Malawian PhD student at the University of Kentucky, Bettie Sindi Kawonga, 30 was on Thursday October 16 – World Food Day – formally honoured as one of the four young entrepreneurs under the age of 40 as recipients of the $150 000 (about K67.5 million) fellowships to launch innovative social enterprise projects addressing hunger and poverty in Africa.
Kawonga was named on Wednesday as winner of the award together with Liberian Mahmud Johnson, Lilian Uwintwali from Rwanda and Emiliano Mroue from Sierra Leone at the World Food Prize international symposium organised the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), and the World Food Prize Foundation.
The ceremony was held at World Food Prize international symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, USA.
Kawonga, a lecturer in dairy science and technology at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), said she will use her 40 Chances Award to establish a network of community business incubation centres, which will enable underemployed Malawian youth to become successful entrepreneurs in the dairy sector.
The Community Business Incubation Centers will equip youth with leadership and technical skills in dairy husbandry and value addition, agribusiness management, loans and savings, and business proposal writing. Youth will be matched with business mentors and provided with start-up funds from an endowment to be created using a portion of the 40 Chances award money.
“The project aims at tapping into the current ‘sleeping giant’ of Malawi – the youth – who make up over 60% of the Malawian population but most of whom are either not employed or are un-employable due to lack of technical skills,” she said.
In his statement, Howard W. Buffett, trustee of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and co-author of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, hailed the recipients, saying they have demonstrated that a single individual has potential to change the world.
“We are proud to partner with the World Food Prize Foundation and The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative in recognizing these four extraordinary people. Each of the 40 Chances Fellows is living proof that a single individual has the potential to change the world, and we anticipate that their work will serve as a model for others hoping to do the same,” he said.
An extremely impressive array of leaders served as judges for this fellowship. They were Dr. Pedro Sanchez – World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Ruth Oniang’o – Chair of the Board, Sasakawa Africa Association, Dr. Daniel Karanja – Executive Director, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, David Strelneck – Senior Advisor, Ashoka and Ms. Rachael Wilson – Staff member, World Food Programme Malawi.
Motivated by the conviction that investing in youth is essential to securing a positive future for Malawi, Kawonga has worked in the country to encourage entrepreneurship in the dairy industry.
- Kawonga graduated from the University of Malawi (Bunda Collage of Agriculture) with BSc and MSc in Animal Science.
- She worked in the Ministry of Agriculture as an Extension Officer before joining the University of Malawi as a Lecturer.
- She is now pursuing a PhD
- Her goal is to contribute to the development of Dairy Industry in Malawi through teaching, research and consultancy.