From despair to dream come true: Orchard Avocado Oil in Tanzania

By Robin Holzhauer

[Tanzania, September 2022] A dream, determination and desperation drove Tanzanian Adelaide Mwasyoghe to help farmers and reduce food waste by starting her own business, Orchard Avocado Oil.

After earning a degree in hospitality and tourism, Mwasyoghe lined up a job in the industry with an expected start date of April 2020. But in March that year, the deadly COVID-19 pandemic shut down the industry. and she lost the offer.

“It was just a horrible situation,” she said. “I was looking for any job. I had no experience. I thought, ‘I have to do my own thing.’

COVID has also severely slowed Tanzania’s international trade and export markets have dried up. Selling in local markets often brought in less revenue than was needed to get the product to consumers. This left a huge amount of unsold avocados. Inspired by her grandfather, who grew avocados, she sought to start an avocado oil business.

Mwasyoghe’s research has shown that she would have enough supply for her needs even after trade resumes, as high export standards mean that fruit that is smaller or has superficial imperfections is often not bought. This leaves a lot of product to harvest for oil making.

She had a business idea, but not the expertise or the capital to be a successful entrepreneur. Then she heard about the US government’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE). She was worried that because she only had the business concept, she couldn’t get in.

“Fortunately for me, AWE isn’t just for women who have a business, but for those who have an idea, a dream,” she said.

Dreams are literally part of AWE, as it uses the Dreambuilder online course from the Thunderbird School of Global Management as a component of the experience. The scholarship and opportunities to connect with experts also ensure women get the knowledge, networks and access they need to launch or grow their businesses.

Mwasyoghe faced one hurdle to attend AWE – a five-hour bus ride to attend some sessions. She turned to her family for help so she could afford to reside in Iringa. Her grandfather became her main campaigner – fitting since as a child she “learned everything from him” about farming.

“He was so encouraging,” she said. “He was one of my first defenders.

Dreambuilder helped her learn the basics of trading, decide that her idea could work, and design a business plan. Mwasyoghe credits the facilitators and mentors for putting the information into local context and providing the women with real-world experience.

When AWE ended, she had a plan for success and applied for an AWE grant from the US African Development Foundation to purchase an avocado press to extract the oil from the fruit, without which she could not start the business. . A partnership between the U.S. Department of State and USADF provides funding to select AWE alumni to put their ideas into action.

“I came to AWE with a dream and left with a business,” she said. “But it’s more than a business. It is a passion, a mission, a crusade.

A passion for building a successful business and helping others along the way. Mwasyoghe oversees all aspects of the business, including traveling to different villages during harvest time to work with farmers and ensure process and product quality.

She has two full-time, year-round employees and also hires 20 additional people during avocado processing seasons. She works with three agricultural cooperatives that have about 200 people, more than half of whom are women farmers. Its products also serve an environmental interest because of the resources needed to grow avocados. Every unharvested avocado is a waste of those resources, Mwasyoghe said.

The creation of Orchard also helps the U.S. Embassy achieve its goals, including promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth and the inclusion of women. As an American ExchangeAlumna, Mwasoghye will have the opportunity to support and mentor other women entrepreneurs.

“My friends are from AWE, I cooperate in business with women, I try to use products from other AWE women,” she said.

As an AWE alumnus, helping others motivates Mwasyoghe to continue growing her business, as does “paying it forward” for the help her family and others have given her.

“I’m so grateful,” she said. “What you gave me – I’m so proud of myself. It’s all been possible because of AWE and because of the USADF grant, I’m so grateful to all of you… you are truly changing lives.

The U.S. Department of State Academy for Women Entrepreneurs is implemented in Tanzania by the Selfina organization through the U.S. Embassy Dar es Salaam. Since 2019, AWE has benefited 160 Tanzanian women entrepreneurs.

For more information about AWE, visit:

For more information on AWE in Tanzania, visit:

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