Transforming mangoes into success
In 2012, Fatma Riyami participated in the 1st Regional WIEF Online Marketing Workshop in Kenya. Three years on, she shares the story of how, with foresight and a sense of innovation, she has grown her hobby into a successful agro-processing business.
Budding mangoes – 1992
Inspired by the success of the mango production in Kenya, Fatma decided in 1992 to start growing mangoes in her own homeland of Tanzania. Based in Dar es Salaam, the capital City of Tanzania, Fatma first started by working on her own farmlands – a small venture to generate some income for herself by supplying the fruit to local markets.
Crossing borders – 2000
After eight years, her goal to export her produce came to fruition in 2000.
Her production levels had grown large enough and she registered her business as NatureRipe Kilimanjaro Ltd (NKL). With the financial help of family and friends, (she could not get a bank loan) she started exporting from her own farm as well as from out-growers that she had started to work with over the years. NKL exported mainly to the Middle East. However, exporting fresh fruit was no easy task and challenges continued to be thrown her way.
Varying qualities of mangoes, unreliable transportation and insufficient infrastructure were just some of the many things that added to the growing expenses of the business.
Going beyond mangoes – 2008
In 2008, Fatma decided to change focus and direction. She brought back the business to the local market, but this time as an agro-processor. She started diversifying her crops – roasting and packaging cashews, nuts and peanuts. In 2011, NKL also started to work with local beekeepers to pack and sell honey.
Going online, gaining traction – 2012
Another facet opened up for Fatma after attending the Regional WIEF Online Marketing Workshop in 2012. Having set up www.natureripe.co.tz, NKL attracted many interested parties and even became a site for people looking for training in the business.
NKL has grown to serve as a market link to women and youth groups who process cashew nuts, mango and fruit growers and beekeepers all over Tanzania. A company from the Netherlands has also used the NKL orchard for trials on the viability of growing its seeds in the Coastal areas of Tanzania.
Fatma has welcomed many prestigious visitors including the Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of Tanzania; Ali Mohamed Shein, then Vice President of Tanzania; Chief Minister of Zanzibar; as well as other ministers and government officials. International visitors include Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the World Trade Organisation; Guy Ryder, Director General of International Labour Organisation; and Ward Brehm, Chairman of the United States African Development Foundation.
Keep on going, keep on paying forward – Today
NKL has seven production lines – mango pickle, mango and chilli-based sauces, roasted cashew nuts and peanuts, honey and cashew nut candy bars. It sells its products to supermarkets in six regions of Tanzania, to hotels and restaurants and other corporate clients. Yet its growth doesn’t stop here. NKL is still expanding and is in the process of building a new factory.
Now, Fatma is also a mentor and trainer to local youth and women in agriculture and processing as well as entrepreneurship and mango growing. Groups of women entrepreneurs from Tanzania, the East African Community countries, Malawi, South Sudan and Somalia have visited her factory to learn about processing and to engage her mentorship. More than 1000 local farmers have been trained at the farm.
She has been invited to speak at many forums and to share her experience as an agro processor.
“This just goes to show that dreams can be attained with hard work, quick thinking and a willingness to adapt and try new things.”