Building sustainability into the supply chain

Recently, I spent a week as an Advisor with Caplor Horizons helping to facilitate the Effective Humanitarian Leadership programme for the International Centre for Humanitarian Affairs in Kenya. 18 Red Cross Leaders from across East and West Africa came together for this programme which was a great success.

In addition to the leadership programme, Jonathon Thomas, Chief of Party, Solutions for African Food Enterprises at Technoserve had arranged a visit to Classic Foods a food processing company on the outskirts of Nairobi, which is run by Stella and her husband and employs around 40 staff.  They initially started up to process milk from the local small scale farmers, and then discovered that in some of the more remote areas, farmers were not able to produce consistent milk yields which was an issue.

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However, there were a lot of fruit trees in those areas that were producing fruit which the farmers were discarding or giving away because they did not perceive it had any value. So Stella and her husband began to think about a juice processing plant that would take the fruit and use it more effectively.  They also began to run a training centre to train the farmers to plant more trees (a great example of green enterprise) which would provide additional income in future rather than cutting down the trees to use the wood for cooking.  The business also introduced the farmers to charcoal stoves, which are more efficient, so they can use any discarded tree pruning to cook and heat their houses.  Not content to stop here, they also introduced the farmers an innovative method of growing vegetables which mean they can use their waste grey water to grow chard and other green vegetables, and use their water more efficiently.

On top of that Classic Foods began to broaden their range of products to include yoghurt, and honey. Further development plans are also being considered in producing some fortified foods.  But its not been entirely plain sailing.  As with any small business, brand awareness takes time, as well as sourcing finance for new equipment and machinery. They have benefited from learning from food production experts that Technoserve have been able to introduce them to, as well as improving their quality by having external audits to ensure their systems and procedures are compliant with the relevant food standards.   It was a great example of observing entrepreneurial behaviour combined with a focus on sustainability and supporting their suppliers.

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