The first container ever of Ghanaian sweet potatoes for Europe may well arrive in June. This is partially an achievement of Wiep (21) and Mike (27). The 2 students of International Food & Agribusiness went to Africa on behalf of a German entrepreneur, to assess the opportunities for the sweet potato.
A German fruit trader always bought their sweet potatoes from South America. But they also wanted to know what possibilities there were to source them in Africa, which is much nearer. So, it might be cheaper logistically. And how awesome would it be if he could help small African farmers and consumers build up a better existence!? Potatoes contain lots of important nutrients such as vitamin A, and 75% of the Ghanaian population has a deficiency in this nutrient.
And so, Wiep and Mike went to Africa for 7 weeks. But not as students. “We were allowed to introduce ourselves as consultants, otherwise I fear many doors would have remained closed,” says Wiep. “It was an amazing adventure. We visited farmers, worked together with an NGO, created an overview of the market, the logistic flows, investigated the opportunities and risks, looked for potential partners for the farmers, etc. We learnt a lot and we did a lot in a really short space of time.”
It wasn’t just the assignment itself, it was also the intercultural adventure that made the task so special: “When are you ever surprised in the Netherlands?” Mike asks. “Everything is tightly planned, right? Every day from the moment you wakeup. That’s definitely not the case there. Everything happens differently to what you’d planned. I kind of love that. There’s no chance for routine. So, you stay alert. And I personally prefer that to than spending 20 weeks in the library...”
The 2 students already managed to make 1 of the farmers enthusiastic about shipping the first container. Mike: “We were really able to make a difference. For the fruit trader, but also for the local farmers. We were able to show them the opportunities that are available. Isn’t that fantastic? So, your project doesn’t just end up collecting dust on a shelf, but you have both a commercial and a social impact.”