In 2009, Eunice Mwongera decided to expand Hillside Green Growers and Exporters Company, her family-owned fruit and vegetable business. A graduate of Nairobi University and former finance officer at the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Mwongera, applied for the USDA Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology (Borlaug) Fellowship Program. Not long after, she was paired with a mentor at Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center for six weeks to learn U.S. best practices in agribusiness development and management. The fellowship was part of a program that provided U.S.-based agribusiness and collaborative research training to African women.
Within a year of completing her fellowship, Mwongera had successfully applied many of the business skills and concepts she learned. Not only had she succeeded in increasing export markets for Hillside Green from three to seven countries, but Mwongera also started her own poultry, rabbit, and fish farming operation. In addition, Mwongera modified her company’s strategic and export plans, aligned Hillside Green’s food safety standards with international industry standards, and adopted new technologies.
Besides improving Hillside Green’s operations, Mwongera makes employee development a priority, provides training to smallholder farmers, and mentors women entrepreneurs. Her work to empower and uplift women includes participating in the African Women’s Agribusiness Network, which lobbies the Kenyan government for increased access for women to financial capital, tax relief, and business services. Of these efforts, Mwongera said, “Entrepreneurship requires commitment, risk taking, and persistence. African women have these capabilities, but they need to be guided and empowered through training and business development services.”
Mwongera praised the Borlaug Fellowship Program for providing customized training, exposing her to new ideas, and motivating her to diversify her business. Going forward, Mwongera aims to strengthen her company’s presence in Western Europe, introduce new products to local Kenyan and regional food supply chains, and support food security and sustainable agricultural systems.
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