The entrepreneurial spirit is a mixture of attributes that, when combined, create leaders who can shape communities, nations and the world. Elinesi Mpyanga, a farmer in Tanzania, has that combination: unwavering optimism, an ability to recognize opportunities for learning and growth, and a passion for mentoring others.

Mpyanga is a village-based agricultural adviser who educates farmers on good agricultural practices. She’s also a businesswoman, and when she sells seeds, she doesn’t miss an opportunity to educate her customers on the best way to plant them.

Through Feed the Future, which is led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mpyanga has found new ways to grow as an agricultural trainer and businesswoman.

Over the past four years, she’s participated in various training sessions, such as seed spacing, appropriate pesticide handling, and financial management. Through the training, this Feed the Future project — Nafaka, or “grains” in Swahili — equips entrepreneurial farmers like Mpyanga with the tools to run a thriving business.

People seated in open thatched hut (Nevil Jackson/USAID)
Mpyanga speaks with other farmers. As a local entrepreneur, she has developed good relationships with the farmers and shares her expertise on good growing practices. (Nevil Jackson/USAID)

Tanzania has unmet demand for high-quality seeds that farmers can use to increase yields and profits. To address this deficit, Feed the Future, through USAID, is working with the government to identify and certify farmers like Mpyanga who can produce high-quality seeds through seed multiplication — the production of multiple seeds from one seed. These producers sell the seeds and share information about proper growing practices with other farmers to help them maximize their yield.

Since 2015, Mpyanga has increased her production of quality rice seeds for planting by 275 percent, from 2.2 metric tons to 8.25 metric tons. Her yield has increased her estimated revenue by $15,000.

USAID identifies people such as Mpyanga who adopt and share good agricultural methods and are willing to invest their money to procure appropriate technologies that improve their farming practices.

Through USAID’s approach, the project has provided agricultural and food-security training to over 225,000 smallholder farmers, supported 700 individual and group entrepreneurs to expand their businesses, provided 80 entities with mechanization grants, and increased access to agricultural inputs resulting in over $11 million in sales of seeds, fertilizers and crop protectants.

A longer version of this article appears on USAID’s website. Co-author James Flock is the chief of party of the USAID Nafaka activity in Tanzania. Photographer and co-author Nevil Jackson is a writer and visual artist based in Los Angeles.