Follow Marko's Entrepreneurial Journey
August 21 is World Entrepreneur’s Day. Join Flame Tree Initiative and Founder of Green Ventures, Marko Chiumia, this week to create awareness for social entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership throughout the world. Through our three-part story series, follow Marko’s entrepreneurial journey to get a glimpse of the realities faced by social entrepreneurs striving to empower and transform their communities.
“My name is Marko Chiumia from Mapunda village in Nkhata Bay district, Malawi. I spent my childhood attending school and herding livestock in the late afternoon and weekends. My parents were farmers relying on crop farming and rearing cattle and goats from which part of the income they earned financed my education.”
Like many of the families in Malawi, Marko and his family are from an agrarian background. One-third of Malawi’s GDP comes from agriculture. While the country heavily relies on the agriculture sector, its farmers continue to experience challenges that make it difficult to sustain their livelihoods. Lack of investment, poor infrastructure to bring food to market, and lack of access to necessary farming tools mean that many of Malawi’s farmers continue to go hungry.
Despite these challenges, Marko pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. He was hopeful that he would get a job within a year. But that proved to be more difficult than he had expected. “My struggle to find a job after college made me aware that unemployment in Malawi is a huge social problem,” says Marko.
The Silver Lining
For three years after graduation, Marko worked with various organizations on a short-term basis. While this did not provide him with a stable income, it enabled him to interact with rural farmers across 24 districts in Malawi and expanded his understanding of the challenges that people faced in the agriculture sector. “I realized the challenges farmers were facing and the potential opportunities to optimize. I became aware of limited access to fertilizers due to its high costs and poverty among farmers,” says Marko. “I thought it would be better for me to save part of my salary to prepare to venture into crop-livestock integrated farming business as a sustainable solution to job scarcity which was personally affecting me as well as other out-of-school youth and rural women.”
The Challenges of Launching a Social Enterprise
In 2017, Marko launched K-Farm Centre - a social enterprise with a mission of providing smallholder farmers with access to affordable farming technologies. K-Farm Centre delivered farmer training, facilitated agro-market access, and produced honey, organic manure, live chickens, eggs, and breed-able goats. Soon after launching his business, Marko quickly realized that running a social enterprise is no simple task. “There was no vision and mission, no clear goal or road map for the next 10 years. I only focused on raising capital through my own savings from previous work assignments. I also greatly ignored building my capacity to launch a business. Luckily, this was covered in DELab - a six-day training session organized by Flame Tree Initiative,” says Marko. During the first few months of launching K-Farm Centre, Marko faced the challenges of having little operating capital, limited production capacity, recruiting the right people, and effectively marketing his products.
Stay tuned for the next part of Marko’s story to learn how he overcame these initial challenges.
Spoiler: See what Marko is up to now!
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