Manuel Rodrigues, 34

Manuel Rodrigues is the perfect mix between born achiever and community improver. He obtained both his law degree and CTA cum laude and was placed among the Top 10 in his ITC board exam. He became a managing director at Escolha Do Povo (EDP) at the age of 29.

Today, he is a partner and director at Matswani Capital, a venture capital firm with widespread investments across various industries ranging from agro processing and underground coal mining to bulk fuel distribution across Africa.

At Matswani Capital, Manuel is strategic in the outlook of the business. He not only heads up the finance function for the entire Africa region but is also responsible for operations in the Mozambican EDP project.

‘Escolha Do Povo’ (EDP) means ‘The People’s Choice’ in Portuguese. This was a brown fields project and Manuel often expresses his pride on what they were able to build in a space where there was nothing, raised all the necessary funding, obtained government support and approvals, and put in place the necessary infrastructure for a commercial hatchery, maize and feed milling operation.

The infrastructure allows for the maximum production of half a million day-old chicks per month which are distributed into the local market along with a chicken feed that EDP produces. This enhances the livelihood of small-scale farmers, as they grow the birds under the supervision of EDPs training and continuous development programme. The grown birds are sold by the small-scale farmers in the market, thereby yielding a return on investment every 35 days. There is always a conundrum between the bottom line and community development, and Manuel has cracked the code to achieve both.

This project has a wide-scale and growing social impact on:
55 000 regional maize farmers − EDP buys millions of kilograms of maize from these farmers each year.
14 000 soya bean farmers − EDP has been financing the fertilizers and seeds and providing training to those farmers. The product is also purchased from the farmers and used in EDP’s feed production.

7 000 families to whom EDP provides technical support in rearing chickens. The grown birds are then sold in the market.

EDP has partnered with the government in this initiative, as food security and the need to increase production of food within the borders, as well as the nutritional intake of the average Mozambican, are major concerns. They are proud of the fact that this project fortifies some staple foods (maize meal) with added vitamins and makes those available at affordable prices while providing a cost-effective protein source to the local population which improves the quality of food the people consume.

In 2017, EDP received a government grant amounting to $1,5 million to install a new soya extrusion plant with a capacity of processing 2 million kilograms of product per month. This created a natural offtake for the soya beans grown by the 14 000 farmers mentioned above. The product of this plant is used as the protein source for the chicken feed.

An untapped market coupled with a destitute but willing community created the perfect opportunity for social enterprise to meet with commercial enterprise.

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