As part of a cultural exchange initiative launched by the US State Department, the African Women Entrepreneurs Program (AWEP) brought 46 African women entrepreneurs to the US for three weeks of education, outreach and engagement. In this piece, Jeannine Harvey profiles a mango business owner from Zambia.
For generations, Zambian families have planted a tree every time a baby is born. The mango tree takes on special meaning as it symbolizes life for these families. Dorothy (pictured here), is proprietor of Chankwakwa Natural Food, a small family business that works with over 350 local mango farmers.
For years, the families in Kabwe, Zambia would have to throw out fruit because they were unable to sell them. Chankwakwa trained and organized the families into a cooperative and the families are now able to sell their mangoes, ensuring a sustainable future for the families and building a strong local community.
“When my husband and I started Chankwakwa in 1973, I never realized the impact the business would have on the local community. Most of Chankwakwa’s 50 factory workers are women. The jobs we created [for these women] give them pride because they are able to pay for their kids to go to school and to buy uniforms. The women have a sense of worthiness because they earn a salary.”
Chankwakwa’s locally grown, 100 percent natural mango chips are ecological and fair trade certified, yielding a shared profit for the local community. The high quality flavor and business model is highly recognized and regarded throughout the country. And because Zambia’s electricity is produced by hydro power, the products leave a very small carbon footprint.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says, “Women hold the key to economic growth in Africa just as they hold the key to economic growth around the world.