Tanzanian businesswoman finds opportunity in avocados

Smiling woman holding avocados (© Adolf Sakawa)
Tanzanian entrepreneur Adelaide Mwasyoghe, seen in August 2022, founded the Orchard Avocado Oil company after participating in the U.S. State Department's Academy for Women Entrepreneurs. (© Adolf Sakawa)

Adelaide Mwasyoghe, of Tanzania, had recently graduated business school and planned to start a hospitality and tourism job in April 2020. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her job offer disappeared.

“It was just a horrible situation,” Mwasyoghe said, remembering the desperation that prompted her to start her own business, Orchard Avocado Oil, which prevents food waste and provides opportunity for herself and others. “I was looking for any job. I had no experience.”

But in the economic changes wrought by the pandemic, Mwasyoghe spotted an opportunity. Markets for Tanzania’s exports had dried up and the cost of getting food to local markets often exceeded what farmers earned in sales. Mwasyoghe knew that smaller avocados often go unsold, leaving a surplus even in normal economic times.

While Mwasyoghe’s grandfather farmed avocados and taught her about the industry as a child, she lacked the expertise and capital to turn her dream of an avocado oil business into reality.

People looking at large pile of avocados on tarp (© Yaseen Milondomo)
Mwasyoghe’s business uses blemished and unsold avocados to produce avocado oil for sale on the local market. (© Yaseen Milondomo)

Through the U.S. government’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), Mwasyoghe found the training and connections needed to launch her business. “Lucky for me, AWE is not only for women who have a business, but for those who have an idea, a dream,” she said.

Since 2019, AWE has equipped more than 16,000 women with the knowledge, networks and access they need to launch or scale businesses. Mwasyoghe is one of 160 women entrepreneurs who have benefited from the program in Tanzania, where AWE is run by local partner organization SELFINA through the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam.

AWE incorporates the Thunderbird School of Global Management’s online Dreambuilder course, which teaches participants to assess their idea, build a business plan and run daily operations. Mentors also provide advice based on real-world experience and suited to the local economy.

After completing AWE, Mwasyoghe received a grant from the U.S. African Development Foundation to buy an avocado press. A U.S. State Department partnership with USADF allows select AWE alumnae to receive funding to start their business.

4 bottles of avocado oil on wood table (© Kelvin Msika)
Orchard Avocado Oil bottled for sale. (© Kelvin Msika)

Now Mwasyoghe oversees all aspects of her Orchard Avocado Oil business. She travels to villages during the harvest, works with famers and ensures a quality product. The company employs two full-time workers, 20 seasonal workers, and partners with roughly 200 farmers, roughly half of whom are women.

While her grandfather died before Mwasyoghe started her business, he’d seen her graduate from AWE and work to fulfill her ambitions. “I came to AWE with a dream, and left with a business,” Mwasyoghe said. “It has all been possible because of AWE and because of the USADF grant.”

A version of this story was previously published by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.