Flanders and Exchange go hand in hand in Malawi

Twice illustrated

Flemish Development Cooperation supports the improvement of agriculture in the northern part of Malawi with its SEED program. We at Exchange have an excellent relationship with Flanders and are looking for ways how - complementary to what Flanders is doing - we can further strengthen a number of projects. In a nutshell, that complementarity means that Flanders supports those initiatives financially, while Exchange helps SMEs grow by transferring expertise and knowledge. Two examples of how this works:

Hortinet, a daring experiment ripe for a Nobel Prize.

Frankie Washoni is CEO of Hortinet, an organisation that wants to stop the decline of Malawi's banana crop. Malawi was an exporter of bananas until the ‘Banana bunchy top’ disease destroyed up to 80% of Malawi's banana production. Frankie sought support to do something about this and found his answers mainly through Google: he promptly built the first commercial lab in Malawi that produced virus-free bananas via tissue culture. This was very successful for six months; thousands of virus-free banana plants found their way to as many as 600 farmers. Production picked up again, thanks in part to the financial support Frankie received from Flanders.

Programme Coach
Jan Aertsen

But suddenly everything stopped; the laboratory itself did not remain virus-free. Exchange coach Jan Aertsen visited the company in March 2022 and started looking for solutions together with Frankie. He contacted Professor Ronny Swinnen, a man with unique expertise in the field. Prof. Swinnen put us in touch with Delphine Amah, whom he trained and who worked at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture - IITA - in Nigeria. Exchange invited Amah to share her knowledge with Hortinet, and she did just that. During her visit in August 2022, the Hortinet lab was able to start up again and arrangements were made to give the Malawian staff additional training in Nigeria. Today there are more than 2,000 farmers on the waiting list, ready to restore banana production in Malawi and stop imports from Tanzania and Mozambique - which sinds the collapse of local production accounts for more than 90% of Malawi's banana consumption.


Ziweto stops import of expensive fodder

Ziweto is a collective of about a dozen veterinarians that distributes veterinary medicine throughout Malawi's territory, thanks in part to financial support from Flanders. But Ziweto sees another opportunity to make a leap forward concerning Malawian livestock farming: the collective wants to make and distribute livestock feed using local raw materials, so that livestock farmers do not remain dependent on expensive, imported feed.

Programme Coach
Guy Callebaut

Following a visit by Exchange coach Guy Callebaut to Ziweto earlier this year, Exchange was able to persuade a few experts at AVEVE to put their shoulders to the wheel: Marcel Christianen, who was commercially responsible for animal feed at AVEVE until his retirement, and his friend Dirk Bogaerts, who works at AVEVE as the person ultimately responsible for the composition of various nutritional formulas.

An effective brew

At the end of July this year, Marcel Christianen also visited Ziweto. He kept his intervention very focused, specifically on the production of feeds for laying hens, fattening chickens and fattening pigs. This visit was a great success across the board. To illustrate:

  • There was already an industrial mill at Ziweto, but it was not yet functioning. Together with the technicians of Ziweto, the mill was put into operation;
  •  With online backup from Dirk Bogaerts, three effective formulas were composed and produced;
  • A suitcase full of samples of the produced feed was taken for analysis to the lab of AVEVE in Belgium. Ziweto itself already has a number of devices to perform that analysis: by comparing the results in Belgium with those in Malawi, the accuracy of Ziweto's measuring devices can be verified;
  • Preparations have been made for a training of two central staff in Belgium later this year.

Or how Exchange plays a role on two fronts to mix things up successfully: on the one hand, we mix Flemish funding with expertise from AVEVE and with the enthusiasm and expertise of Ziweto's veterinarians, while on the other hand, locally produced soybeans, sunflower seeds and maize are brought together in high-quality animal feeds.

Clearly a win-win situation: a revenue model for Ziweto, with the end product being affordable cattle feed for many Malawian cattle farmers.

 

Events Factory - Ready for the future

Events Factory was founded in 2006 by Rwandan entrepreneur Celestin Makuza and has since grown into a healthy company with 14 employees. Although Makuza initially marketed his company exclusively as an event coordinator, local clients can now turn to Events Factory for a full service package: not only organising events - digital and otherwise - but also setting up expos, arranging accommodation and even providing simultaneous interpreters are now part of Events Factory's offering.

