Young Malawian entrepreneur shares her story with Sens. Kirk and Durbin

ONE Regional Field Director Tzviatko Chiderov meets with a fascinating young entrepreneur from Malawi.

I met an inspiring African entrepreneur the other day. Rachel Sibande is a true leader from Malawi who is helping her country and her people prosper. Rachel is working on an exciting project that is providing smallholder farmers in Malawi with market and pricing information through SMS technology right on their cell phones.

Rachel, along with several other incredible entrepreneurs across Africa, is here in Chicago thanks to the US State Department’s Young African Leaders program. In addition to participating in leadership trainings and events, these leaders also got to meet public officials and talk to them about the impact that American funding has on Africa.

I was lucky enough to attend meetings to Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin’s offices with Rachel. Both meetings went great. The staff members, Alma Tello, an aide for Senator Durbin, and Matt Abbott, Senator Kirk’s director of global and economic affairs, were impressed by Rachel and the work that she does. They were very happy to hear of the effectiveness of the US-funded programs she works with and the potential of applying similar ideas not just to agriculture, but also other issues such as child and maternal health.

Chicago Senators

Everyone was especially inspired when Rachel shared the story of one of the farmers she works with named Sara. Sara is a smallholder farmer in rural Malawi. For the past 10 years she had been selling her crops to a vendor who comes to her village once a year. In the spring of 2011, Sara enrolled in a USAID-funded project, led by Rachel, that aims to provide market and pricing information right on farmers’ cell phones. The next time the vendor came to her village and offered to buy her crops, Sara found that the price she had been given all these years was at least four times less than the going market rate. She refused to sell to the vendor, and instead got together with her neighbors and went to the nearby town to sell at a fair price. Sara made more than four times what she had in prior years by doing this. Now she has more resources to better feed her family and educate her children.

This isn’t a single story. Many other farmers in Sara’s community and across Malawi have benefited from the life-changing effect of access to current, accurate market information. This is living proof that US foreign aid is making an impact on the lives of millions of farming families in the poorest parts of the world. nd I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s money well-spent.

I was honored to meet Rachel and learn about the incredible impact she’s had in promoting development in Malawi. African leaders and entrepreneurs like Rachel are the future of Africa and I am excited to see her efforts inspire others to multiply the tremendous positive impact she is making on the continent.