How a Gambian food business is growing and greening

20 March 2024
ITC News

Fatou Ceesay Jarju knew from an early age that she wanted to start a business. She’s built a dried food company from scratch. With a small business grant, she’s growing and meeting her goal to stay climate-smart.

The idea to start a business making and selling snacks started when she was studying in Kenya. Watching people sell snacks along the busy streets of Nairobi inspired her to want to start a similar business in The Gambia. Her Kenyan friend introduced her to local snack makers to get a firsthand understanding about the process. And when she returned home, she started making snacks but adding more value to the process.

She launched Snack Heaven in 2019, and emphasised climate-smart practices from the beginning. Snack Heaven reduced food waste from farms by processing fruits and vegetables into healthy, ready-to-go snacks that keep you going until the next meal. She works with women farmers to create sustainable incomes and livelihoods. Snack Heaven focuses on mango as a niche market and export product.

Her business also produces and sells plantain seeds in five flavours – dry mango, dry papaya, mixed fruit, apple coconut and banana. Snack Heaven’s market is both local and international. The business supplies local supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, retail shops and individuals as well as corporate for hampers. The operations have grown to employ five people full-time and 10 others part-time.

Like many small businesses, Snack Heaven has its challenges. The business struggles with meeting demands due to lack of industrial machines to produce snacks at a larger scale. They were having a lot of challenges in delivery too.

‘Paying for delivery services to deliver to our suppliers, as well as transporting raw materials to the company was very expensive,’ Fatou said.

In line with her climate concerns, Fatou wanted to transition to eco-friendly practices. Specifically, Snack Heaven aspires to adopt sustainable, green solutions.

To meet that goal, Fatou won a grant through the European-Union Funded Jobs, Skills and Finance Project jointly implemented by International Trade Centre and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). The grant included one delivery motorcycle, an inverter, and an industrial heat pump dryer.

These tools were essential for Fatou to scale up production and make deliveries more cost-effective.

‘The support will enable us to produce at a larger scale – meeting our demand to supply locally and export more snacks to boost our income,’ she said. The inverter will contribute to greening the company. ‘We are a climate smart business that is dedicated to building a greener future. Also, the motorcycle is going to cut cost on delivery. We will be able to deliver to our suppliers at a very low cost.’

Snack Heaven has big plans for the future. They want to be like another successful snack company called Mabuno Harvest. They dream of going global.