How spicing up agriculture the KIBOWAVI way can hook youth

Tanzania stands a chance of transforming its agricultural value chain should it tap into its demographic dividends effectively

MONDAY August 7, 2023

The KIBOWAVI project Director, Mr Daniel Kalimbiya (Second Right), shows the Tanzania’s Vice President, Dr Philip Mpango (First Right), some products of Mbeya Food Park during the inauguration of the park in July this year.

By Deus Bugaywa

The Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania

Fathoming out key drivers of growth, Tanzania’s prosperity lies in agriculture, yet the backbone of the country’s economy lags behind far beyond expectations.

Studies show that matching perceptions of the youth, who constitute the largest working population, is the last resort for the sector that commands about 70 per cent of the population.

Studies show the traditional subsistence farming coupled with lack of entrepreneurial skills prompt majority of youth to shirk agriculture in favour of white-collar jobs.

Limited access to land, financial services, markets and technologies do not only rub salt in the wounds, but also deny the country of demographic dividends.

Tanzania stands a chance for transforming the cornerstone of its economy only if it taps into its fastest growing young population.

Tanzania age structure and population pyramid. CHART | LIVE POPULATION

It is time the East African nation scaled up the KIBOWAVI trajectory, among others, to rope the youth into the agricultural value chain.

KIBOWAVI is a Swahili acronym for empowering women and youth in horticultural production and marketing.

The project the Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation supervises aspires to contribute towards inclusive economic growth.

It promotes the private sector, create jobs through the horticultural industry and increase food security and nutrition in the Southern Highlands, Tanzania.

Implemented under Agri-Connect, a European Union (EU) funded programme, the KIBOWAVI project has established on-farm value addition facilities.

Mbeya Food Park

It has constructed two food processing plants, and storage and market parks, furnished with nine solar driers, two storage facilities for onion and cardamom, and four marketing facilities, in Mbeya and Mpanda.

The facilities are gradually turning agriculture into an eye–catching business among youth.

Fatuma Mbaga is one of the youths who no longer regret changing their misleading fairy tales towards agriculture. At her tender age of 27 years, she has defied all the odds to become a shining star in agricultural food chain.

From a humble beginning of about $29 in cash and a loan of about $21, she forged her way to become an exporter of cardamom to US, thanks to brilliant and lionhearted captainship in her which KIBOWAVI project spotted and nurtured in a five-year stint.

I bumped into Fatuma when the Tanzania’s Vice President, Dr Philip Mpango, officially inaugurated the Mbeya Food Park late July this year.

Fatuma Mbaga explains her way to success. PHOTO | DEUS BUGAYWA

The park, which serves as an agribusiness incubator, is playing an imperative role in developing technology and value chains, enabling youth and women engaged in small agricultural businesses to thrive in the Southern Highlands regions of Mbeya, Songwe and Katavi.

Fatuma briefed Dr Mpango, who was inspecting pavilions during an exhibition, on how she notched up her first export of cardamom and on challenges she faced.

Her story being a hard pill to swallow, I looked for her immediately after the opening ceremony only to find myself in tete a tete conversation with a youthful, brave and confident Managing Director of Get Aroma Spices in her office housed within Mbeya Food Park’s premises.

The Business Administration and Entrepreneurship graduate from Mzumbe University in Morogoro, Tanzania, says the road to where she is was not a bed of roses.

“I started small businesses when I was still at college, supplying rice to a certain school in Dodoma through a main supplier.

Cardamom is a spice native to India and Indonesia with a strong aroma and flavour, used in meat and vegetable curries desserts, and all manner of recipes. PHOTO | FOOD NETWORK

“I used to be paid through his bank account, the business was doing fine until he vanished in thin air along with my capital, compelling me to go back onto the drawing board,” she recalls.

Fatuma ended up giving her fellow students gifts of spices on her way back to school from holidays, telling them on how she lost her business.

The college students advised her to consider selling the spices to them, as they were as good as the ones they bought at supermarkets.

She followed their advice by preparing 10 kilogrammes of spices worth $29 and sending them to Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurship Cooperative’s (SUGECO) exhibitions.

“I sold them all and bagged $126. I was really over the moon,” says Fatuma, explaining that she joined SUGECO immediately after she accomplished her studies at the college.

Tanzania’s Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe (Third Left) visits the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO) in Morogoro Region, Tanzania, in July last year. SUGECO engages in various agribusiness entrepreneurial activities inclduing provision of training in entrepreneurship, business ecosystem, and network development, providing business incubation services and access to capital, land, and technology, and arranging start-up support through internships. PHOTO | SUGECO

While at SUGECO, her entrepreneurial, business ecosystem and networking talents blossomed. She started business over again, this time selling spices officially and on full-time basis.

It was during the commemoration of the 2021 World Food Day in Njombe, when she met Helvetas Tanzania, a member of a network of independent development organisations whose presence is felt in 29 countries globally.

Helvetas, whose development projects cover a plethora of areas, agriculture and nutrition included, bring about real change in lives of over three million disadvantaged people globally every year, introduced Fatuma to KIBOWAVI.

“KIBOWAVI exposed my business to Mbeya Food Park, opening up the horizon for my business. I now process quality goods as opposed to the past when products were marred in hygienic and quality defects,” Fatuma says.

Mbeya Food Processing Park (MFPP) is a strategic venture Mbeya City Council and Helvetas Tanzania jointly conceived and financed through the KIBOWAVI project.

European Union has injected Euros 4.5 million into KIBOWAVI, a project meant for contributing to inclusive economic growth, private sector development and job creation in the horticultural industry. PHOTO | EEAS EUROPA

The park aims at building the capacity of small-scale processors in the region and countrywide to add value to horticultural produces and to access markets.

As a result, the initiative is greatly enhancing incomes of the targeted small-scale processors and stimulating overall economy across the horticultural value chain.

Owing to quality processing at Mbeya Food Park, Fatuma won hearts of the US market to which she supplies cardamom.

“During a Saba Saba trade exhibition in Dar es Salaam in 2021, Helvetas linked me up with Haki Commodities, a firm that was looking for cardamom samples for its US market.

“Out of 26 samples collected from different processors, mine emerged the best, this is how I started exporting the crop,” Fatuma explains.

Fatuma Mbaga, a Tanzanian entrepreneur exporting spices to US, is contending with exorbitant prices of packaging materials. PHOTO | DEUS BUGAYWA

She is now exporting 2.5 tonnes of cardamom annually and counting, up from her barely 50-kilogramme initial consignment.

“Sky is the sole limit at Get Aroma Spices, we look forward overcoming all bottlenecks to fly even higher,” says Fatuma, citing packaging materials as the biggest challenge.

“They’re very expensive,” she says as she pleads with the Tanzania government to consider resolving the barrier swiftly, lest it scares off upcoming entrepreneurs jumping on the bandwagonΩ

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