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Despite the odds Celina turned her passion for food into a successful business

Celina Kisha Chibanda, 59, runs a small food processing business from her home in Iringa, Tanzania. But succeeding has not been easy. She faced many challenges including a lack of capital, little business knowledge and a community out of sync with her ambitions.  

Here she tells her story:

Celina Kisha Chibanda owner of Chi products with one of her jars of peanut butter © Mwanzo Millinga

Celina Kisha Chibanda owner of Chi products with one of her jars of peanut butter

Passion for food

“My whole life, my passion has always been for food. Even while I was working in the local garage 20 years ago, I would make small cakes, and fry groundnuts, then fill my pockets with them and take them to work to sell. People loved the food I would make."

Community attitudes

“But many women in the community thought I was strange. They couldn’t understand why I was doing this when I already had a job at the garage. I couldn’t help it though – food is in my blood. So I didn’t really care what people thought.

“I heard about some training on food processing that was due to take place though the 'Small Industries Development Organisation'. It was to be six weeks long and based in Dar es Salaam, but I managed to get permission from work to attend."

Learning new skills

“I took courses including how to process different foods like nutritious flour, how to make peanut butter, how to dry vegetables, make snack foods, and so on. When I got back to Iringa after the course I was very excited. I thought that since I had attended I would be able to help other women in the community by sharing the training.

“The women all refused. It was so frustrating trying to convince them to take the training. They thought it was a disturbance to their usual way of doing things."

Going full time

“After a year, I quit my job. By 2002 I had registered my company under the name ‘Chi Products’, and was doing food processing as a business. All this time I was slowly saving, and finally by 2005, I managed to buy a small hand-operated machine for grinding peanuts.

“I researched other products I could make and began to produce garlic paste, soya drink, and nutritious flour, made of ground rice, maize, soya and finger millet. You can use it to make a nice porridge.

“I sold door-to-door, in the markets, at the local supermarkets and in offices. Lots of people told me that they enjoyed my products very much. It motivated me to keep going and to do even better – that’s why I’m here right now."

What success means

“When I began the business my daughter Catherine was in Standard Four [school]. Today she is taking her Master’s degree at the University of Dar es Salaam – all possible because of the business.

Celina Kisha Chibanda with volunteer Sandy Hung © Mwanzo Millinga

Celina Kisha Chibanda with volunteer Sandy Hung 

“Right now I am lacking the technology to make the process more efficient. We are peeling hundreds of cloves of garlic every day by hand. I am still making my peanut butter by hand, removing the skins and operating the grinder. It is a lot of work, and saving is very slow.

“The investment in my business so far has been from my own savings; I have never taken a loan. From my savings I built a house that I want to turn into a production area."

Now the community respects me

“Now those women who once thought I was strange respect me. After I started the business I bought this house. Every time I managed to achieve something new, they would come to me and ask, ‘how did you manage?’ All that time ago they were not interested, but now they respect me.”

Helping businesses thrive

The VSO-supported Tanzania Local Enterprise Development project is helping entrepreneurs and small business owners like Celina in four districts in Tanzania. 

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