The entrepreneurial story of Honyprenuer of the year 2022 -Margaret Lengwe
The International Women’s Day is not just a one -off event that celebrates women but it also gives us an opportunity to hear the wonderful stories of women in their own words. As women month is in full gear, AgriEn shines a light on Margaret Kapansa Lengwe. Margaret is Managing Partner for Headlines Limited and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Umulyo Foods who shares with us her journey in agriculture and inspiration for taking the entrepreneurial route in her career.
1. How did your journey in agriculture start?
My journey in agriculture started at an early age. I would say my grandmother shaped much of what I am today, she was a very active woman who was always up to something. I remember how she always kept a backyard garden where she would grow different types of crops that she would sell and get money that she would use to buy things for the house. That kind of spirit really motivated me to want to be active and come up with ways that I could also make money, and that is a spirit which I carried along with me even in my adult years. Even though I went on to study Public Administration and Psychology at the University of Zambia (UNZA) and went on to work for different organisations such as the former parastatal telecommunications company and later on Citi Bank, my love and passion for marketing and sales never faded away. I have always been an on-the-go person, always looking around to see how best I can utilize what I see around me and create amazing quality products and finding a market for them. You can call me a seed that gets refined every time.
2. How do you feel women can contribute to integrated sustainable food system?
For me, I feel it all starts in a home, my grandmother was an inspiration but my father gave me encouragement to build myself. Women need to be given an environment that allows them to express themselves, and this starts at household level. The way we nature girls in the family is important in empowering and grooming women entrepreneurs. There is need for families to respect the views of women and their diversity, these aspects help women to soar. Let women not just be restricted to roles that society has deemed to be “for women”, let them be part of the financial systems in the home, let them also be part of decision making in the home, this will raise the consciousness of attitudes in the way society views women, and help in understanding the evolving nature of women.
3. If you could share one piece of advice with the future generation of women in agriculture, what would it be?
My advice would be for them to get an education. Education is key as it opens the way for women to test, learn and understand themselves. Women need to be open to learning new things and know that agriculture is evolving and at a very fast pace, the future generation will need to have an education to effectively apply themselves to the changing nature of agriculture.
4. When you think about the community you live in, what would be at the top of your (wish) list to advocate?
Equality among boys and girls will be key, how do we put on the agenda the relationship between men and women in creating equal opportunities because the outcome benefits all.
5. How do you see agriculture in the next 5 or 10 years from now? Especially for women in Zambia?
I see great strides made by women especially with the government helping in creating institutional frameworks to channel the energies in agriculture such as the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises, The Ministry of Green Economy and Environment and of course with organisations like AgriEn network that support partnerships that contribute to food systems, I believe we are on the right track to taking the agriculture sector in Zambia to the next stage.
1. Tell us about the challenges you face being a woman in the agriculture sector?
My challenges are not much because I am not the primary producer of most of the products that I have and that is why I have great respect for women who are in primary producing, there is need to help them to address certain challenges they face such as access to finance, inputs and also market linkages.
2. Why do you feel women’s economic empowerment is very important?
It is important because it gives liberation to the woman to do great exploits. As they say, a woman empowered is a nation empowered. I feel there is so much potential that women possess which can be unlocked if they are empowered and given a space where they can nature and grow.
3. When did you first interact with AgriEn Network?
My first interaction with AgriEn Network was in 2022 when they hosted several activities in commemoration of the World Bee Day. Among them, was a stakeholder meeting with different actors in the apiculture sector and a product showcase which gave Honey processors a platform to showcase their products and services. It formed a great opportunity for me as I was also selling honey, a passion I acquired during the COVID days. It was an exciting moment for me as I got a chance to showcase my honey products to different stakeholders at the event.
4. What has been your experience with AgriEn network activities?
My experience with AgriEn Network has been amazing especially the role they play in linkages and networking. Being at an AgriEn Network event gave me an opportunity to meet diverse people who are working towards bettering the agriculture sector. It was during the events they organised that I got to interact with individuals from the Zambia Forestry Commodities Association (ZFCA), that opened my mind to the natural foods that come from forests and the power they have in nutrition and health. The gathering propelled me to look further into how I can make healthy products from the environment around me. This also contributed to the initiative taken with Umulyo Foods, a brand that produces several added value products such as honey, pupwe, pounded groundnuts, Chikanda, cassava meal and pumpkin leaves.
5. What network activity with AgriEn Network is most memorable to you?
Definitely the World Bee Day commemoration activities.
6. You were awarded Woman HoneyPrenuer of the year during last year’s World Bee commemoration event hosted by AgriEn Network, can you tell us more about this and how that has impacted your work?
Being awarded Woman HoneyPrenuer of the year was a heart-warming moment for me, it showed that people are seeing my work and appreciate it. You know we always put in so much work and love in what we do and you want people to feel it too, both in the work you and in the product as well, that is why it is important to always go the extra mile in coming up with a quality product. And also like I stated earlier, this opportunity helped me and motivated me to see what else I can do to add to what I was already doing and hence the birthing of Umulyo foods. These products are ready to go and have opened up so many doors for me to an extent where am working on expanding onto the international market and we have even reached an advanced stage to export them to the United Kingdom (UK).
7. Do you think Food systems are coordinated in Zambia?
Not yet, coordination means there is a defined process that ensures that everything that is done is sustainable. But there are strides being made especially with an organisation like AgriEn Network whose focus is on a Food System approach gives hope that we are on the right track.