Turning dreams into reality: How Bertha defied all odds to achieve economic empowerment through her business

A beacon of inspiration.

Bertha Mabula, the owner of Dorfra Trading Company in Tanzania, is an inspiration for women in her tribe in Tanzania. Bertha started her entrepreneurial journey in the early 2000’s by going against the norms to establish her agriculture trading company. By surmounting numerous hurdles with unwavering grit and resilience, she now runs a successful business that has expanded beyond borders.

“My annual rice production capacity has now reached an impressive 800 MT, almost four times of my previous capacity,” Bertha beamingly shared with us during our visit to Dorfra Trading Company alongside representatives from the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment, and Global Affairs Canada.

“Not only did I achieve this milestone, but I also successfully expanded the market to include Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. Excitingly, this year I have marked another significant accomplishment – exported rice to Turkey for the first time,” Bertha continued.

Against all odds.

Bertha Mabula, the owner of Dorfra Trading Company in Tanzania

The agriculture sector of Tanzania is female-intensive where women do the majority of the hard labor, most of which is unpaid. According to data from the World Bank, women contribute to 66% of the workforce in the agriculture sector. However, they enjoy limited social and economic benefits due to gender discrimination that inhibits them from reaping equal rewards.

When Bertha started her business in the early 2000s, female entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector of Tanzania were unheard of. She faced countless challenges including the lack of acceptance by her husband and family as well as limited access to business resources and financing. But she remained adamant to become financially strong and independent for herself and her kids.

A young mother of two little kids, Bertha had big dreams but her husband made her choose between their marriage or her business. Bertha chose against a life of misery and despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, took her fate in her own hands.

The initial years of business were hard and the challenges were many. But her commitment, resilience, and dedication towards her kids’ better future made her unstoppable.

Bertha now supports 1,000 farmers by providing them with improved varieties of seeds, essential farming equipment like ox ploughs and wheelbarrows, and training on good agricultural practices, gender equality, and climate change adaptation.

Partnering with MEDA.

Bertha recalls the challenging initial years of her business when she had to fight on multiple fronts– from single-handedly taking care of the business to fulfilling her motherly duties. But her determination and commitment paid off when she found the right resources and support by partnering with MEDA. Bertha graciously shared how MEDA’s Strengthening Small Business Value Chains (SSBVC) helped her overcome various barriers through gender-responsive solutions. As one of the 22,500 small entrepreneurs who benefited from the program, Bertha received access to appropriate financial products, adequate market information, and improved business environment.

Once SSBVC ended in 2021, Bertha became a part of Feminist Entrepreneurs Growing Green Economies (FEGGE), another program run by MEDA in partnership with the Government of Canada. The aim of this program is to support female entrepreneurs for promoting economic empowerment and climate-smart business initiatives. Bertha emphasized the role of these programs on her remarkable growth and urged her government representatives to implement such initiatives more widely for the benefit of other aspiring women entrepreneurs.

Bertha Mabula, Dorfra Trading Company staff, and MEDA Staff

Lessons Learned.

Bertha’s success story is a testament to her extraordinary courage and relentless entrepreneurial spirit. She believes that with the right support, women of Tanzania can reach their full potential to create opportunities for lifting themselves out of poverty while creating decent work opportunities for others. With its commitment towards creating business solutions to poverty, MEDA will continue to support driven entrepreneurs like Bertha to realize their dreams of economic and financial freedom.

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  • MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates)

    MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty. We work in agri-food market systems, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Our success is measured by income, improved processes, increased knowledge, and the creation of decent work.

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