Yet Makuza felt it was time for the next step. As a professional conference organiser (PCO), he wants to enter the international market with Events Factory, further professionalise services and internal processes and thus grow sustainably to become the pre-eminent provider of innovative solutions and services in Rwanda. To streamline this growth and ensure that further expansion is tackled strategically and proactively, Exchange vzw will join Makuza at the table to put Events Factory through a strong growth programme.

In recent years, the company itself has already made great strides. What started as a one-man business with one office space has since grown to include several offices and storage areas, with additional storage areas - both nearby and in a new zone near the airport - in the pipeline.

Programme Coach
KarenWouters

Karen Wouters

Karen Wouters, Ph.D. recently came on board as a programme coach. Her interest & belief in the power of international partnerships and extensive experience in organisational, team and personal development make Karen the perfect coach to support Rwandan entrepreneurs in their business growth.

Now Makuza is looking to Exchange for expertise and guidance in building his business. Not only does he want to tap the international market and also serve multilateral organisations, private companies and the Rwandan government, the focus will also be on professionalising and expanding two lines of business. On the one hand, the rental of material and equipment will be streamlined - less ad hoc and more as a permanent service, while on the other hand, digital products and systems will be optimised to develop a clearer, more professional offering.

To oversee this growth, Exchange will provide a PCO expert to better organise the current operation, a software engineer to help fine-tune the digital event systems and enough knowledge and expertise in inventory management, business development and organisational design to make the whole company a well-oiled machine.

 

Events Factory has already built a strong reputation for itself and fits perfectly within the scope of the Exchange growth programmes. At the head of the company is a passionate entrepreneur with a large network, a customer-centric approach and a huge commitment to his team. In return, that team - educated and highly competent - always does what is necessary, even in peak periods when productivity needs to be doubled. A promising project with a lot of potential and achievable areas for improvement, which the team from Exchange will enjoy working on immensely between now and September 2025.

Wood Habitat, a promising company!

 

 

Programme Coach
Robert Myncke
Experten Team
Philippe Vandorpe
Bedrijfspartner
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Personal project becomes professional company

 

Wood Habitat was founded by the young female entrepreneur Paradis Imfura. It all started as a personal project but quickly developed into a professional company with a good reputation. Paradis uses local materials and focuses on creative designs and quality details. Because she is very open towards a close collaboration with her customers, the demand for beautiful locally produced furniture keeps increasing. In 2015 Wood Habitat started with its own wood workshop focusing on custom made furniture designs. Recently Wood Habitat also started producing doors and interior accessories.

Wood Habitat provides jobs to 40 people and trains a big number of young people. At least 30% of its employees is in training. Trainees get offered a permanent contract after finishing their traineeship. Wood Habitat offers decent jobs: permanent employees receive several social advantages.

What do you want to do ?

Big ambitions, intense growth programme

The ambition of Paradis is big: towards 2024 she wants to at least triple Wood Habitats turnover and create not less than 120 stable jobs. Except for Rwanda she also wants to sell her furniture on the Congolese, Ugandese, Kenian en Burundese market. She also aims to get a great client satisfaction: selling a product means the start of a profound client relation. She also would like to be the first in the East African Community (EAC) to sell upholstered furniture. Until now, all upholstered furniture is imported from outside EAC.

To reach this ambition Wood Habitat will have to improve several domains in the company: the production speed and the quality has to progress, if Wood Habitat wants to maintain and enlarge its clientele.

The growth progamme will focus on quality control: there is a need of quality templates for each product and technical sheets for intermediate check. Also cost control will be addressed: for each product there will be an estimation of work time and material. The teams of Wood Habitat will also get a specific training: the goal is to have a specialised team for each of the products but also have teams responsible for specific departments in the company, like waste management, security and cleanness, energy and resources. The Exchange coach Robert Myncke will help Paradis to achieve her goals. Also the use and maintenance of wood machinery will be checked by an Exchange wood expert. Exchange will also look for an upholstery expert to give Paradis a specific training on this topic.

The entire Exchange team is looking forward to this promising and very diverse growth programme!

Custom made furniture designs

in Rwanda

High standard dairy products for Rwanda

Blessed Dairies

Programme Coach
Catherine Gilain-Pycke
Bedrijfspartners
Inex Image result for icon link

Rwanda, the ideal dairy country

Rwanda is an ideal country for dairy production thanks to its stable climate and good infrastructure. Milk collection centres are located all over the country and a lot of Rwandese have their own cattle.

