The Challenges Group works to address developing economies’ most pressing issues by helping partners explore the potential of innovative solutions through initiatives such as the Access Africa Programme, which aims to broaden the international impact of social enterprises.
Last year, Challenges Uganda provided market assessment support to a number of innovators and social enterprises, including NUTRIgreens. Established by Enactus Nottingham, NUTRIgreens is a social enterprise that works 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, as well as a valuable means to counter malnutrition
According to UNICEF, 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 aneamic. When it comes to education, Uganda’s dietary problem has further consequences. Malnourished children suffer from poor concentration and energy levels, resulting in poor academic performance.
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 and impact of such an initiative. The social and economic potential of its application in restaurants was also looked at.
Progress for NUTRIgreens since intervention by Challenges
As a result of Challenges’ research, NUTRIgreens has made significant progress and the team has now been able to set up a social enterprise in Uganda that will supply microgreens to schools and hotels in Kampala. The new company is developing greenhouses in which to grow the microgreens. The company has also secured a partnership to supply La Chateau, a fast-growing food restaurant in Kampala.
Ed Phelps, Business Development Manager of Nutrigreens, said: “We have won a grant that will enable us invest in the future of the project: our very first vertical farming structure has been constructed in Outspan, a primary school we partnered with and we look forward to doing same in the other partner schools. Challenges Uganda was very helpful to us in planning for the future. Our team has had positive talks with KCCA [Kampala Capital City Authority, a government body responsible for overseeing city operations], although it is very early days so we do not know what will come of it.”
Following on from the market assessment, Challenges Uganda continued to work with NUTRIgreens, and undertook the recruitment of a programme manager responsible for NUTRIgreens’ business operations and campaigns in Uganda. The successful candidate, Victory Mugenyi Nabakooza, was a young professional who had previously taken part in Challenges’ Youth to Work programme. Youth to Work is a flagship employment programme in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank as part of its Futuremakers’ initiative to support young graduates into work and help small and growing businesses to expand.
Victory said: “Going into the role as project manager on the NUTRIgreens project has been a smooth transition. Mostly because of the constant help, facilitation and training I have received from the Challenges team. I look forward to seeing NUTRIgreens grow strong and become a successful social enterprise in Uganda.”