This is a story of how SUGECO became what it is today, and it all started with a 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). The project was expected to end on 31st December, 2015 and the budget was DKK. 4,965,799. The parties agreed to co-operate on the implementation of this project known as Growing Innovative Entrepreneurs through Action Research in the Agribusiness Value Chains in Tanzania. SUA, Aalborg, and Copenhagen Universities collaborated on the research project.
The main objective of this project was to conceptualize and implement the “student entrepreneurship value chain”, which meant the transformation from being a student to being “incubated” by SUGECO to finally became a successful entrepreneur. 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
“SUGECO that was established in 2011 has grown to full-fledged organization with high sustainability potentials thanks to this project”.Dr. Anna Temu, SUGECO Chair of the Board
The project contributed to the enhancement of creation of growth-oriented entrepreneurs 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 in addition, to started its own gardens. The project gardens became demonstration plots to farmers, students, and youth who are aspiring to start in the agribusiness sectors.
SUGECO that was established in 2011 has grown to full fledged organization with high sustainability potential. It has attracted funds from FAO, ITC, Farm Africa, USAID, Mastercard foundation and has continued responding to calls and doing a good job in executing development projects. The business model developed is being improved through action research, learning by doing and research based training.