Mali is ranked as the 4th West African country globally in sesame production and the 2nd in growth and production in West Africa. However, up to 95% of Malian Sesame is exported and only about 5% locally-consumed. There is a real need to promote local processing and value addition of sesame, oil seeds and other local cereals.
Fily Keita, 28, is from Mali and is the founder of Agrowomen, a company whose core business is to process sesame seeds, make sesame snacks, and oil, and sell the rice Malodouma (tasteful rice). “We sell our products through e-commerce, supermarkets, food stores, social media and websites. In terms of access to markets, we work with women farmers’ cooperatives to connect them to national and international markets,” Fily adds.
As a daughter to a policeman who had invested in agriculture in the village, Fily got to see firsthand the challenges that women in agriculture faced. Many of these were growing and selling sesame seeds. She wanted to help change that. “Agrowomen was born from my urge to contribute to women’s empowerment. I decided to contribute to women’s economic empowerment and food security by adding value to this magical product,” she says.
More than 70% of Malian women are active in the agriculture sector however they make very little profit from their farming activities. Only about 5% of women in Mali own land in the rural areas, as such, it is important that we empower them economically in other ways. This is where Agrowomen comes in with our processed and value-added products.
Generation Africa Fellowship Program
The Generation Africa Fellowship Program gave me a unique opportunity to strengthen my business skills. It also helped me have a clear goal and what I needed to do for my business. The GoGettaz competition was life-changing; it helped me buy some raw materials and expand my business. Further, it increased the visibility of my business.
The Mentorship sessions, facilitated by Strathmore Research and Consultancy Centre(SRCC), have been life-changing; they helped me better define my business and be clearer on the goals I had set for my business. My mentor helped me shift my mindset and get a better focus for my business and the goals I wanted to achieve.
What Next for Agrowomen?
My dream is to be able to expand Agrowomen beyond Mali and beyond Africa, to have a greater impact, by partnering with women cooperatives, trade fairs and exhibitions. I want to create more jobs for women and youth along with capacity development for them. I am also looking to grow our processing capacity. Agrowomen is the future of Mali; the future of Africa.
Interviewed by Juliet Hinga