Thirteen days, 8,246 miles, a Life-Changing Trip. TechnoServe’s Ripple Effect.

I’m recently back from my first trip to Mozambique. I went to see TechnoServe’s local work in action and to meet members of our team there in person for the first time. As I continue to process everything I saw and learned and the people I had the privilege of meeting, “ripple effect” is a phrase that comes to mind.

Image of a ripple in water. A ripple effect is the continuing and spreading results of an event or action.

What is a Ripple Effect in Reducing Poverty?  

When I joined TechnoServe in October 2019 to lead our digital marketing and fundraising efforts, I remember hearing the term “ripple effect” frequently in conversations about our work. It applies to what we do in many ways.

What is a Ripple Effect?

A ripple effect is the continuing and spreading results of an event or action. 

The smallest ripple begins when we work with a farmer or small business owner, and she starts to earn a better income. She changes her life and often spends the additional income on her family. The ripple expands and begins to transform other lives. She can send her children to school, improve their housing, and ensure they all have better access to food. Sometimes, for the first time, the family has enough money to go beyond meeting basic needs. The ripple then expands further. It transforms entire communities. When businesses and farms grow, they hire new employees and create more opportunities for people throughout the village or neighborhood. 

That initial engagement with a single client can create an even wider ripple. After clients participate in programs with TechnoServe, they may introduce TechnoServe to their friends and neighbors so they can participate in programs and improve their circumstances. Clients often become community leaders, teaching others what they have learned. In many cases, catalyzing a change in cultural norms in their families and communities as they better understand how certain societal practices can hold back economic opportunities for women and their families.

A third type of ripple effect involves TechnoServe’s market systems development (MSD) work. MSD aims to tackle market failures and strengthen the private sector in a way that creates large-scale, lasting benefits for lower-income people. Under an MSD approach, we partner with companies and organizations operating within a particular market (like the cashew or coffee industry in a country) to create new business models and practices that will help generate more inclusive economic opportunities. These engagements enable us to scale the number of people impacted. When we can help a larger player in a market system become more inclusive, that often leads to better opportunities for lower-income people working in the same market system.  

The ripple effect is not complex to understand in theory. But it has become even more powerful to me now that I’ve had an opportunity to see it in action after my first trip to Mozambique this past February. I know even more than before that even one small action by a single person can make a huge impact.

25 Years of the Ripple Effect in Mozambique

I’ve been working closely this past year with two colleagues in Mozambique, Programs Director Christine Ribeiro and Communications Specialist Isac Timba. We’ve been collaborating to update a section of to feature the work of our amazing local team there. Given the breadth of work the Mozambique team has been doing for many years (we recently celebrated TechnoServe Mozambique’s 25th anniversary), the website project turned out to be quite involved and intense. As a result, when I had an opportunity to travel to Africa to observe our fieldwork in person, Mozambique seemed like the perfect place.  

Not only would it allow me to spend more time in person with the team, but our projects there include agriculture and entrepreneurship, direct interventions with small business owners, and market systems development work with some of our larger agribusiness clients who work directly with smallholder farmers. It would also allow me to experience a country that is very different from any other place I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and to get a glimpse of what life is like for so many people TechnoServe works with every day. 

TechnoServe marketing and Communications staff learning about how the work of BioAgro creates a ripple effect for smallholder farmers throughout Mozambique.
From left, Iláuda Manala, Communications Manager, Mozambique, Lisa Kagel, Senior Director Digital, U.S., Olivia Sakai, Senior Communications Specialist, U.S., Isac Timba, Communications Specialist, Mozambique visiting Bio-Agro in Nampula.

Witnessing the Ripple Effect in Action

After spending a couple of days with our team in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital in the south of the country (and retrieving my lost luggage—nothing like traveling 25 hours on a plane and not having any clean clothes for my first day of meetings!), I traveled north to Nampula. There I met our program teams and clients and heard from them first-hand about their paths out of poverty. 

Women like Lucia Sigauque, who took a baking class when she lost her job a few years ago. This led her to open a bakery, Delicias da Lulu. Because she didn’t have business experience, she started working with more experienced women to help her learn. Inspired by these teachers, she started teaching other women how to bake. Today, after participating in a TechnoServe management training program, she has hired four employees. She has established new partnerships with companies by diversifying her services to include catering. She also offers different course curriculums (baking and cooking) that generate additional income beyond the bakery and empower women in her community with new economic opportunities. She is also returning to school to earn a master’s degree in finance. Despite the language barrier (Portuguese is the local language in Mozambique), Lucia’s charisma and excitement came through loud and clear.

