Tag Archive: Africa


Gardening is more than just a hobby to Christina Kaba’s; it is part of her plan to feed the community of Cape Town, Africa. At age sixty-three, Christina is still managing to head the project she started nearly a decade ago that has been providing families with fresh vegetables from her local gardens.

Christina’s garden plot is one of twenty-eight in the garden project just in the Cape Town area. Combining her plots vegetables with other plots around the area, they are able to produce enough veggies to not only feed the community of Cape Town, but provide for the Harvest for Hope program as well. Being able to garden given any type of surface, Christina claims that a lot of newspaper, cardboard, grass, and composting does the trick.

Christina’s love for gardening is both feeding her community as well as building it. By expanding the amount of gardens, the opportunity for work is available for those that need it. Her efforts to contribute to the selling of fresh produce in the larger Cape Town market has been successful and largely recognized.

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(CNN) — In northern Uganda, Sarah Omollo, like hundreds of other women, rises early each day to collect shea nuts.

Omollo, who is now in her thirties, has been gathering the nuts since she was a young child, crushing them up and using the oil they produce for things like cooking and body lotion.

Now it is hoped this regional tradition could bring hundreds of women out of poverty and revive the local economy torn apart by years of conflict.

Non-profit organization Beadforlife has brought together 760 women farmers, many rebuilding their lives after two decades of civil war, and started a business processing and selling the nuts they gather.

The shea tree grows throughout Sahelian Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia. But some say the sub species, nilotica, which grows in northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, is particularly special.

“Shea butter is commonly associated with West Africa but the trees in northern Uganda produce a high-quality oil that, if compared, is softer and perfect for cosmetics,” said Torkin Wakefield from Beadforlife.

The group is on a mission to bring local shea butter to the international cosmetic and soap market by buying the women’s organic nuts and turning them into “butter.”

Beadforlife says Omollo has been made a coordinator for a buying center in Orum. She was captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 1992 when she was 18 years old. Her father was killed by the rebels and she and her sister were abducted.

Omollo is one of the many women in the region trying to rebuild their lives.

“When Beadforlife came here they did a wonderful thing and increased the price of buying shea nuts,” she told Beadforlife. “So even if you just bring a little, you get a lot of money. Life is better because of the shea.”

The women pick the nuts, shell, dry and process them before they are bought. The nuts are then made into butter by a Ugandan presser.

Beadforlife says this year it hopes to press between 20-30 tons of butter, but the aim is to eventually get the women to make it themselves.

“We have plans in the coming years for the women to own a couple of small hand pressers so they can sell us the butter instead of the nuts, so the women can make more money,” Wakefield explained.

But this grassroots organization has much bigger plans for the future. “The hard thing for Ugandans is to build a sustainable market,” Wakefield said. “Many companies have tried and failed in the past.”

“We’re looking at working with international cosmetic companies because our biggest desire is that this becomes an industry way bigger than what our project will do, where the cosmetic companies of the world say we want this ingredient, this is a premium, high-quality ingredient,” she continued.

Guru Nanank Oil Mills is a company that manufactures pure shea butter in the northern town of Lira. It says it already sells its product to cosmetic companies internationally and claims its business can help local communities affected by civil war.

Manager Surjit Singh said: “We work in collaboration with farmers in order to preserve this very high-value species and also educate them to protect the trees.

“The conflict brought poverty to northern Uganda, which affected shea butter production.

“People used to cut the shea trees for charcoal production for domestic usage. However, we have brought awareness to the community and offered cash for shea nuts to the farmers, directly creating a big market for them.”

Singh says that shea nut production is slowly increasing and Beadforlife believes that once there is demand the market could really take off.

“We are talking to several large and small companies and right now they are raving about this product,” Wakefield said.

“I have confidence that once companies start using the product a market will develop. Once a market develops jobs will be created for thousands of people that can harvest nuts across northern Uganda and Southern Sudan.”

For the women farmers it is still one step at a time. Beadforlife is also about to launch a trading process so as well as buying nuts, it will let women trade them for things like ploughs, school books and seeds.

Flo Engol sells the nuts she collects in Okwang to Beadforlife. She was nearly killed by rebels several years ago and said that gathering shea has improved the community in many ways.

“I have more respect from my husband because I am earning money. This has happened to many women,” Engol told Beadforlife.

She added: “Many of the children were forced to leave school during the war, and they are now just drop outs. Having an income will make a difference for all of us.”

Nike Davies Okundaye , also known as ‘Mama Nike”, is an award winning artist from Nigeria that has become the owner of West Africa’s largest art gallery. Her artwork is known around the world and has been sold for thousands of dollars in international auctions.

