Report: Women entrepeneurs benefit from cooperatives

Kisumun kalastajarannan veneitä

Around 600 female entrepeneurs have seen a significant increase in their income, reveals our latest report. Additionally, they now have better access to local food markets.

In Nyamira County, ISF and its partner Nyamira North Women SACCO (NNWS) has raised women’s indigenous vegetable and mushroom farming to a level that enables them to break into the urban food market.  

In May, ISF evaluated the vitality of the business activities of the NNWS and their female members. Important goal of the evaluation was to find key development gaps to take forward in the next few years. 

Main evaluation results


The economic status of women has improved, despite the difficult years. According to the evaluation, 76% of women report a significant increase in sales over the past two years.  

The cooperative runs effective training and advisory service that supports and develops women’s farming. The service consists of a peer support system and regular expert support. 


The cooperative has entered new and bigger markets, for example contract farming agreement with Mace Foods Ltd.


Women can grow mushroom spawn and do seed multiplication, which has reduced production costs. The women have launched the production of (vermi)composted fertilizer. 


With the help of local food companies and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), the food safety and nutritional values ​​of the final products have improved. 


Women participate more in family decision-making about the use of money, and purchase of land and other assets. It is important for female entrepreneurs to be able make decisions related to their own business.  


Most women use the banking services of the cooperative, they save money, take out loans and make investments to develop their businesses.  

Evaluation recommendations 

The cooperative need to increase production volumes and secure steady production throughout and between years to access new markets and maintain contract farming agreements. 

The project should find ways to attract new women to the business, increase vertical farming, improve access to water, scale up seed, spawn and fertilizer production and increase the use of climate smart farming practices and technologies. 

Women need additional training in business planning and monitoring. Farm-specific, information-based plans and investments are a key for increasing climate resilience and business profitability. In 2023, Equity bank will train 70 women on business planning as part of the bank’s corporate responsibility program. 

The project should continue close cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and local educational and research institutes to solve key problems together. For example, KIRDI (Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute) can support the product development and testing. 

The quality chain needs refining to improve access to new markets and to reduce food waste and production costs. 

The cooperative’s entire quality chain, from field to table, wholesale or food factory, must be covered by national certifications. The project already cooperates with KEBS, but much remains to be done. 

The project has established the collection centre for the cooperative where products are stored, processed and sold. The Kenya Agricultural Sector Development Program has contributed to the costs of setting up the centre. Next step is to equip local satellite collection centres and to further polish the vegetable and mushroom processing. 

The project should map innovative transport solutions to guarantee the quality of the products sold. The use of biogas is an interesting possibility. KIRDI and the Kisii Agriculture Training Centre are investigating the use of natural gas and the discussions with them have already begun. 

The cooperative needs a proper business model, based on which, it can profitably provide services to its members. 

If the cooperative cannot offer proper services to their members, women’s opportunities are reduced, and the development processes of the project slow down. The cooperative has about 2,000 members who can benefit from the services in the future. 

ISF hopes that the cooperation with the University of Vaasa and Strathmore University in Kenya can support the development of the business model. The universities will use NNWS as a practical example of business modelling and branding in teaching and research. 

A good development cooperation project initiates something new 

In Kenya, ISF creates scalable local solutions and builds advisory and logistics systems that advance local food and grocery production.  

Through expert cooperation, ISF turns isolated women farmers into associated, competent entrepreneurs and cooperatives into profitable companies that are active participants in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. And at the same time, we grow more nutritious food. This won’t happen overnight, but the train is already well on tracks.