BusinessExecutivesKenya's Everlyne Cherobon wins EMRC Small Business Incubator Award


Posted on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 17:38

Kenya's Everlyne Cherobon wins EMRC Small Business Incubator Award

By Khadija Sharife

For Everlyne Cherobon, founder of the non-profit organisation EMEDEN Kenya, seeking to improve the livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers in Kenya's semi-arid Rift Valley, winning the EMRC award – and the cash prize of $15 000, makes a world of difference.

Map of Kenya

"This is my dream," Everlyne Cherobon told The Africa Report. "Thus far, we have been self-financed. We started off with five volunteers that are now on salary, and seven more that work on commission.

"But beyond this group of employees, is the actual impact on the rural farm communities who have welcomed us. Like (Zimbabwe) Prime Minister Tsvangirai has said, the future of Africa and African agriculture lies with the small farmers."

Below are excerpts of The Africa Report's (TAR) exclusive interview with Cherobon (EC).

TAR: Tsvangirai described himself as the eldest son of a rural farmer and bricklayer who grew up in a rural village. This clearly made a big impact on him. Did you have a similar upbringing?

EC: It has everything to do with my upbringing: I was the child of peasant farmers, also in a very rural area.

I did agri-business at the University of Nairobi and worked with the government and NGO sector for over 12 years, mostly in the field of rural development.

I'm currently pursuing my MSC because I have personally noticed the lack of management skills for agri-business in the rural areas, and we want to train people in this capacity.

I wanted to make agri-business seen as more profitable as possible, something to be admired.


TAR: Who are your main supporters and what were the main obstacles – political, financial, gendered?

EC: My key supporter is a certain sector of the Kenyan government. We had no institutional finance support but we are hoping to find it now that we have made this presentation.

Locally, there was no real gendered discrimination as most of the rural farmers are women, and also, over 60% of people in the area are extremely poor.

This organisation is their lifeline. At a bigger level, obviously, the higher the stakes, the more difficult things get.


TAR: Tell us about the development of the NPO and the total impact area.

EC: We started up in 2007. By 2010, we were a legal NPO entity.

The first practical project was integrating improved bee-keeping practices with sunflower production.

We started with just US$4850 dollars and we have now doubled our capital. We support 2000 farmers but because the average farm family has six members, it has an impact area of 12 000 people.

Our aims are four: to supply farm inputs and products from our store; to act as a collection and banking point for farmers who want to save; as a library system for farmers wanting to educate themselves more; and finally as a microfinance place for farmers who want to lend and borrow, but this last area is still to be developed more."


TAR: Tell us about customary land ownership – how can it work given that governments or chiefs will 'lease' or sell land, at extremely low costs, to foreign investors?

EC: This is a big problem in Africa. But our aim is to consolidate farm land, to mechanise and modernise, and I am preparing the small farmers for this event  - that they will eventually be owners of a large and profitable commercial farm.

When it comes to government, my desire is that they act selflessly, and not consider this or that powerful person or company involved, but what must be done for the benefit of Africans.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 17:55

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