Rwandan entrepreneur Milton Ngirente installed in 2004 several milk kiosks in the city of Kigali where people could buy raw milk produced by farmers’ cooperatives. But he quickly noticed a lot of surpluses, so he started with a small production unit in 2012. A few years later the dairy company Blessed Dairies was born. Nowadays Blessed Dairies sells and distributes several milk products in Rwanda. Thanks to the production of various milk products such as pasteurized milk, cream, mozzarella and yoghurt, Milton can create added value. Nevertheless the company still faces a lot of challenges, that’s why Milton contacted one of our Business Development Managers to ask for Exchange support.

Feasibility study by Flemish dairy company Inex

In August 2019 Milton Ngirente was very happy to welcome Catherine Gilain-Pycke to conduct a feasibility study at Blessed Dairies. Catherine is the managing director of Inex  and was one of the leading persons to develop this Flemish family company into one of the biggest players in dairy business in Belgium.

After a positive feasibiliy study Catherine decided to get involved in this new Exchange Growth Programme with Blessed Dairies as a coach. In October 2019 Milton Ngirente traveled to Bavegem to see the impressive production unit of Inex. Milton and Catherine also made a first draft of the growth programme.

Growht programma with several goals

The growth programme with Blessed Dairies that started at the beginning of 2020 has several objectives: first of all the strategic management and the marketing plan of Blessed Dairies needs an update. Also the improvement of the quality management will be a main issue to address. Blessed Dairies also wants to improve its processes and production techniques. Last but not least Inex will also advice Blessed Dairies regarding the ideal machines for dairy production and the lay out of the new production unit.

The first phase of the growth programme has been finished. Evariste Mariyamungu was welcomed by Inex in January 2020 for an intensive internship of 10 days. Inex provided an interesting programme tailormade to the objectives of Blessed Dairies. In 2020 Blessed Dairies is now taking action with all the lessons learned to improve Blessed Dairies. Inex is available at any time for advice and will support Blessed Dairies from a distance. In 2021 we will evaluate if a second coaching mission by Catherine is necessary and if any specific expertise is needed by Blessed Dairies. To be continued!

Inex, a family run dairy company with a sustainable vision shares its knowledge

in Rwanda

INEX
Inex, producer of drinking milk, yogurt and cream, is a fourth-generation family business and a pioneer in sustainability. With an annual production of 240 million liters and more than 400 employees, this company represents a great social commitment. Inex has its own solar energy park, is working on reducing CO2, saving water and ecological transport. In addition, animal welfare is a priority with special attention to pasture milk. By monitoring the sustainability of its suppliers, Inex is also an inspirator and role model.

Upgrade to zero waste

Cederberg Municipality

 

Programme Coaches
Anne Vandeputte

South Africa puts an increasing focus on sound waste management. The rainbow nation calls on its municipalities to actively pursue a sound policy in which the local residents play an important link in waste management. Together with the municipalities of Bergrivier and Witzenberg, Exchange is already fully committed to supporting these local initiatives.

The municipality of Cederberg, located north of Cape Town in the Western Cape, is now also starting such a zero-waste initiative. With our accumulated experience and knowledge, Exchange is the ideal partner for Cederberg to assist in its mission. Indeed, Exchange will provide technical assistance and know-how to strengthen waste management and promote recycling initiatives together with existing recyclers. By working together with existing recycles, or local self-employed people and companies that are already active in recycling waste, the partnership also creates important economic opportunities!

The focus is on responsible management of the waste flows through maximum sorting at the source of the recyclable waste flows, reuse of organic waste by means of composting and support for recycling companies in the implementation of their business plans. In addition, awareness programs will promote waste sorting at source and work will be done on sustainable transfer stations and return points.

Clean tourism between the rocks!

in South Africa

Zero-waste toerisme!

Unique to the partnership with Cederberg is that waste management will not be the sole focus. In a second programme, the focus will be on promoting tourism. That is why the municipality of Cederberg and the local Chamber of Commerce and Tourism are jointly examining how the recycling activities can be further developed. There will be special attention for the relationship between the promotion of tourism in the region and the preservation of nature free from litter!

Would you like to learn more about our tourism program with the municipality of Cederberg? Read more on this page!

Clean tourism between the rocks!

Cederberg Municipality

 

Programme Coaches
Wouter Danckaert

Cederberg Municipality is located North of Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa and has a number of unique tourist assets that are not yet fully exploited. The municipality has beautiful rooibos plantations, beautiful rock formations, unique flora and many beaches.

The rock formations in particular offer the opportunity to boost the tourist sector in Cederberg: because of their unique location and shape, they are extremely suitable for climbing activities, especially for bouldering.

