Women shouldering agricultural challenges
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
At a Glance
This is a story of Ecolife Foods. What the founders have gone through to get it to where it is today, what they envision it to be in the mid and long term. We hope it gives every reader a picture of the great baby to the two important women shouldering several important men on the journey.
One day two friends Hadijah and Sylvia agreed to meet and discuss various developmental ideas over a cup of coffee. However the coffee turned out to be food; and due to the limited funds we decided to share one plate of food while discussing our ideas. We both had a long term desire to have an agricultural supermarket. So we discussed it among other ideas and decided to start on the process. But how did we start? We had to think through what is needed and start from the basics through to the supermarket. Fast forward, we decided to start with cold storage which our supermarket would need. But we realised that we needed produce to keep in the cold room, so we worked with farmers to supply to us the products while we looked for the market. This did not yield much as the farm supply was not consistent and of poor quality. We decided to participate in the farming of some products like passion fruits, vegetables and sweet potato but the challenges were many. One of the challenges was the pests and diseases of especially passion fruit. We were advised to buy chemicals on the market to get around the problem, the chemicals were counterfeit and would not solve the problem. In addition they needed to be used frequently which was not good for the health of the workers and ourselves. We then decided to go organic, especially with the vegetables. We bought organic chemicals from those who claimed to sell some, but we were disappointed, they did not work! Henceforth we started to find means of addressing this. This triggered us to reading and researching about organic agro inputs and their usage. We worked with our farmers on this and came up with organic fertilizers and pesticides that we are currently proud of. They can take care of pests and diseases in the field. The challenge is to get the dosage of application so that we can have them marketed and used by other farmers. We are still looking for ways of how to get to this. In the vegetable production, especially with urban farming we broke through with the chemicals but we realised that something had to be done to the soil as well. Several times the crops would not be healthy yet the chemicals are used to take care of the pests and diseases. Then we started to look for ways of improving the soil. We researched about possible soil amendments and managed to learn how to treat the soil. The soil helped us grow healthy vegetables suitable for human consumption, however the quantities were too small to meet market demand. That pushed us farther to find more farmers to work with in order to raise quantities required by the market. Then came the challenge of quality seeds for good yield. We thus worked around the clock to raise seedlings for the farmers to buy and ensure good produce of their vegetables. But what happens when the vegetables are produced in large quantities? Can we dry them and add value to them? This led us to working with other partners on the solar dryer. We are in our early stages of testing of the dryer and hope to come up with a tangible prototype.
In short we have been able to work around the challenges in production to be able to get produce for our cold room which will escalate into an agriculture supermarket in the future.