In two distinct regions in Kenya, high youth unemployment, as well as the ever-present threat of food insecurity, we encouraged two youth groups to take action. Tiger Group and SPEAK youth groups are located in Nakuru East and Kilifi South respectively, and both are working to produce, process and sell cereals. With the support of the Vijabiz project, enriching cereal products has provided more sustainable employment for the youth.
- SPEAK Youth Group was established in 2017 and is made up of 15 members. The group began working with cereals from the start, buying maize, sorghum and wheat from farmers and then selling it to the company East African Breweries Limited for a profit. They started processing cereals into flour and enriched them with highly nutritious vitamins. We produce Afya Ugali; an all-natural and organic high-fibre maize flour, enriched with rice bran, cinnamon, turmeric, amaranth and pumpkin seed powder.
- TIGER Group has existed since 2013 and consists of ten members. When Tiger was formed it was involved in other income generating activities, including owning and running an entertainment business, a restaurant and a sweet shop. They used to think that agriculture was not meant for youth but wanted to build a business together to empower members economically. So they bought pool tables and started showing football matches in their venue, which was a good venture. When they saw that their clientele went outside to eat, so they also started the restaurant.
Well, despite the different histories of each group, both followed a similar trajectory after collaboration with Vijabiz.
Expanding into cereals
The activities of both groups began simply, however the high rate of youth unemployment and the prevalence of food insecurity inspired them to do more.
The urge to empower young people and farmers in our area, as well as promote the consumption of healthy and nutritious flour grew. To realise these objectives, members of the groups started contributing money to start a group business.
Narrates the group representatives:
Due to our close relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture of Nakuru, in 2018 we heard about the Vijabiz project. After applying, three members from each group were contacted and invited to attend workshops in Nakuru and Kilifi. These events brought together many experts for three value chains – fisheries, cereals and dairy – including representatives from government agencies and financial institutions,
one of the advantages of attending one of the workshops was that it gave us a chance to interact with the experts. When people from the Ministry of Agriculture shared the major gaps that existed in the three commodity chains, we saw an opportunity for us in the cereal value chain. Tiger became interested in the milling of maize into maize flour, adding value to the raw product and selling it to customers for a higher price. Cereals seemed like a good choice because we saw that they were in high demand, including in our own restaurant,
we used our savings from our existing business to buy a second-hand milling machine to process maize into flour. Tiger now uses the milling machine to produce flour, which we use in our own hotel, but also to mill maize for customers for a fee,
we also enrich our flour with cinnamon, amaranth, pumpkin seeds and rice bran. This ‘Afri maize meal’ was beautifully labelled by Joseph Muriuki, a member who attended an ICT training course organised by Vijabiz. We later added another product: ‘Afri uji’, a porridge mixture of sorghum, millet and cassava,
As part of our achievements, we recently launched ‘Afri peanuts’, deliciously fried and beautifully packed peanuts,”
Despite the challenges of price fluctuations and inadequate resources and lack of advanced machinery we have seen positive changes. We increased our revenues from KSh 150,000 (€1,370) per month before milling, to KSh 180,000-200,000 (€1,650-1,830) after milling began,”-TIGER GROUP, NAKURU.
New partnerships, crucial ICT skills and better opportunities for SPEAK and TIGER groups…
SPEAK group on the other hand entered into a partnership with an already established milling company (Equitorial Millers), due to lack of machinery and production rights.
Improving the business Vijabiz training on entrepreneurship skills, held in February 2019 in both Nakuru and Kilifi, gave them an opportunity to learn how to digitise financial records using Excel sheets, which we adopted having never saved records before.
As they put it in their own words at the end of trainings, keeping records digitally has increased the efficiency of the management of their finances and their financial history is now accessible to all group members that are computer literate.
“We learnt about group dynamics, which has been of great help to accommodate one another – including those who do not yet have the skills to work with a computer. For example, after the 5-day Vijabiz ICT and marketing training course, held in March 2019, we adopted the use of social media by creating our own Facebook pages: Tiger Group and SPEAK Youth Group. Our Facebook pages have enabled us to reach out to many customers. We have received inquiries for our products from surprising sources; a local school (Blessed Winners’ Academy) contracted Tiger to supply maize flour after it saw our product on our Facebook page. SPEAK’s product, that goes by the name Afya Ugali, is currently doing well in big supermarkets like Tuskys in Kilifi County,”
Then there were the business skills that changed our business perspectives…and the trade show that offered us the opportunity to exhibit Afya Ugali and Afri Tiger Maize meal…
“Not all our customers have come to us via our Facebook pages. We were also given the opportunity to attend trade shows organised by the USTADI Foundation in Kilifi and Nakuru. The trade show experience was one of a kind. We had the opportunity to exhibit our products, Afya Ugali & Afri Tiger maize meal, thereby reaching out to new customers. The trade show gave us a chance to increase our brand awareness and visibility in the market and educate customers about our product. The feedback we got was very encouraging: many customers were pleased with our product,
with the support of Vijabiz, we also had the opportunity to undergo mentorship programmes which has increased our knowledge of business. Before the start of the mentorship programme, we lacked the technical capacity to develop a comprehensive business plan, but the intense mentorship facilitated by the CoELIB and Demand Link Business Solutions teams in Nakuru and Kilifi helped us create one,
this plan will help us a great deal to seek financial support for our growth and expansion. The approach used in the mentorship programme was perfect for the stage our groups were in: it started from our needs and was not rigid with predetermined steps or sequences of activities,
It really adapted to our situation. As a result of all of the support from Vijabiz, Tiger saw a 30% increase in profit, and SPEAK an increase of 40%. Despite this success, it was difficult for all our members to incorporate all the lessons from the training courses in one week,
more training, and more time to integrate the lessons would be useful in the future. Still, all of the improvements have enabled Tiger to employ eight youths: three in the milling shop, one in the sweet shop (a parallel business to the cereal activities), another one in the entertainment business and three working in our collectively-owned hotel,
SPEAK youth group does not employ people yet, because we do not mill ourselves, but we are currently focusing more on marketing Afya Ugali to boost sales to increase revenue,”
The Vijabiz activities have been truly valuable in very different contexts. A group which was already involved in selling cereals was able to improve its sales and way of working, while a group which was engaged in radically different activities was enabled to add the cereals value chain to their repertoire.
The two groups are upbeat and positive of what the future holds:
“We wish to have access to more advanced machinery, capable of producing greater quantities of our products. In the next three years we aim to be large producers of highly nutritious maize flour, which is different from the conventional maize flour that currently exists in the market,
we can only realise this by acquiring better machinery and taking control of the entire production process,”