Upgrade to zero waste

in South Africa

The aim of the municipality is to develop these bouldering activities in the context of sustainable tourism in consultation with the local population, to put Cederberg on the map as one of the top destinations to practice this climbing sport. Local entrepreneurs can respond to this tourism as much as possible by offering dining and sleeping facilities or by serving the niche market with climbing equipment and accompanying tools! Coach Wouter Danckaert will initially assist the municipality in drawing up an ambitious and realistic tourism strategy!

Zero-waste tourism!

But Cederberg does not focus solely on promoting tourism in the region. Preserving its natural beauty through proper waste management is also one of the top priorities. For this topic as well, Exchange is the ideal partner!

Read how we support Cederberg in the design and implementation of its waste strategy on this page!

Reduce, reuse & recycle

3R

Programme Coach
Vincent Van Horenbeeck
Compnany partner
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Mozambique produces 3.5 million tons of waste per year, i.e. an average of 120 kilograms per inhabitant per year, around 9 thousand tons per day throughout the country. Only 2% of this waste receives adequate treatment today. The remaining 98% of waste still goes directly to landfills and causes environmental and public health problems.

However, with the right attitude, waste can even be properly assessed as a resource, a material that can be recovered and made into new products.

Therefore, concrete work is being done by 3R, or "Reduzir, Reusar e Reciclar Limitada" (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle) in the cities of Maputo, Beira and Vilanculos. 3R provides integrated waste management services for extensive and large organizations and builds waste processing infrastructure throughout Mozambique. Her vision is the creation of a clean environment for current and future generations through the transformation of the waste sector in Mozambique.

Ecology & Job Security

At the moment, waste is sorted at the source as much as possible and collected both from the large companies and from the "Ecopoints", 3R's collection points which are strategically spread over the city and its suburbs.

Together with its 50 employees, 3R also provides indirect job security to the now more than 1000 collectors in the city. 3R's transformation of the waste sector will give the least-favored Mozambicans a full-fledged job and make the environment cleaner for current and future generations.

Moreover, materials such as PET, HDP and aluminum can now get a new life. In a next phase, even more waste streams will be included in this recycling circuit, such as liquid and medical waste.

Under the guidance of coach Vincent van hoorbeeck, managing partner of 'Impala', a collaboration between 3R and Exchange has recently started with the aim of building up at least 3 waste processing facilities and achieving a full ISO quality certification that allows them to grow to a medium sized company. In addition, 3R also wants to convert PET into reusable products (tiles, packaging straps, building blocks, ...) for sale on the local / regional market as an alternative source of income. We wish 3R, our coach and team of experts every success!

Supporting strong women in the Rwandan hotel sector

Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs

Programme Coach
Nadine De Weirdt
Company partner
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A couple of years ago, Exchange got in touch with the Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs (RCWE). This Chamber is part of the Private Sector Federation (PSF) of Rwanda which represents over 10 sector federations in Rwanda. Some of the members of the Rwanda Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, active in the hotel sector, already experienced very positive Exchange expertise in the past.

It may come as no surprise that, at the beginning of 2019, Exchange was asked to give more permanent support to the Chamber itself, specifically in the area of Tourism. Exchange expert Griet Geudens from Flanders Tourism travelled to Rwanda to meet all the different stakeholders and check if an Exchange Growth Programme could add value to the local partners in the tourism sector. Her feedback to Exchange was clear: there is a great potential still to be explored!

As a result, Exchange went on the search for the ideal coach to manage this new tourism programme. We were lucky enough to find Nadine De Weirdt, business consultant at Vlaio (Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship). Nadine has coached a lot of entrepreneurs in the tourism sector and has worked closely with Flanders Tourism in the past. Her profile is a perfect fit for the job.

In October 2019, Nadine travelled to Kigali and started capturing all the needs of the several tourism stakeholders in Rwanda through workshops and intensive interviews. In close collaboration with the women leading the Chamber, she co-created the cornerstones of the tourism programme in Rwanda that will help both employees and managers in the hotel sector to expand their knowledge and competences.

Employees in the hotel sector will be trained in three domains: front office, house keeping and food & beverage. A learning network will be established for the hotel managers; peer-to-peer reviews will help them learn from each other, all the while being coached by both local and Exchange experts. Trainings in tourism management will be open for them as well. Moreover, teachers of local training institutes like the University of Tourism, Technology and Business and the Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School will get the chance to join these trainings. This in order to pass on the knowledge to tourism students so they are ready to take up a job in the Rwandan tourism sector.

