It all started with a Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) project called Growing Innovative Entrepreneurs through Action Research in the Agribusiness Value Chain in Tanzania.
On October 7, 2012, the Danish government, through the DANIDA Fellowship Center (DFC), agreed to fund a three-year development research project in partnership with the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). SUA, Aalborg University, and the University of Copenhagen collaborated on the research project whose main objective was to conceptualize and implement the “student entrepreneurship value chain.”
The Project also involved enriching the SUA curriculum in entrepreneurship and business management with practical applications in food processing. These objectives later became the core of SUGECO’s operation.
“[The] SUGECO that was established in 2011 has grown to become full-fledged organization with high sustainability potentials—thanks to this project.” —Dr. Anna Temu, Chair of the Board, SUGECO
The project contributed to the creation of growth-oriented business owners by nurturing graduates and potential young entrepreneurs through training, internship, and incubation process. Throughout the five-stage process of carrying out this project, SUGECO re-structured itself in order to cater to other members and young entrepreneurs.
SUGECO, an organization that was developed to support students-entrepreneurship has now grown to become a good example in technology transfer and community development support over time. This led to food processing value addition in fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious products. The extension project had managed to support various business startups such as Vero Juice for fruit juice processing, SOLARTUNDA for nutritious baked goods and spices, along with Kinshaga Foods for pineapple processing. The production lines lines are owned and run by youth whom we helped link to farmers (suppliers) and intermediary traders who supplied raw materials to the incubators.
Given the natural flexibility of action research from the beginning, it allowed this research to grow more than what was originally planned. More product lines were introduced to tackle the seasonality issues in Tanzania. The research ventured off beyond fruits and vegetables to work on spices and sweet potato value chains as well. This was necessary given that product development required more that just the fruit and vegetable value chain. The focus of youth entrepreneurs led to communication and outreach to youth including SUA graduates, other university graduates, and vulnerable unemployed youth who are out of school from primary and secondary school.
Because the incubators needed a supply of produce from small-scale farmers, the project started working with producers and eventually led to starting its own gardens. The project gardens became demonstration plots to aspiring farmers, students, and youth wanting to start up in the agribusiness sectors.
From 2011, SUGECO has grown to become a full-fledged organization with high sustainability potential. It has attracted funds from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) FAO, ITC, Farm Africa, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Mastercard Foundation, and has continued responding to calls while successfully executing development projects. The current business model developed is constantly being improved through action research, learning by doing, and research-based training.