Made in Mauritania: How one woman’s agribusiness is promoting local produce and blazing a trail for women’s entrepreneurship
June 21, 2016 Editor 0
A Maaro Njawaan rice paddy in Mauritania
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania — In a country where just 5 percent of top managers are women, Safietou Kane is something of an anomaly. Starting your own company as CEO at 23 years of age, on the other hand, might be considered remarkable in any context — male or female — but that is precisely what Safietou did when she founded her family agribusiness firm, Maaro Njawaan, in her hometown of Tékane in Traza, Mauritania, after completing her Bachelor of Science degree in International Business and Management at the University of Tampa in the United States last year.
Hailing from the fertile Senegal River Valley zone in the south, Safietou is no stranger to agriculture and was brought up keenly aware of the problems that plague Mauritanian farmers, most notably the lack of commercial outlets for their production and competition from imported agricultural goods, particularly rice. Like its regional neighbors, Mauritania consumes twice as much rice as it produces. Food imports have increased exponentially in recent years, particularly since the food crisis in 2007. As Safietou acknowledges, however, such a high level of imports often comes at the expense of local farmers and smallholders, whose livelihoods depend on rice.
Despite falling demand prices, however, Safietou saw an opportunity for her and her community, establishing a private company that would support local rice producers by buying their high-quality rice and then milling it in a local factory before packaging and transporting the product to stores in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou in the north.
Working along the entire value chain, Safietou’s firm is able to purchase rice directly from producers, regularizing production and providing stable employment in her hometown. It is widely recognized that nurturing national agricultural production has great potential for economic development and poverty reduction, particularly in rural areas, although Safietou admits that she was also motivated by other considerations.
“What we want to show is that high-quality rice is already available here in Mauritania, and [that] we should be proud of our local products.” As in many African countries, Mauritanian goods suffer from a poor image among consumers. Indeed, Mauritanians often deride their own country’s products as being of lower quality, preferring to pay a higher price for rice from Asia.
- Mauritania Ramps up Broadband Internet by Stimulating Private Investment
- We know very little about what makes innovation policy work: Four areas for more learning
- Bringing together earth-friendly products and South Africa’s poor
- Innovator-in-Chief: The Public Sector – Catalyst of Creativity
- University for Women Key to African Agriculture
- Boost for Africa’s smallholder farmers’ access to sustainable agricultural technologies as USAID announces $ 50 million Africa RISING Phase 2
Subscribe to our stories
- Opportunities and Challenges for Data-Driven Agricultural Innovation June 21, 2017
- Open Source Drug Discovery with the Malaria Box Compound Collection for Neglected Diseases and Beyond. June 21, 2017
- Leveraging ‘suptech’ for financial inclusion in Rwanda June 21, 2017
- Malaria diagnosis and mapping with m-Health and geographic information systems (GIS): evidence from Uganda. June 21, 2017
- WHO cone bio-assays of classical and new-generation long-lasting insecticidal nets call for innovative insecticides targeting the knock-down resistance mechanism in Benin. June 14, 2017