It started with the session “Meet successful entrepreneurs”, speaking Ms. Elizabeth Thande, Chair of African Women in Agribusiness Network – Kenya Chapter and Managing Director of Wet Farms, who shares a dream of Africa feeding Itself. The theme of the session was her journey from a subsistence farmer to an international exporter.
When Elizabeth said in an affirmative tone that she indeed started farming as a “joke” after taking a voluntary retirement from the formal sector, I could understand that it was not a joke. Elizabeth has been into agri-business over 3 decades and has hands-on-experience and a very clear vision how she would like to see agri-business development in Africa.
I personally would commend her honesty when she said: “I got into flower export leaving dairy farming because it pays me more”, drawing from her answer I know why the two most important qualities she always stresses any entrepreneur would have is: transparency and uncompromised quality of products.
Elizabeth started as an out-grower until last 10 years, when she has started to export her flowers directly to the buyers in Europe. When an entrepreneur from the MBA class asked how a woman handles the pressures the export trade is usually known for, she answered comfortably that in export space you are not judged on your gender but on your QUALITY, “your quality speaks louder than you”. She stressed marketing to be the tool for whichever trade you are into, even agri-business, and she emphasised that without marketing even an agripreneur can’t go far.
Quality, Transparency and Marketing may have been the secret behind Elizabeth’s enormous success in the agri-business space in Africa.
Elizabeth seems to be a very passionate agripreneur who wants to bring women to the forefront of the agri-business. On being asked what “social impact” does she see herself to be creating in the ecosystem, her passion of empowering women seems now to be her mission of life rather than just an impact which Wet Farms Kenya has been creating over the period of time. Elizabeth proudly stated that two-third of her employees are women because she feels women are made for agriculture. The analogy she has drawn is, “women believes in a better tomorrow, a farmer also believes in a better tomorrow” therefore, women could be the best farmers on this earth, if given the right opportunity.
The session with Ms. Elizabeth Thande has been very enlightening for each one of us, her recommendation to the entire class was to keep learning, since learning is a continuous process and to seek for partners and associations who would take you far, like the African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
I’m looking forward to the next session, now.