Safe Food Systems: “Ufukwe” a Household Maize Meal Brand in Tanzania

Bagamoyo, the historic seaport of eastern Tanzania is the home of Joydons (T) Limited, a state of the art cereal milling factory with the capacity to produce aflatoxin-free flours.

Ms. Joyce Donati Kimaro, co-founder and managing director of Joydons (T) Limited pursued a deep-belly passion, a dream and a vision with determination to change the world in her ‘little’ way despite the challenges. Looking up in the blue azure skies of Bagamoyo, Ms. Joyce describes herself as an ordinary Tanzanian, but for those who have seen her dream become a reality, she is an extraordinary entrepreneur.

Joyce and her elder sister Joyce (they call themselves Joyce and Joyce or Kimaro sisters) started the company in 2012 with a micro-scale mill in Dar es Salaam, which grew over time into a small scale milling plant. In 2017, the operations expanded to Bagamoyo where they set up a small plant in a make-shift building with a milling capacity of 10 MT per day.

“Bagamoyo” means “lay down your heart” in Swahili. The place was a trade route in the 18th Century where slaves “left” behind their “hearts” or “spirits” before being forcefully shipped to faraway foreign lands.

Joyce Donati says she has laid down her heart at Bagamoyo to influence the eating habits of over 50 million Tanzanians.  The youthful industrialist has steered Joydons (T) Limited to be among the top ten grain millers in Tanzania.

 “I belong to the world of possibilities, where the future is even brighter,” she says, having experienced a remarkable transformation over time. She previously worked as a primary school teacher and quickly discovered that the teacher’s success is about the pupils and not the teacher. This philosophy continues to influence her in placing “humanity at the heart of my entrepreneurship”, she adds.

“My mission is to ensure the population consumes healthy maize meal (ugali in Swahili), free from aflatoxins and other harmful agents,” she says.  Capturing a significant market segment is not an easy task, but she is determined. “We have made some remarkable strides,” she says.

Her company’s flagship products – Unga wa SEMBE (polished maize flour), Unga wa DONA (whole grain maize flour), and Unga MUHOGO (Cassava flour) – are rapidly gaining traction in the Tanzanian market. Distributed under the brand, ” UFUKWE,” the products are packaged in 5-, 10- and 25-kilogram bags for wholesale and retail outlets.

Retailers often repackage the products to sell to consumers in ¼ kg, ½ kg, 1kg or 2kg measures. Concerned that flours may be contaminated with toxins in the repackaging process, Joydons aims to popularize the smaller 1kg and 2kg packages, a new practice in Tanzania grain market.

Hardly four years after Joydons was formed, the dynamic duo has beaten many odds to grow their operating capital base from US$2,156 to US$1.3 million. The new plant employs 250 workers directly and indirectly and supports over 3,500 smallholder farmers in Tanzania.

Joyce envisions the factory significantly transforming the industrial skyline of Bagamoyo. “We are making Bagamoyo a centre of grains trade and branded flours, a land of hope, dreams and optimism. Bagamoyo is becoming a part of “glorious Tanzania in the making”, she says.

Her ambition to capture a sizable share of the domestic market and ultimately the African export market is fueled by the growing domestic demand for maize flour.

Joyce attributes Joydons gradual growth to support from development partners, including Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) (through the AGRA YieldWise project) and Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB).

The partners financed the company to the tune of TZS 1.3 billion (about USD564, 726) thus facilitating the procurement of the state of the art plant, whose features include 90 – 120 MT per day maize milling capacity, grain sorting machine, colour sorting machine, a packing machine and a weighbridge scale. The financing kit also enabled the construction of two (2) foundation bottom silos with 1,000 MTs storage capacity.

Joydons (T) Limited has many other businesses globally and similarly it was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic causing delays in the shipment of equipment needed to complete the plant, resulting in cost overrun and underproduction. To resolve this challenge, the firm required an additional US$53,000 financing.

Joyce is also a proprietor of a microfinance firm and an insurance brokerage company, she shares some nuggets of counsel for success in her inspiring autobiography, “I Had to Lose My Virginity: How I Used My Inner Self to Achieve Success.”

What others say about Joydons:  H.E. Desalegn, H.E. Dr Kikwete, Dr Michael, Mr. Rweyendela

When the retired President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Board Member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA),  H.E. Dr Jakaya Kikwete, visited the factory, he described Jordon as an extraordinary enterprise.

He noted that entrepreneurs such as the Kimaro sisters “represent the future of homemade agro-industrial drive in Tanzania.”

 H.E. Dr Kikwete had accompanied H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, the AGRA Board Chair and former Ethiopian Prime Minister, for a visit to the factory.

H.E. Desalegn candidly noted that Tanzania’s hope to feed itself and Africa lies in entrepreneurs who support thousands of small-scale farmers and make the food system safe, reliable and secure while improving livelihoods.

H.E. Desalegn noted that firms driven by the young generation such as Joydons, were the best suited to transform the face of agriculture.

“The increasing agricultural productivity in Tanzania will be more meaningful if we have increased processing,” he observed. “Joydons has shown the way, and we need such companies to grow further to support more smallholder farmers. Small Micro Enterprises (SMEs) should be empowered to play a greater role in agro industrialization.”

 Dr Isaack Michael, a monitoring and evaluation expert who visited the factory representing CSDI Consulting Limited, says Joydons’ story is inspirational and should be replicated to uplift agri-SMEs to new levels.

“Ms Joyce Kimaro, the owner of Joydons, is among fifty female entrepreneurs identified by the YieldWise project implemented by CSDI,” he noted. The program connected her to the financial institution TADB. This notable achievement symbolizes project impact and sustainability of the excellent work of the YieldWise project.”

Mr Vianney Rweyendela, AGRA Country Manager for Tanzania, characterizes the Joydons story as remarkable and relevant. “It is a perfect case study in developing reliable food systems,” he says, noting that the activation of the growth of agri-based SMEs, such as Joydons, holds the future of millions of smallholder farmers in Tanzania and Africa.

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