When good food meets gender equity

Claudia Castellanos is a 2019 finalist of the WE Empower UN SDG challenge and an innovative entrepreneur that empowers women, farmers and foodies alike. WE Empower Intern Jordan Leiter highlights Castellanos and her business, Black Mamba Foods, in this article while demonstrating how they further gender equality and other United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Born in South America (Colombia) but adopted by Africa, Claudia Castellanos is the co-founder and managing director of Black Mamba Foods, a social business based in Eswatini, whose mission is “to bring sustainably sourced fresh products to the world that taste good, look good, and do good.” This translates in the manufacturing of gourmet food products, including sauces, pestos, chutneys and jams, all made with natural ingredients and no artificial flavorings or preservatives. Black Mamba buys fresh produce from local small holders that are trained in permaculture: Black Mamba gets fresh, organically grown ingredients for their products, and the farmers become resilient through improved food security and nutrition, better livelihood and generation of sustainable income, as well as knowledge in regenerative farming practices that are also good for the Earth.

To date, Black Mamba provides a sustainable income to over 60 farmers that are part of this initiative. The direct positive impact reaches over 1,000 individuals, as farmers have on average six dependents each and share their knowledge with an average of 11 members of their communities. Green farming is also responsible for improved biodiversity at the homestead level and better use of water resources.

Claudia has always believed in the power of women to develop a country, hence 80% of the farmers on the value chain and 80% of the employees of Black Mamba are women. Not only does Claudia’s business provide equal pay and support to women while encouraging ethical, regenerative farming, but Black Mamba is also member of SWIFT, the Swaziland Fair Trade Network, and aims to show the world that it is possible to provide first-world products while keeping a strong social and environmental ethos.

Besides running Black Mamba, Claudia is a passionate green activist, and she also trains and mentors young entrepreneurs.

When it comes to Black Mamba’s Sustainable Development Goals mission, Claudia states, “our vision at Black Mamba is to connect chilliheads around the world with generations of growers, providing proof that planet and people matter. Based on that vision, we are actively working towards the SDGs of no poverty, gender equality, and life on land primarily.”