence in policymaking, specifically in agribusiness, as discussed in this blog.    

Blog by: Marion Otieno -Biochemist and currently an intern at PASGR

Juicing for jobs: Improving mango processing for youth job creation

Mango processing can create thousands of jobs for the youth in Kenya, potentially reducing the country’s youth unemployment rate of 7.27 percent (ILO, 2020). This statement is consistent with the findings of a study by the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) under the auspices of Utafiti Sera House III on Youth Employment Creation in Agribusiness and Agro-processing in Kenya. The urgent need for job opportunities along the mango value chain is timely in view of changing demographics and the increased number of Kenya’s health-conscious middle class.

The study, funded by the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), found that there are rising lifestyle changes in diet choices, demand for quality products, entertainment, eating, and spending habits.

Such changes can be seen for instance, in different urban and peri-urban eateries, supermarket shelves, and food markets which increasingly sell natural and processed juices. These lifestyle changes are projected to continue to drive the average growth in domestic demand for juice which the International Trade Centre reports (ITC, 2014) to be 49 percent per annum.     

Demand for quality juice

To effectively meet this increased demand for juice, Kenya imports U$5,395,000 worth of mango pulp annually, further threatening to stagnate the domestic mango industry. If the industry is to meet the demand for quality juice, there is need to trace quality back to the very bottom of the mango value chain – the farmers. A farmer can only produce quality fruits by planting quality varieties using and recommended agronomic practices. Once the variety and quality of mango seedling is right, there is need to use appropriate processing technology, but this also faces various challenges which need to be addressed.

The major stumbling blocks

The study, conducted between December 2017 and 2020 confirmed ITC’s statement that ‘’… [O]ver a long time, the Country [Kenya] has relied on the traditional fresh market domestically and internationally with little attention given to processed products.’’ Production and marketing of mangoes also face various challenges such as use of poor-quality planting material and production practices, weak agricultural extension, high post-harvest losses, weak linkages with industry policies, marketing deficiencies and lack of finance. Cumulatively, these challenges lead to inadequate quality and quantity of mangoes for processing, forcing Kenya to import mango pulp for processing mango juice. This not only contributes to unemployment in the mango value chain but also leads to loss of national income which could otherwise be channeled to the development agenda of the mango sector and beyond.

A youth in a nursery in Makueni County photo credit: PASGR/CABE Photographer

Based on findings of Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with the youth in Makueni and West Pokot Counties, the study revealed that there are job opportunities for the youth in an integrated services provision comprising of tree seedlings, extension, mango orchard expansion (new trees), augmentation (grafting varieties) and gradually replacing old orchards of table or fresh mango varieties with varieties suitable for processing as good starting point in dealing with these challenges. In addition, the study confirmed that mango processing offers a solution to the high post-harvest losses experienced in the main production areas, provides a market for the second-grade fruits and can potentially drive the much-needed reforms in the value chain.

Why mango processing?

Processing will increase availability and consumption of locally-produced mango juice, reduce post-harvest losses, increase efficiency in the value chain and employ the youth in input supply, spraying, packing, aggregating and marketing.

The ensuing effective and efficient mango value chain will strengthen linkages between farmers and processors. As a result, farmers will benefit from price incentives, market and product diversification. In addition, most farmersin Kenya already recognize thatNgowe’ mango variety is suitable for processing. As a result, cultivation of this variety offers potential for Kenya to undergo import substitution and source locally the required amount of mango juice. The subsequent benefits such as high quality and safety standardswill increase thescale and quality of mangoes produced. This could also create export opportunity for Kenya in regional markets such as Sudan, which currently imports mango juice from India (ITC, 2014)

What do we stand to lose if we do not process mangoes?

The magnitude of this question can be felt more now that we are in the peak of May-August mango season. During such seasons, markets across the country experience surplus in supply of mangoes which come with prices as low as less than Ksh 10 per fruit. In addition, most farmers suffer high post-harvest losses since mangoes are highly perishable. On a bigger scale, the opportunity cost of foreign exchange earnings spent on mango imports for juicing is U$ 5,395,000 per annum. It is projected that effective and efficient mango value chain will create 3, 200,000 jobs per year.


Ultimately, processing will increase domestic demand for ‘Ngowe’ mango varieties. Increased demand, will increase the prices of the fruit and consequently increase income for farmers who will in turn seek quality mango varieties. The spill-over of activities will work to streamline the entire value chain by strengthening extension service delivery in terms of personnel, messaging coordination in the production, processing and marketing activities. This calls for a need to strengthen linkages with industrial policies (agro-processing), improve markets of fresh and processed mangoes including investments in establishing aggregation, cold storage and transport infrastructure as well as improving access to finance for youth entrepreneurs to create jobs for themselves and others along the different segments of the mango value chain in the country.


East African countries champion integrated rice sector development in the region to curb escalating imports

As rice becomes a strategic commodity in Africa, many countries in East Africa have embarked on various programs that, along with continental initiatives, aim to chart a course of action for moving the regional rice sector forward.

At the recently concluded East Africa Rice Conference (EARC) 2021, key players from Africa’s agri-food sector listed increased availability and access to quality inputs via harmonized regional policies and regulations, public-private partnerships support in value chain upgrading and regional trade in local rice, and strengthened regional and national platforms to promote policy coordination and investment as top regional priorities to champion an integrated rice sector development in the region. These, together with other coordinated actions, will contribute to accelerated agri-food sector transformation to address challenges facing food and nutrition security in the region.

