A tomato preservation business established by a group of enterprising women in Malawi has underlined the huge potential for African smallholder farmers to earn more from the food that they grow.
Just a year after the first jars of garden fresh tomatoes rolled off the production line and the women behind Kwithu Kitchen (KK) are selling their product to some of the leading supermarkets and hotel chains in the Southern African country.
50 local women in Mzuzu district of Northern Malawi formed ‘Kwithu Producers and Marketing Cooperative’ back in 2010, and have been working since then to develop a sustainable business around the production, preservation, packaging and marketing of processed fresh tomato.
Kwithu Kitchen began production in June 2013, and currently employ more than 30 people in the business. KK is the first Malawian-owned tomato processing venture, and its owners have ambitious plans for the future.
The business currently processes 4,500 onekilgram jars of preserves in the Kwithu Garden Fresh Tomatoes range, but expects to be buying from up to 2,500 small-scale growers within two years, and to double that number over a five year period.
The business is being managed by Kwithu Kitchen Cooperative Ltd. on a one acre plot of land that the members use both for tomato production and for processing and jarring their product. The group has received mentoring and enterprise development support from Gorta-Self Help Africa.