The entrepreneurial spirit is a mixture of attributes that, when combined, create leaders who can shape communities, nations, and the world. Elinesi Mpyanga, a farmer from Tanzania, has that combination: unwavering optimism, an ability to recognize opportunities for learning and growth, and a passion for mentoring others.
Elinesi is a village-based agricultural advisor who educates farmers on good agricultural practices. She’s also a businesswoman, and when she sells seeds, she doesn’t miss an opportunity to educate her customers on the best way to plant them.
Her ability to connect with others is apparent in the way she slaps your hand after telling you a joke, or chats with friends about the local soccer teams. She can transition between serious and playful in an instant, a skill that has contributed to her success as an entrepreneur.
She says, “As a business-person, you have to always smile.”
Through Feed the Future, which is led by USAID, Elinesi has found new ways to grow as an agricultural trainer and businesswoman. Over the past four years, she’s participated in various trainings, such as seed spacing, appropriate pesticide handling, and financial management. Through these trainings, the Feed the Future project — Nakafa, or “grains” in Swahili — equips entrepreneurial farmers like Elinesi with the tools to run a thriving business.
In Tanzania, there is an unmet demand for high-quality seeds that farmers can use to increase yields and profits. To address this deficit, Feed the Future, through USAID, is working with the government to identify and certify farmers like Elinesi who can produce high-quality seeds through seed multiplication — the production of multiple seeds from one seed. These producers then sell the seeds and share information about proper growing practices with other farmers to help them maximize their yield.
These services help Tanzania meet the food needs of a growing population while simultaneously providing opportunities and revenue streams for farmers.
Elinesi’s investment in the success of her customers is evident by how she listens and works with them to address their agricultural concerns. Through this ability to recognize the needs of fellow farmers, as well as her work ethic and foresight, Elinesi has been able to expand her enterprise. Since 2015, she’s increased her production of quality rice seeds for planting by 275 percent, from 2.2 metric tons to 8.25 metric tons. Her yield has increased her estimated revenue by $15,000.
Beyond producing seeds, Elinesi earned a USAID mechanization grant and received a rice thresher that she uses to sell additional agricultural services. She’s also become a distributor of fertilizer, selling over 5 metric tons, which is worth $2,000.
Elinesi’s success is just one example of how USAID promotes long-term, sustainable links between the private sector and smallholder farmers throughout Tanzania. USAID identifies people such as Elinesi who adopt and share good agricultural practice methods and are willing to invest their money to procure appropriate technologies that improve their farming practices.
Through USAID’s approach, the project has provided agricultural and food security training to over 225,000 smallholder farmers, supported 700 individual and group entrepreneurs to expand their businesses, provided 80 entities with mechanization grants, and increased access to agricultural inputs resulting in over $11 million in sales of seeds, fertilizers, and crop protectants.
These results rely on successful business women like Elinesi who play a significant role in Tanzania’s future. Her work and the education she provides to farmers directly contribute to her country’s growth and wellbeing. Elinesi’s entrepreneurial spirit inspires Tanzanian farmers in finding their own success and supporting Tanzania’s journey to self-reliance.
About the Authors
Co-author James Flock is the Chief of Party of the USAID Nafaka (“grains” in Swahili) activity in Tanzania. The photographer and co-author Nevil Jackson is a writer and visual artist based in Los Angeles.