Shalem Investments, a sorghum trading and processing firm in Kenya, has won the EMRC-Rabobank Project Incubator Award. This was announced last week at the EMRC Agribusiness Forum in Kinshasa, DRC. Two of the five finalists were 2SCALE partners – Shalem and CB Farm Fresh, a Mozambican trading and processing firm.
The award, which includes a cash prize of $15,000, aims to encourage innovation by African agribusinesses. This initiative, launched by EMRC, a Brussels-based international non-profit, is co- sponsored by the Rabobank Foundation (Netherlands) and the African Development Bank.
Ruth Kinoti, CEO of Shalem, plans to invest the prize money to grow her sorghum business even more. “We have the opportunity, we have the farmers – and with support from 2SCALE, we have the business linkages to grow.” The company aims to contract with 14,000 farmers, including at least 10,000 women, and to provide all its contracted farmers with training, technical support and even links to banks and micro-finance providers.
Shalem has already helped mobilize 320 farmer groups and has created more than US $3.5 million in wealth for small-scale farmers. The Shalem-2SCALE partnership covers a range of activities. Training programs have helped promote new high-yielding, disease-resistant hybrids and improved crop and soil management methods. Using the E-Prod software platform developed by another 2SCALE partner, the company is moving from paper-based to electronic record keeping and monitoring. Another partner, SoilCares, has begun a large-scale soil testing program to diagnose nutrient deficiencies in the fields of Shalem farmers.
2SCALE support has helped the company diversify its customer base and its product range. Once an aggregator for a single large buyer, it now serves a range of customers from food processors to feed manufacturers to development programs and others. It’s also developing new sorghum-based products, including animal feed as well as nutritious ‘fortified’ sorghum flour for low-income families.
“Before we began this partnership, there was hardly any commercial market for sorghum,” Ruth explains, “But now we receive hundreds of enquiries from farmers wanting to join our producer groups. In two years, I am confident that sorghum will become one of the biggest cash crops in this region.”