My name is Irene Bogonko, General Manager for LEAFDE Limited, the daughter company of Leafs from Kenya, which is the production and processing company for Moringa based in Kwale County, Kenya.
For the last 11 years, I have built my career working in the horticulture industry, mainly in export and stakeholder management.
Despite being a middle child, I have always come across as the firstborn. My siblings will tell you I take the lead in making plans for our close-knit family and rallying everyone behind the plans. It is therefore not surprising that I am passionate about leadership and making a difference in the society.
My career has always been in Nairobi. But the General Manager’s offer meant moving to Kwale County full time. I used the initial tour at the farm to observe as well as talk to the employees there. The trip helped me make my decision.
I marveled at the potential of the farm and the great opportunity to work directly with communities, which is something I am passionate about. What further enforced my decision was when I realized I share the same values with the directors of the company- Fairness, Diversity, Inclusion, Respect and Openness.
I was also reminded of my experience in 2020 and 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. I lost a close friend to COVID-19 and my dad lost 2 of his close friends. We all saw the struggle many people encountered trying to get medical care when the healthcare industry was overwhelmed. This brought attention to natural remedies available, such as immune boosters. Moringa is a superfood for immunity, thus helping in preventing diseases. Working at LEAFDE presented an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives directly.
This being a small town also presents a great opportunity to build close-knit relationships with key stakeholders and government officials. The people here are warm, kind and welcoming, so I am interacting with them and learning. I am intentional about inclusivity and that means incorporating their culture into our work policy. Equally, I hope they too can learn from me- I hope to inspire them to change their mindset about work, doing things excellently and with passion.
Those who have worked with me before will tell you I am straightforward and strategic in stakeholder management, which then helps our partners to support us better. If there is a valuable lesson I have learned in my career, it is that people buy you before they buy your product. Therefore, my goal this year is to build a winning team. Together, we look forward to making an impact in the company to be the world’s best producers of Moringa in the world.
I look forward to growing the company to a position where it can offer employment to the youth in the county who are jobless. Based on the 2019 Census, Kwale county has a population of 866,820 people. The poverty rate is at 41% based on 2016 statistics. Around 30 per cent of the total labor force aged between (15-64 years) is either unemployed or underemployed (KNPHC, 2009). My greatest joy is to see the surrounding community flourishing because of direct or indirect business from our company. No doubt this is a big dream, but I am confident that it is achievable. This tells you I am daring and ambitious .
I will blog regularly about my experiences here and I invite you to come along with me as I take this journey. It is an opportunity to get to know me, the company, my country Kenya and the community we serve.