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With the unemployment rates in Kenya hovering around 11% and unemployment among youth (ages 15 – 24) double that at 22.1% - many look to agriculture, construction and extractive sectors for viable employment. However, while many job opportunities exist in Nairobi, there are limited opportunities outside the capital.

MEDA’s Maendeleo Sawa (M-SAWA) project is actively working to combat this statistic by empowering people through private equity investment (PEI) and matching grants.

M-SAWA’s PEI capital has made over $18 million CAD available to SMEs in partnership with the Canadian government. Their matching grant program is currently benefiting 20,000 of these small enterprises – 52% of which are led by women.

Gloria is one such young woman.

As an educated young woman, Gloria knew that she could assist her family if she could use her business and agriculture skills.

When Gloria returned to her village after her schooling, she became involved in a local women’s agriculture group that was partnered with Equator Kenya Limited (EKL) farming African Birds Eye Chilli with support of MEDA’s M-SAWA project.

In August 2017, she planted 500 chilli bushes on a small plot of land. Her first harvest was 100 grams, which earned her $0.06 US. This result was laughed at by the women in her group.

She was not discouraged. She was determined to do better.

Through MEDA’s M-SAWA partnership with EKL, Gloria was trained in good agronomic practices (GAP), nursery management and pre- and post-harvest management of ABE Chilli. She was able to apply the skills gained to improve the productivity of her chilli farm.

Currently, Gloria harvests an average 50 kgs per month and sells all of her produce to EKL at an average price of US $0.6 per Kg, earning her $30 US per month on average.

Since her chilli business has proved to be successful, Gloria plans to extend her farm to 2,500 chilli bushes to increase her earnings five-fold.

Her success has been made possible, in part, by drip irrigation kits purchased from EKL. This has not only increased her product output, but also eased her back pain because she no longer has to fetch water to do manual irrigation.

As the youngest woman of her women’s agricultural support group, Gloria is a great inspiration to all women.

With her earnings from her chilli crop, Gloria has constructed the foundation of her new home. She plans to complete it with the sales from her chillies.

Gloria shared that since she has partnered with EKL and MEDA’s M-SAWA project and she has gained confidence in her abilities and is proud that she can take care of herself financially. She highlighted the importance her independence has played in raising her confidence. When she shared with her family that she is a successful chilli farmer, they were proud of her initiative and achievements.

Gloria is an example of the gumption, creativity and innovation that young women can demonstrate, despite the assumptions of others.