Josefina dos Santos Lourenço, a young Mozambican, had long aspired to have her own successful business. But when she set up a small food stand in her home district of Mecuburi, she wasn’t able to make a go of it. Her earnings were too low to support her family, and the financial constraints that she faced were undermining her self-confidence.
Then, another business opportunity presented itself—in an advertisement posted by the Export Marketing Company Limited (EMCL). Lourenço learned from the ad that this major agricultural trading company was recruiting entrepreneurs to run its new input supply shops in Mozambique. She applied for one of the EMCL positions and was invited to interview for it.
EMCL is one of over 40 private sector partners across the world that has joined with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a program that invests in companies working to increase the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers. With Feed the Future’s support, EMCL is increasing such farmers’ commercial access to agricultural products and services by building “farmer empowerment hubs” in previously underserved areas of Mozambique.
The hubs consist of warehouse storage, input shops and equipment rental shops, which provide smallholder farmers with essential access to agricultural products and services. With this, farmers can increase their volume of marketable produce. This higher output improves farmer incomes. It also increases the amount of products available for purchase, a result that has advantages for the commodity-purchasing arm of EMCL.
As part of its hub development, EMCL has been recruiting and training promising women entrepreneurs to manage input shops. This provides quality employment opportunities in rural areas for women like Lourenço—who, after accepting her interview invitation, had been selected to manage a new EMCL shop. It was, she said, “one of the best moments of my life.”
EMCL trained her right away in business practices such as bookkeeping and marketing. Since then, the company has supported her with ongoing training, as it does for all of its entrepreneurs, and supplied the initial inventory for her business at a 50 percent discount to get the business started. EMCL also helps entrepreneurs with initial community-level marketing activities through pamphlets and its information and communication technology platform, which provides important crop and weather information to farmers.
The shop Lourenço runs serves nearly 1,000 farmers in her community, providing them with access to inputs and equipment rentals, which were previously unavailable in their area. Using the input supplies and services as a starting point, Lourenço has expanded the shop to include other items needed in the community, such as groceries, cosmetics and mobile phone airtime. Selling these items adds to her income, offsetting price reductions for agricultural purchases in the offseason.
Through EMCL’s entrepreneur recruitment program, Lourenço and 30 entrepreneurs like her are able to take advantage of this opportunity to empower themselves and increase their incomes while bringing essential products and services to smallholder farmers.
“I have no words to explain my joy,” Lourenço said. “Today, I’m not only financially independent, but also my family is receiving lots of respect in my area…I am the queen of Mecuburi now!”
Hear more from Lourenço on Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation’s AgTechXChange.