Sunday, September 26, 2010

Niebe flour, a self raising business

Rokhaya LÓ is a mother and a family breadwinner in, thanks to a job milling niebe, the common name for cowpea in Senegal.

"I clean, dehusk, sort out, and weigh the niebe before it is milled into flour," LÓ explains during a visit to Kumba Enterprises, a small milliing business founded by Mme Aissatou Diagne Deme in Dakar.

The cowpea flour sold Kumba Enterprises has made it household name around Dakar. It’s an important ingredient for traditional meals and a rich source of protein for children, the elderly and expecting mothers.

LÓ has been working at Kumba Enterprises since 2003 and has supported her child and family members with her earnings.

"I enjoy the job. The money is good," she says. LÓ is not just an employee but a neighbour. She is one of 52 women from the neighbourhood from where Kumba Enterprises has grown as a family business since 1994.

Niebe flour is rich in protein, a trait which has kept Kumba Enterprises' tills ringing. The company mills about 800 kilogrammes of niebe flour a month, most of it sold locally to consumers and markets.

"The flour is affordable and sought after locally. I am investing sampling the export market in Europe where I have an agent for millet flour that I also produce and export," says Mme Deme who supplies cowpea flour to local bakers.

Mme Deme has plans to mechanizeg her entire business, but admits that some manual processes deliver better efficiency. The flour business has risen in value since she started the business at her home with an initial investment of $12 000 [6 million CFA]. Today, she values her business at $100,000 [50 million CFA].

Cowpea is increasingly a source of income for many women like Mme Deme in West and Central Africa, thanks to new food technologies being developed by reseaerchers. An association of women in Dakar is running a home-based take-out food business, serving entrees and desserts made from cowpea.

During the four day World Cowpea Conference in Saly, researchers will discuss a new study analysing the economic fortunes of hundreds of street vendors in Ghana and Niger who sell a popular, deep-fried fritter made from cowpea known as akara. Research has found that most of the women earned four to 16 times more from value added cow pea products than the prevailing minimum wage in their countries underlining that cowpea can be a cash cow for the enterprising.

By Busani Bafana

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