Nadine will coordinate and exchange information on a regular basis with her counterpart in Uganda, Griet Geudens. In this way Exchange experts can share their knowledge in both countries and information can be regionally shared between both countries.

Better mark Rwanda on your list of travel destinations!

duurzaam-toerisme-in-mulanje

Sustainable tourism in Mulanje

 

Mount Mulanje Conservation Trust

Programme Coach
Frank Cuypers
Company partner
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The Mount Mulanje Forest Reserve in the South of Malawi was recognized as a nature reserve in 1927. Mount Mulanje Conservation Trust (MMCT) was established in 2005 with the support of the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. MMCT manages the area as a Biosphere Reserve. The conservation efforts focus on:

  • Protecting, researching and monitoring biodiversity
  • Forest management and creating sustainable economic opportunities for the local population
  • Environmental education and communication

The biggest challenge for the sustainable management of the area is to reconcile ecological and economic needs. The local population lives primarily from small-scale agriculture and illegal logging remains an attractive way to earn an income. Therefore, MMCT seeks to find win-win situations: protecting endangered eco-systems while taking into account the needs of the people who are economically dependent on these eco-systems.

Aiming at eco-tourists

Mulanje and in particular its highest peak (Sapitwa Peak 3002m) is an attractive area for adventurous tourists who enjoy hiking, trekking, mountaineering and mountainbiking. However, the tourism sector is barely developed. In a very poor area with few economic opportunities, strengthening the tourism potential can be an engine for development. Of course it is crucial to work on a tourism strategy which is also sustainable. The goal is not to attract mass tourism but attracting tourists who respect and promote the ecological value of the area.

Guided and coached by Frank Cuypers, senior strategist destination marketing at Destination Think !, MMCT is working on the development of a sustainable and inclusive tourism strategy for Mulanje.

Strategy building for and by the community

A good strategy is not merely a paper document. A good strategy induces implementation and provides a framework for shaping activities and action. Ownership of all stakeholders is crucial to successfully develop and apply any strategy. For Mulanje, the commitment of the local communities is essential.

 

That is why the growth programme includes a pilot phase, focusing on ownership. Through community hearings, co-creation and storytelling local communities and their leaders shape and inspire the future plans. This pilot process will ensure the development of realistic tourism strategy for Mulanje in the next phase. A strategy that is inclusive and sustainable and encourages action!

Frank Cuypers works with local communities on sustainable tourism in Mulanje

in Malawi

Informative radio helps farmers move forward!

 

Farm Radio Trust

Programme Coach
Johan Cottenie
Company Partner
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Farm Radio Trust is an organization that fosters rural and agricultural development in Malawi through the use of radio and other information and communications technologies (ICTs). In Malawi the agricultural sector accounts for one third of the GDP and 90% of export revenues. With 80% of the population living in rural areas, the vast majority of Malawians support their livelihoods with farming activities. With a very limited number of commercial farms, Malawi is a country of small farmers. The government support for farming families is mainly focused on large scale input subsidy programmes. Farmer education and agricultural information services are, however, very limited. The government subsidizes only 1 extension worker for 3900 farming families, while the recommended ratio is 1 out of 500. In 2009 Farm Radio Trust Malawi, a branch of Farm Radio International, was founded. The organization uses innovative methods to reach the Malawian farming populations. Because the spoken word is the most effective way to reach an illiterate or poorly literate population and all households have a radio, Farm Radio Trust uses participatory radio programmes to reach the farming population. The radio programmes are combined with other information channels (SMS services, whatsapp messages, call center) to educate and strengthen Malawian farmers. In 2018 FRT reached an audience of 4 million farmers.

Financial sustainability

In terms of finances Farm Radio Trust is at a crossroad. Although the organization delivers services that are in fact government responsibilities (extension services, farmer education) the organisation doesn’t receive any government funding. Instead several international donors support FRT with grants (USAID, Flemish Government, Farm Radio International). Nevertheless Farm Radio Trust faces the challenge to become less dependent on donor funding and develop financial sustainability.

 

For Farm Radio Trust it's key to develop a new and innovative vehicle for income generation. Needless to say, the organization will safeguard its mission and focus on strengthening the position of smallholder farmers. Since the financial capacities of farming families are very low it is unlikely that a focus on small farmers as paying clients will generate sufficient income. Therefore, income generation stands high on the agenda! Together with Exchange a pragmatic and innovative commercial strategy will be developed.