Challenges Uganda recently performed a commercial and impact analysis for the social enterprise NUTRIgreens. We undertook this market research to assess whether there was opportunity for the business’s “microgreens” products and whether these baby vegetables could be used to address Uganda’s malnutrition problem.
Malnutrition is a significant problem for families in Uganda. More than one-third of children under the age of five (2.4 million) suffer from stunted growth and 50 percent of children are anaemic. When it comes to education, Uganda’s dietary problem has further consequences. Malnourished children suffer from poor concentration and energy levels, which results in poor academic performance. With increased healthcare costs and a lack of opportunities, this in turn keeps families trapped in poverty.
Financially, the problem is also hindering Uganda’s economy. A 2009 study found that the cost of undernutrition among Ugandan children is equivalent to 5.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, some UGX 1.86 trillion (£420 million).
Challenges Uganda partnered with NUTRIgreens to develop a market solution to Uganda’s malnutrition problem. Established by Enactus Nottingham, NUTRIgreens is a social enterprise that aims to enhance the nutritional value of school meals by adding microgreens to the menu.
Microgreens are baby plants harvested between 7 and 21 days after germination. They contain up to 40 times the nutrient concentration of their mature counterparts, and require approximately 150 times less water. Due to their small size, they can be grown in volume with little burden on the producer, making them suitable for indoor growing.
NUTRIgreens commissioned Challenges to undertake a market analysis to investigate the feasibility of introducing microgreens into Ugandan secondary schools and to determine the potential long-term success of such an initiative. We also looked at their potential application in restaurants.
Challenges’ research findings
Through a combination of stakeholder interviews, online research and questionnaires completed by school principals, students and farmers, the Challenges Uganda team found considerable interest in the food product and the concept overall.
We found that small-scale farmers had appropriate growth materials and capacity, and were willing to diversify and grow the crop. Schools also expressed an interest, provided the microgreens were supplied at an affordable price. They were especially interested in NUTRIgreens’ offer to provide training programmes to students. The Challenges Uganda team also found concrete interest among other NGOs in partnering with NUTRIgreens with a view to rolling out this food source innovation.
As a result of Challenges’ research, NUTRIgreens is now working towards launching a pilot across Kampala schools later this month. With affordability a considerable issue for school management, NUTRIgreens will subsidise the programme by selling microgreens commercially to restaurants in both Nottingham and Kampala.
Both NUTRIgreens and Challenges recognises the potential for this young food. It’s an innovation that can both address the malnutrition crisis affecting Ugandan children, while offering a commercial opportunity for farmers and food producers willing to diversify.