Contributed by Kuziva Chatukuta, YALI Network member from Zimbabwe
I am Kuziva Chatukuta, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Chatukuta Dried Foods, which is a family-run and family-owned business in the Murewa District in Zimbabwe. I am a farmer who has found a space in agriculture, solving the problem of food shortage. We offer training in post-harvest food preservation. We dry fruits, vegetables and meat, which are meant to be stored during times of plenty and only used when food is scarce or off-season.
All our products are naturally grown and sun-dried without additives or preservatives. For fruit, we dry bananas, apples, pineapples, mangoes and guavas. For meat, we dry and make beef biltong and free-range chicken biltong. We also dry spices, herbs and leafy vegetables.
Chatukuta Dried Foods managed to pass successfully through the stages of research and development through assistance from African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and a U.N. Joint Programme on Gender Equality (UNJPGE) working capital grant.
We are now in the late stage of market entry and business growth and have managed to introduce our products in both rural and urban markets, where they have been well received. Our next step is to supply larger retailers and chain stores. We think this is possible because the demand for low-fat, organic, dried and healthy food in urban areas is high, as the general populace is now more conscious about their health.
My business started to take off when I participated in the 2016 cohort of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Southern Africa Regional Leadership Center (RLC). When I started the program, my business was just at the idea stage. The YALI Southern Africa RLC program helped me to develop my idea further and refine it. I was taught how to develop a business plan and to summarize my business model. My plan was to start a business in post-harvest food preservation of locally produced food.
Local YALI chapter members helped me design and get my business off the ground by volunteering their skills. The YALI Network is full of rich talent — from lawyers, teachers and auditors, to advisers and designers. Now my business is running smoothly, and we are now able to provide a small scholarship opportunity to local families, where we pay the school fees of those in need.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.