Organized by the Africa Rice Center, the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium, the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship, the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, with support from the UK Aid and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office of the United Kingdom, EARC 2021 featured prominent scientists, experts, and thought leaders to discuss local and regional challenges and present the range of opportunities for research and development in rice-based agri-food systems.

Rice is the fastest-growing food staple in Africa with its demand growing at more than 6 percent annually. Rice cultivation is the primary source of income for more than 35 million smallholder farmers in the continent. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited that in most countries in Sub-saharan Africa (SSA), rice transitioned from luxury and holiday food to a major staple food and growing source of calories, due to growing economies, increasing urbanization, rising household incomes, improvements in infrastructure, and greater market access.

In her keynote speech at EARC 2021, CARD Secretariat Director and AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata emphasized, “Increasing the competitiveness of the East African rice industry is critical to taking advantage of the improving trade environment and the expansion of production capacity and markets that we see on the continent.”

Currently, the increasing demand is being supplied by imports since the demand outpaces the production capacity of the region’s rice sector. USDA projects that SSA imports will shoot up to 15.4 million tons by 2026. Meanwhile, according to Kilimo Trust’s 2014 report, 500 million USD per annum of rice imports is accounted for in the East Africa Common Market area. Rice demand in the East Africa Community exceeds supply by over 0.6 million metric tons per annum, a deficit supplied with imports mainly from Asian countries. This provides a tremendous opportunity for farmers in the region, especially for over 1.5 million farming households that depend directly on rice for their food and livelihoods.

“The potential for growth in SSA’s rice sector is enormous. If proper interventions are in place, this existing potential can enable the region to produce more than its needs for consumption, allowing it to become a net rice exporter,” said Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail, EARC 2021 Chair and IRRI Regional Representative for Africa.

To move this forward, the CARD initiative has facilitated the development of the second national rice development strategy (NRDS2) of CARD member countries. “CARD works with governments and development partners to respond to the increasing importance of rice production in Africa,” explains Dr. Yusuke Haneishi, General Coordinator, CARD Secretariat. NRDS and NRDS2 clearly outline strategies, priority areas for investment, and targets based on the goal and strategic objectives of each country considering the importance of the rice sector to address food security, improve livelihoods of those who depend on the rice sector, and boost the countries’ and region’s economy.

“In a year in which the UN holds its first food systems summit, East Africa should seize the moment to apply a systems approach to rice. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for self-sufficiency more critical, providing an urgent reminder of the value of resilient agri-food systems to defend against volatility in food prices and exports,” CGIAR Special Representative to the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 Dr. Kanayo Nwanze said in his message during the opening program of EARC 2021.

The conference kicked-off on 18 May with simultaneous country workshops on related themes in six East African countries—Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The virtual sessions were attended by more than 400 participants from across the globe between 19-20 May 2021.

The outcomes of the conference will be made available to relevant and interested stakeholders and will feed into the local and global agri-food systems transformation dialogues and recommendations in the lead up to the East African Regional Rice Strategy development and the United Nations Food Systems Summit.

About the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)

AfricaRice contributes to reducing poverty, achieving food and nutrition security and improving livelihoods of farmers in Africa by increasing the productivity and profitability of rice-based agri-food systems, while ensuring the sustainability of natural resources.

About the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (APRA)

The Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme pursues the most effective agricultural commercialization pathways to empower women, reduce rural poverty, and improve food and nutrition security in Sub-Saharan Africa through in-depth, interdisciplinary, and comparative research as part of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC).

About the Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE)

The Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) works to enhance the skills of smallholder farmers, women, and youth entrepreneurs in Kenya to advance their meaningful participation in agriculture and agribusiness. CABE does this by focusing on agro-entrepreneurship, market linkages, business development, research, innovations, and policy process.

About the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD)

CARD, a consultative group of development partners and research institutes, works to support the efforts of African countries to formulate and implement their National Rice Development Strategies (NRDS), with a view to doubling rice production on the continent. CARD also recently started engaging five Regional Economic Communities in Africa in preparing Regional Rice Development Strategies to address issues that can be better handled at the regional level.

About the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

IRRI aims to improve livelihoods and nutrition, abolishing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition among those who depend on rice-based agri-food systems. In doing so, IRRI’s work protects the health of rice farmers and consumers, and the environmental sustainability of rice farming in a world challenged by climate change. IRRI’s work promotes the empowerment of women and supports opportunities for youth in an equitable agri-food system.

About the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

JICA’s cooperation in agricultural and rural development aims to ensure a stable food supply to people in both rural and urban areas and reduce poverty in rural communities — thereby driving economic development at national and regional levels. JICA as one of leading partners of the CARD Initiative supports the rice sector development in the continent.

About the UK Aid

UK Aid Direct works to reduce poverty in target countries by supporting civil society to improve contributions and mechanisms for sustained poverty reduction in marginalised and vulnerable communities.

About the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom

FCDO works to reduce poverty and tackle global challenges with its international partners.

Media contacts:

Sherwin Pineda

Senior Manager – Strategic Communications, IRRI


Brylle James Galang

Media and Social Media Relations Officer, IRRI


Evelyn Otieno

Communications Officer, CABE

Tel. +254721226406


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