At Umoja Youth Group in Kilifi, it was about building a brand through young agri-preneurship

At Umoja Youth Group in Kilifi, it was about building a brand through young agri-preneurship

USTADI foundation and CTA’s programs and activities aim to enable youth groups to have skills and resources to build a better future for their agri businesses and themselves.

In the Vijabiz project, one of the key ways in which we do this is through investing in long term, actively managed programs and trainings that empower the youth groups and increase their access to opportunity.

Trainings that have been highly beneficial in areas of education and enterprise, agripreneurship, employability and skills development.

Through these empowerment initiatives, the project’s programs have also provided the groups with valuable partnerships, knowledge and technology that have improved and advanced the productivity and sustainability of their businesses in the agricultural sector’s value chains namely: Diary, Fisheroes and Cereals.

The Umoja youth group was selling unpasteurised milk until this was declared forbidden. But with the support of Pwani University and Vijabiz, they turned to processing milk to yoghurt and fermented milk…

Through several trainings, they learnt to identify existing market gaps and develop a business plan that helps to set up new ventures. With a new Facebook page the group updates customers on new products and developments, and gets feedback from clients. They have also created a brand name and developed beautiful packaging.

The Umoja youth group is based in Kilifi county, along the Kenyan coast. Umoja, in Swahili, means ‘unity’, which gives emphasis to the importance of working together.

The group has 15 members aged between 18 and 35 years, seven of whom are women. Umoja started in 2012 under the Equity Bank Youth Initiative programme, where youths would access loans for their small start-up businesses.

Some decided to start a group enterprise; after some research we agreed to start hawking fresh milk. Selling milk required little expertise.

The group’s main competitor was contracted to sell their milk to a company outside Kilifi town, leaving a gap within Kilifi town. Three motorbikes and one bicycle were used to collect milk from farmers and cooperatives and deliver to their clients.

Recounts the group:

We sold up to 200 litres of unpasteurised milk per day, and this continued until September 2018 when the Kenya Dairy Board – a body that regulates the handling, processing and sale of milk – prohibited the sale of unpasteurised milk. This was a major blow to our booming business, and we had to come up with a new idea; processing milk into yoghurt and fermented milk, commonly known as mala. Since we lacked expertise on yoghurt making, five members were enrolled on a 5-day training course on milk handling and value addition at Pwani University,

We began making yoghurt and mala but, unlike fresh milk which was a basic product in every household, yoghurt and mala were considered a luxury by most of our clients. This resulted in an unstable market for our products, prompting three of our members to pull out,


“In June 2018 the Vijabiz project invited us on a series of trainings, including a 1-day workshop on capacity building that three Umoja members attended. This enabled us to identify existing market gaps in the dairy value chain, such as a demand for ice cream and cheese, which no one was venturing into within Kilifi town or in the nearby towns and villages,

our group is now working to make ice cream in the short-term, in addition to all of the recent improvements made to their business. Five of our members attended a 1-week training course on entrepreneurship and as a result we were able to develop a business plan – something we did not have before the training,

having a business plan helped us set up new ventures such as producing ice cream and allowed us to identify the opportunities and risks of our planned and existing activities. The business plan also enabled us to set out our objectives, predict market trends, and come up with financial projections to ascertain viable and sustainable projects.”

Through several trainings, they learnt to identify existing market gaps and develop a business plan that helps to set up new ventures. With a new Facebook page the group updates customers on new products and developments, and gets feedback from clients. They have also created a brand name and developed beautiful packaging.

Umoja used to deliver products in water bottles, but after the training realised that their sales would improve if they had a brand and proper packaging.

The group now uses ‘NaNas’ as their brand name and have developed beautiful packaging for their products. Packaging in small and affordable quantities has also enabled them to sell more.

They have learnt that branding not only makes a memorable impression on consumers but also allows customers and clients to know what to expect from Umoja. Now, some clients at the retail stores insist on buying NaNas products as opposed to other brands.

Group members attended another training on ICT and social media marketing, where they were taught how to keep records as well as put the business on a global platform by creating social media pages.

Currently they have a Facebook page called Umoja youth group-Kilifi, where they update their new products and developments and feedback from clients.

“Facebook offers a variety of free features to engage with customers; we post updates, pictures and videos to communicate with them. We are also using it to send messages to clients directly, create events, manage appointments, hire employees and sell products. Furthermore, we can access statistics about the page, helping us understand more about our clients and what they care about. This has opened up new markets for us. Vijabiz also organised learning journeys. Two members visited a dairy farm in Kajiado, Narok county, where both production and processing are done. Listening to their success story and hearing the challenges they overcame sparked Umoja’s motivation. The group also participated in two trade shows in Kilifi and Malindi sub-counties which gave Umoja the opportunity to also start selling products in Malindi. Umoja realised that companies with branded products attract more visitors, and thus had better networks and greater outreach which challenged them to improve packaging and branding,”-UMOJA YOUTH GROUP, KILIFI COUNTY.

The group began selling yoghurt in September 2018, mostly on weekends whenever there was an event such as a wedding or party.

This did not provide Umoja with a sustainable source of income and so demotivated group members. With the support of USTADI and other key players such as the county government of Kilifi, the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the Kenya Dairy Board, Umoja has been able to increase their sales from 20 litres over the weekends to 70 litres per day, and the members that had left the group have now returned.

Umoja’s growth can be attributed to their improved marketing strategy, both online and offline. Using the Facebook page, friends became curious to try it out. Quickly the client base went from just friends to include strangers, retail units and supermarkets.

Umoja has also educated their clients about the health benefits of yoghurt: it is good for the bones, helps in weight loss, controls blood pressure and builds immunity, for example. Although yoghurt does not work for everyone, clients have been ready to try it.

Free samples were issued to friends and retailers so that they could give their feedback and most then placed orders. We also gave credit sales to retailers and supermarkets who were not ready to risk selling a new product. Most of them are now buying on cash after believing in our products.

Unfortunately, the group has had some challenges in acquiring raw materials. Most of its milk suppliers use cows that feed on pastures, so when there is drought there is less milk to buy. Also, poor infrastructure can be a problem.

Milk is a perishable product, so if it does not reach Umoja in time, the quality deteriorates. Yet, Umoja’s members feel that it is important to keep working with the farmers as their main suppliers. These are farmers who had very little access to the market before, so Umoja is proud that it is supporting the farmers and their communities by processing and selling their products.

Statistics show that a large share of Kenya’s population is under 30 and only a small part of these young people are employed. With agriculture contributing about 26% percent of Kenya’s GDP, Umoja encourages fellow youths to engage in agribusiness to create employment for themselves and others.

The group has now created employment for all of its members involved in yoghurt and mala making and is planning on expanding to create employment opportunities for non-members.

Umoja also urges youth to be on the look-out for support from county governments, the national government as well as non-governmental organisations so that they can benefit from projects such as Vijabiz.