Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Millennium Maize Mills

For those of you wondering why I'm currently on my way to rural northern Mozambique, below is the project proposal my team members and I submitted to the Jackson Institute in April:

After Mozambique's independence in 1975 from nearly five centuries of Portuguese rule, the country's development continued to be hindered by large-scale emigration, drought, and a brutal civil war that lasted until 1992. Within this difficult environment, a social enterprise known as TechnoServe has spent decades creating business solutions to poverty, stimulating the economy from the bottom up. Their list of successful projects includes a program to revitalize the nation's cashew nut industry, once the nation's largest, as well as a thriving domestic poultry venture, which have provided livelihoods to thousands of Mozambicans across the country.

For our capstone seminar thesis in the International Studies program, we will be writing a case study on the efforts of TechnoServe in one of their most recent venture, the Millennium Maize Mills project, which aims to capitalize on Mozambique’s potential to become a regional grain belt within southern Africa. Maize is the primary staple crop of the country, with 1.6 million tons of annual demand and a 9% growth rate. Recognizing the social and economic importance of maize in the country, TechnoServe has launched Millennium Maize Mills to promote the development of maize mills in the context of TechnoServe’s vision for long-term, sustainable transformation of human health and food systems in northern Mozambique. The primary objectives of MMM are to:
  • Provide stable income-generating opportunities for local entrepreneurs
  • Develop the processing component of the existing grains value chain
  • Make a positive impact on the economics of gender equity
  • Partner with NGOs, the government and private-sector companies to improve health and nutrition using the mill as the central facilitation point.

Our team is seeking to fully capture the intricacies of this project, including the ways in which it has progressed to its current state, possible challenges and sources of conflict during the program’s development, and its potential for future growth and expansion. To this end, our group plans to conduct research and on-site interviews during the month of August with the help of key contacts in Maputo and Nampula.

During the first week, we will visit TechnoServe's country headquarters in Maputo to learn about the organization’s operations and administrative structure. In particular, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the business models used for their current projects and explore opportunities to speak to other key contacts in the area. This should focus our attention on the key issues surrounding the Millennium Maize Mills and will be central to planning out further activities as we visit the Nampula office and local maize mills in the following weeks.

Our remaining two weeks will be spent in the northern province of Nampula, where we will visit TechnoServe's pilot mill site as well as other existing mills in the area. We will conduct extensive interviews of the operators of the mills as well as the women who frequent them to gain further insight into key considerations of the project. During our third and final week, we will shift our attention to the experiences and expertise of TechnoServe employees involved with the venture. During this time, we will discuss the future of the project, especially in terms of potential scaling and expansion opportunities throughout the region in coming years.

Throughout our research, we will also seek to contribute to TechnoServe's mission by providing a detailed analysis of our findings, helping them document their work, raising pertinent questions, and supporting their efforts to move into the full implementation phase of the project. Furthermore, we hope that the case study we write will add meaningfully to the growing literature on social entrepreneurship in developing countries and encourage potential entrepreneurs in the field.

We have chosen to visit Mozambique and specifically the TechnoServe project because we see its immense potential and, based on preliminary evidence, believe the model is sound and may be scalable to transformative dimensions. We thank you in advance for the support of the Jackson Institute and we look forward to sharing the fruits of your generosity when we return in the fall.