Baker and Teacher Lucia Sigauque smiling as she decorates a cake in her bakery. Lucia's growing business is creating new jobs and teaching other women the skills they need to open their own baking businesses, creating a ripple effect for the women she impacts in her community.
Baker and teacher Lucia Sigauque at her bakery Delicias da Lulu in Nampula.

Passion and Enthusiasm Create Change

While I expected to be inspired by our clients, our local staff’s passion, enthusiasm, and expertise really wowed me. I met some of our business advisors (BAs) for the first time. Watching them engage with the women and men in our programs and witnessing the relationships they have developed with their portfolio of clients truly moved me. 

We had the privilege of spending a couple of days with TechnoServe Associate Business Advisor Érica Muarramuassa and Measurement and Evaluation Specialist Onika Tovela, meeting several of Érica’s clients (and even some of their families since often their businesses are family affairs). After just the first few minutes of these visits, it became clear how much Érica, Onika, and our other business advisors invest in their clients’ and communities’ success. Their commitment to their clients gives these farmers and entrepreneurs the confidence to keep going and overcome doubts they may have about their ability to succeed—another ripple.

TechnoServe Associate Business Advisor Érica Muarramuassa (on the right) with one of her clients, Aurora Aristides, in Nampula.
TechnoServe Associate Business Advisor Érica Muarramuassa (right) with one of her clients, Aurora Aristides, in Nampula.

The Ripple Effect Through Market Systems Development

Arguably, I found our visits to the rural communities where we work to be the most impactful and educational. As we drove out of Nampula into the countryside, the beauty of the landscape and the people struck me. A bright blue sky interspersed with white cotton balls of clouds atop the trees, grass, and other foliage, every possible shade of dark green. 

As we drove by, teenage boys walked by the side of the road holding gardening and farming tools, women carried fruit on their heads, and people with pop-up fruit stands along the road sold mangos and bananas to the drivers as the cars sped by. Occasionally, we came across small houses set back from the road: cinder block structures with thatched roofs. 

That Saturday morning, we spent time in a small village in Monapo, east of Nampula, with the smallholders of two women’s farming associations. All community members were eagerly anticipating the seed ceremony, the reason for our visit. We came there to attend with our client, Agrifeed, a sesame processing company working directly with the farmers. Children of all ages observed us from afar, sometimes catching our eye and smiling. Women and men of the community stood by in groups waiting to start. For an American having just left winter on the East Coast, the 90+ degree sun in Mozambique felt even hotter than summers at home. 

Women of the NIVENHE farming association during a seed ceremony with TechnoServe client Agrifeed.
Women of the NIVENHE farming association during a seed ceremony with TechnoServe client Agrifeed.

Agrifeed presented the women with a new kind of high-quality seed to grow sesame. The women would grow the seeds into sesame and then sell them back to Agrifeed, providing the women and their families with additional income. By purchasing the seeds from the women’s farming associations, Agrifeed would have more high-quality sesame seed inputs, increasing their production and revenue.

TechnoServe partnered with Agrifeed to help them connect to better financing so they could afford to buy the seeds from a seed company. This relationship exemplifies MSD work and how the ripple effect plays out in real life to create better opportunities throughout the value chain—a win-win-win situation for the seed company, the food processing company, and the smallholder farmers.

Kendo Mangule of Agrifeed with NIVENHE President Rozinha Feliciano at the seed ceremony.
Kendo Mangule of Agrifeed with NIVENHE President Rozinha Feliciano at the seed ceremony.

One Person Can Transform Lives and Livelihoods

As a member of TechnoServe’s staff for almost five years, in many ways, I felt as if I knew what to expect from my first visit to Mozambique. I have had the good fortune of working with many colleagues there. In recent years, Zoom and Google Meet have meant that we have the privilege of getting to know each other to a certain extent, speaking face-to-face without physically being in the same room. However, it still isn’t quite the same as having an opportunity to work together in person and see what the other person sees from their vantage point.

Talking directly to our clients and local project leads in their communities has reinforced the impact TechnoServe clients and program staff have on people, their families, and the broader areas where they live. I am truly grateful to have seen how changing just one person’s life can create a ripple effect that transforms lives and livelihoods for generations. One action from one person can impact so many more.

Lisa Kagel is the Senior Director of Digital Engagement at TechnoServe.