Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies are rampant in Sub-Saharan Africa with the region having the highest prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in the world. Iodine, vitamin B12 and Zinc deficiencies are also rampant but can be prevented through the fortification of food. Tanzania for example suffers from a high rate of malnutrition(stunting 32%), whereby micronutrient deficiency is rampant and causes high infant mortality rates and maternal deaths.
Sanavita is working towards producing biofortified crops with Vitamin A, Zinc and Iron to reduce Vitamin A deficiency and anaemia among children and women in Tanzania. According to UNICEF, iron deficiency in the country stands at 58% in children under the age of 5; and at 45% for women aged 15 – 49 years. Vitamin A deficiency in children aged between 6 to 59 months stands at 33%.
“At Sanavita, we aim to address malnutrition through agribusiness engagements involving smallholder farmers in Tanzania. We focus on staple crops in a bid to tackle malnutrition in the rural areas of Tanzania. We are dedicated to producing biofortified crops and are currently producing three types; sweet potatoes, vitamin A maize and high iron and zinc beans,” Jolenta Joseph, Managing Director and Founder of Sanavita, notes. “Apart from adding value to the agricultural produce, we also run nutrition awareness campaigns, nutrition education and promoting production, processing as well as value addition of Orange fleshed sweet potatoes(OFSP), ProVitamin A Maize and High Iron and Zinc beans. We have also been training the smallholder farmers on good agricultural practices along with how they can reduce post-harvest losses and increase their profit margins.
We reach our customers through local markets, supermarkets and local shops. Currently, we have been using Instagram and Facebook and local media to create awareness about our products. We have also partnered with local government authorities such as the district health department and Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre to visit local clinics where we can share information about our products and their health benefits. We are also looking to get into the export market and to sell to the European market. Expanding to the European market is quite a challenge because you have to educate them and explain why they should go for the Pro-Vitamin A maize and not the white maize, and why the OFSP and not sweet potatoes.
The genesis of Sanavita
I started in 2018, during a time when farmers were struggling with getting access to markets for their products. I started by buying fresh produce from the farmers and selling it to the market, and this was just to help the farmers access the available market. After some time, I saw the potential in dried sweet potatoes and flour. After incubation, I started drying the sweet potatoes and within no time I was packaging my products and that is how Sanavita began. I officially registered the company in March 2019 and started developing different products. I started out with sweet potato flour and then moved to wheat and wheat products. We are currently milling porridge flour from sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds and rice. The other one is from proVitamin A maize and cassava which is for the thick porridge (ugali).
Growth at Sanativa
Over the years, the number of farmers we are working with has increased; we started with just one farmer. Today we are working with 1,000 smallholder farmers. We also keep recruiting new farmers based on what we are producing. Since 2019, our revenue has increased and we are ready to move out of the incubation centre where we have been producing our flour. We are currently fundraising so that we can get a solar dryer and processing machinery. So far, we have mobilized enough and managed to have all the key machines we need; the only thing missing is a building and a solar dryer. Together with partners such as AGRA, GAIN and TechnoServe, we are working towards fundraising or access to finance to establish our production site.
The Generation Africa Fellowship Program(GAFP)
This program was timely and has been very helpful. The coaching has especially been impactful. After my first conversation with my mentor, Mr. Haggai Leonard, I identified the key needs for Sanavita; fundraising and marketing. With his guidance, we began by developing a social media communication and marketing strategy which on implementation, saw an increase in the number of people visiting our website and our social media platforms. Before implementing this strategy, we had 500 followers on Instagram and now we are at 800 followers and still growing; all this in a span of less than 2 months. GAFP has challenged me to review our market reports and refine our business plan as well as our business pitch. I am confident that after the completion of the Program, we will be able to attract funding and have a robust online presence hence growth in our market share.
What Next for Sanavita?
We are keen on expanding Sanavita’s operations to the whole country and consequently tapping into the export market. This is why we are doing our best to ensure we set up the production plant. We are also looking to recruit and train more farmers as well as create more employment opportunities for young people in Tanzania.
Interviewed by Juliet Hinga