‘Mama Nike’ has made it her mission to improve the lives of disadvantaged Nigerian women through teaching her techniques in artwork.  By providing these women with free classes and then setting them up with exhibitions that allow them to sell their artwork, these women have not only the opportunity to learn, but the opportunity to sell their creations to provide for their families.

She stresses the importance of teaching Nigerian women how to manage their money so they can successfully provide for their family’s education expenses, food, and medicine if an emergency arises.

By opening her workshop, Okundaye hoped to better the futures of Nigerian women and their families. This woman’s passion was so strong that she wanted to share it, and it appears to be making a huge impact on the lives of so many around her.

Teach what you love and see what happens!

Here’s an article from the New York Times that stresses the impact microfinancing has had on Africa…

Microfinancing gains pace in Africa

By Bosire Nyairo

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2007

NAIROBI — Selling vegetables at a stall in a filthy open-air market in Nairobi, Fatma Amina barely makes enough to feed her four children, let alone give them an education that would lift the family out of poverty.

The Kenyan government receives millions of dollars in aid to fight poverty, but little of it is available to small traders like Amina unless they can put up collateral.

“I hear of donors but where are they?” Amina said.

But that situation may be changing as African countries follow the lead of Asia, where tens of millions of people have obtained small loans, thanks to an explosion of microfinance operations.

Kenya’s Microfinance Act, signed into law late last year, provides a legal framework regulating lenders, known in the industry as microfinance institutions.

“It makes business sense for the government to have a clear policy because this is the fastest growing sector of the economy,” said Winnie Kathurima, a general manager at Equity Bank, which won an international award in 2005 for its role in providing loans to microentrepreneurs.

Microfinance has been around for decades, but has mushroomed in recent years, especially in Asia where nearly 100 million people have access to it, according to the Microcredit Summit Campaign, which hopes to bring such services to 175 million of the world’s poorest families by the end of 2015.

In Africa, the poorest continent, the campaign’s figures show seven million people had access to microcredit at the end of 2005.

Germany will press rich nations at a Group of 8 summit meeting in June to create a microcredit fund for African entrepreneurs as a way to help the continent’s poorest, the international development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said in February.

Anna Awimbo, the Microcredit Summit Campaign’s research director, said, “There’s a long way to go.” She added, “It may look daunting, but there is such a huge potential for growth and that’s the region where we are most likely to see the biggest growth.”

Some governments have already made progress.

Kenya’s partners in the East African Community, Tanzania and Uganda, have also adopted new laws governing the industry, which Awimbo said should allow microlenders who meet certain standards to offer savings accounts, thereby giving them access to more money to lend.

Microfinance shot into the headlines last year when the Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded picked up the Nobel Peace Prize for their grassroots drive to end world poverty through microlending.

Because of the higher unit costs, microcredit interest rates are higher than normal bank rates, often around 15 percent to 35 percent. Yunus’s Grameen Foundation, which promotes access to microcredit, said that was preferable to paying loan sharks or money lenders annual rates of 120 percent to 300 percent.

Operators in Africa may have to adapt the Asian model to the conditions on the continent.

“One obvious difference is the population density,” said Sam Daley-Harris, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign. In Asia, ” you did have population density, which gives economies of scale. I would say that is one of the biggest barriers in Africa.”

“It’s much easier for one bank worker to reach 400 clients who are jam-packed in villages next door to each other than to reach 400 clients spread out in rural areas, which is why so much microfinance in Africa is urban,” Daley-Harris added.

Technology may have some of the answers.

Some operators are looking at using prepaid phone credit and Africa’s rapidly expanding mobile networks to transfer money and make repayments, reducing the need for credit agents to travel from village to village collecting tiny amounts of cash. Better communications and credit monitoring will also help.

Kenya’s new law, for example, encourages lenders to pool information on borrowers’ credit history, drastically reducing the risk of default, said Jean-Philippe Prosper, senior manager for Eastern Africa at the International Finance Corp., the private sector arm of the World Bank.

“International experience suggests that the use of credit information allows banks to reduce loan processing time and cost by 25 percent or more and lower default rates by 40 percent to 80 percent.” Such cost-saving measures could be crucial to future growth.

The Grameen Foundation’s president and chief executive, Alex Counts, said some African countries had already demonstrated ways to nurture microfinance, like Morocco, where new regulation and government backing set off an explosion of microcredit.

“Within six years microfinance outreach went from 10,000 to more than half a million,” Counts said.

“If this kind of growth happens in the most populous countries, then things will start to change very quickly, and if it’s done correctly the G-8 fund could be a big part of that,” he said.

“Africa could catch up with the average country in Asia in a matter of five to eight years.”