Jolenta Joseph is an inspiring businesswoman who is making a difference in her country and throughout the world. She was motivated by an increase in occurrences of malnutrition among children in rural Tanzania and weak farmer markets.
“I genuinely wanted to understand the specific problems that caused malnutrition, but I didn’t know where to start”, she said.
The starting point
As a human nutritionist, Jolenta Joseph had a brilliant idea but did not put it into context until she started working in 2017. Through being a part of the nutrition awareness programme, she gained insight into how agriculture might be utilised to curb malnutrition in Tanzania.
From her discussions with some farmers, she discovered the challenges they faced in growing and marketing nutritious foods.
Two things became apparent: farmers in rural regions need to be more conscious of what to produce, and people living in the city need nutrient-rich, delicious food that they couldn’t cultivate in cities.
She started and built a company to bridge the gap between farmers and purchasers.
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Launching her agribusiness – Sanavita
In 2019, Jolenta founded Sanavita, an agribusiness firm that processes biofortified crops to produce various culinary goods.
Jolenta Joseph started with Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, a specific form of biofortified sweet potato with high quantities of beta-carotene. This served as the company’s first product.
She said, “I would take sweet potatoes on credit from farmers in rural areas and sell them in towns”.
Over time, her customer base expanded, and there was a demand for different products. She said, “Some customers desire processed foods that they can store for a long time.
I created a method of drying sweet potatoes using solar energy while maintaining their nutrients, then grinding them into a healthy composite flour that I marketed to food manufacturers”.
Through the feedback from the consumers, she identified an opportunity and added more value to the product.
Laying the roadmap for expansion
As a result of the positive feedback, she developed more nutrient-rich products. Sweet potato flour, for example, has been blended with rice and pumpkin seed powder. Also, she encouraged her farmers to plant issued biofortified maize seeds the ministry of agriculture released.
She enhanced the maize powder by flavouring it with cassava. She also made a sweet potato puree cookie with iron beans and cashew nuts. All the new products will be under the Sanavita brand.
The number of farmers she collaborates with to supply potatoes increased from 10 farmers to 1000 farmers. Also, from 200 to 500 kg of sweet potato every month to four tonnes of sweet potato per month.
Jolenta Joseph’s product targets pregnant women, lactating mothers and children who suffer from iron and vitamin A deficiency. However, they are companies in this niche already.
This leads to stiff competition from other food processors that make porridge flour. What gave her brand the edge was the focus on nutritionally enhanced crops.
The business continues to fund itself by reinvesting its profits. It has also received funding from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Although the assistance aided the business in acquiring some of its equipment, it still uses the milling equipment at Sokoine University’s agricultural incubator centre. The establishment of a certified factor will assist the company in increasing its manufacturing capacity.