It has been more than one year since the start of a partnership between a group of rural women small-scale farmers, the Kimana’s Women’s group, the International Labour Organization (ILO), Tech for Trade, and Serena Hotels in the Amboseli, Kenya region. What started as an economic empowerment initiative has now grown to become a sustainable business, where lives of women and their families have been enhanced immensely.
The Kimana Women’s Group, from the Amboseli region, is a self-started group of HIV+ infected and affected women that got together to form a business, provide support and raise awareness on HIV and AIDS to others in their community. With no donor support, the women would travel door to door to mobilize and invite other women to join their group. In collaboration with doctors in the region, a few of the women were trained on nutrition and drugs management. These women then passed on the knowledge, and trained others in the group and surrounding community.
Once the group was formed, APHIAplus (AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance) noticed their courage and resilience, and with expertise from Amiran Kenya, helped the women start agriculture production, through facilitating training on greenhouse farming. In the dry region of Amboseli, the Kimana Women’s Group has now established itself with two pieces of land, where it grows various vegetables and fruits, such as oranges and paw paws.
With the support of ILO, Tech for Trade and African Pro-Poor Tourism Development Centre (APTDC), the Kimana Women’s Group was introduced to Serena Hotels as a potential supplier of fruits and vegetables for their property, The Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, situated 45km from their main area of operation. When building the partnership, Serena Hotels offered support to the group through providing training in quality requirements, rules and regulations and other business logistics, such as setting up a bank account. It has now been over one year and the Kimana Women’s Group has become the sole supplier of fruits and vegetables to Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge.
Serena Hotels, for over four decades, has worked to ensure suppliers’ practices; standards of quality and cleanliness align with their values as an organization. To this end, training was given to The Kimana’s Women’s Group to produce and package the wares in an internationally acceptable manner, thus building capacity and improving markets. As sustainability continues to evolve, Serena Hotels recognizes the importance and benefits achieved by partnering with its supply chain to operate and produce products in socially and environmentally responsible ways. Serena Hotels recognizes that smart, socially and environmentally responsible policies brings them customer preference and loyalty.
The women of the Kimana Group have benefited significantly from its inclusion into Serena’s supply chain with improved livelihoods for themselves and their families. Moreover, one of the groups has diversified their business and is starting to trade in grains, as they now have the capital to do so. The other group has bought land to expand its current production.
Working with the women’s group has also benefited Serena Hotels in several ways. Prior to the partnership, Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge would obtain vegetable and fruit supplies from Nairobi, Kenya. However, due to the proximity of the Kimana Women’s Group to the Lodge, thus sourcing locally, the Lodge has been able to decrease its carbon footprint and financial costs. Moreover, the environmentally friendly practices followed by the Group have also played a part in decreasing Serena’s carbon footprint. The deliveries are on time, fresh, of better quality and can easily be traced, greatly benefiting Serena Hotels and its guests.
By focusing on its supply chain, which ties to its sustainability and commitment to diversity and inclusion, Serena Hotels recognizes the need to replicate this model to its other properties and appreciates the added value that the partnership has brought for the smallholder farmers.
As Serena Hotels looks to the future, the company hopes to expand its support of the Kimana Women’s Group through building partnerships with other Serena properties. Further, Serena Hotels will continue to assist the women to grow their business and be able to supply to other organizations, such as hotels, in the Amboseli region.