Volunteer Stories

Hellen Kuthea Kitonga and Adrienne Pierce


Organization that sent the volunteer: IESC

Hellen Kuthea Kitonga and Adrienne Pierce, two women volunteer experts, worked with the Emuka Moringa Farmers' Cooperative (EMFC) in 2021. Their goal was to create a resource mobilization strategy for EMFC. This strategy guided the cooperative on increasing its income and assets through expanding sales and mobilizing resources from the community, local corporations, county and national governments, and international donors. Adrienne created a pitch slide deck which the cooperative uses to recruit new funders. Hellen helped to create linkages with the county government and mapped out corporations that could potentially support EMFC. The volunteer pair worked with the EMFC board to conduct a SWOT/gap analysis, which informed further training of the EMFC board and the “training of trainers” (ToT) workshops. Based on the SWOT analysis findings, the training focused on ways to support the long-term sustainability of the organization, which included proactively setting goals on organizational growth, focusing on diversifying funding sources, and broadening fundraising and marketing efforts.

With the goal of creating partnerships in mind, together with EMFC’s board, Kenyan volunteer expert Hellen visited Makueni County Executive Committee members, alongside the First Lady of The County Honorable Nazi Kibwana, and pitched the proposal using Hellen’s slide deck. Hon. Nazi Kibwana agreed to serve as an ambassador for the cooperative and assist EMFC in obtaining other funding opportunities from the county.

Speaking on embracing women’s leadership and diversity in the cooperative, Hellen noted, “I got to assist and train more than 130 farmers and Board members and ToTs, of which 70% were women. The number of women represented in the cooperative’s leadership is just unique for a cooperative based within a pastoralist population that is typically highly masculine.”

By the end of Hellen and Adrienne’s volunteer assignment with EMFC, they had presented multiple recommendations to the cooperative on ways to improve its operations. They recommended that the cooperative purchase production equipment and automation machines in order to facilitate the expansion of their moringa powder and oil offerings. Hellen and Adrienne also advised that EMFC focus on creating a tailored brand and marketing strategy for its products, with a goal of securing shelf space in local stores and reaching a larger customer base.

Since the completion of their volunteer assignment, Hellen and Adrienne have completed follow-up check-ins with EMFC and noted the cooperative’s tremendous growth. Notable improvements include the procurement and utilization of machines for making moringa powder and oil for commercial use which has increased production. It has also focused on more widespread marketing of moringa products, and have in turn expanded its customer base. EMFC members travel to Nairobi monthly to sell their products, and they also hosted an exhibition tent during the National Devolution Conference hosted by Makueni County in November 2021, which received widespread attention from stakeholders. The cooperative has gained attention from commercial and local farmers for its animal feed products, and many universities are visiting EMFC to study its medicinal products. This model has been so successful for EMFC that other groups are seeking to replicate it, by planting moringa seedlings and creating selling networks within their local communities. Most of the members of these groups are women, making a living from the sales and often times using these funds to support and educate their children.

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