“If a woman is in the kitchen, we want whatever product she turns around to use to be Three Sisters.” – Maryam Majengo, Managing Director at Three Sisters Company Ltd.
Stretching the length of the stark white walls of Three Sisters Oil Company Ltd. is a bright yellow, eye-catching sunflower. A stone’s throw away, a single real sunflower emerges from the cracked concrete in front of the processing facility.
In 2008, Three Sisters Sunflower Company Ltd. was established by the three Majengo sisters – Amina, Maryam and Jamila – after identifying a market opportunity in Dodoma, Tanzania. “We looked at the market and realized sunflower oil is highly demanded in the market,” said Amina, the oldest sister and Managing Director of the processor. With the financial support of their parents, the three sisters began producing sunflower oil and selling the sunflower seed cake, which is a byproduct of the oil expelling process, as animal feed.
Three Sisters sourced their sunflower seeds directly from smallholder farmers in the area. In order to improve the quality of the raw sunflower seeds, the Majengo sisters led hands-on trainings with farmers, teaching them agronomy and post-harvest handling best practices. Maryam, the middle sister, took a particular interest in training female farmers. “I really like training other women. If | don’t find enough women at the trainings, I go house to house to find more women,” she said.
Despite their early growth, the Majengo sisters had little knowledge on the business side of running an oil milling business.
In 2012, TechnoServe first started working with Three Sisters through Tuboreshe Chakula (Improved Food), a USAID Feed the Future Initiative that focused on working with small and medium-sized maize, rice and sunflower oil processors in the Morogoro, Dodoma and Manyara Regions of Tanzania to increase the supply of, and demand for, nutritious and fortified foods. Through this program, TechnoServe advised the Majengo sisters on recordkeeping practices so they could track the amount of raw materials, the amount of oil produced and the profits from their sales. After realizing the benefits of recordkeeping, Three Sisters purchased a computer and began using Microsoft Excel to track expenses and profit. TechnoServe also worked with the Majengo sisters to access capital for their business, helping them prepare a business plan for a $46,000 USD loan, which they used towards renovations and improving the production line of the company.
Even after such growth under the Tuboreshe Chakula program, Three Sisters struggled with the quality of their oil and lacked the knowledge on advertising and sales tactics to access new markets. In addition, the Majengo sisters had their sights set on establishing an oil refinery to produce virgin oil, but did not have the capital or technical knowledge to get started.
In 2015, Three Sisters joined Solutions for African Food Enterprises (SAFE), a TechnoServe program in partnership with USAID and Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), with the aims of increasing the competitiveness of the African food processing sector and expanding the availability of affordable and nutritious foods. PFS is a non-profit organization formed by General Mills to link the technical and business expertise of volunteer employees from General Mills, Cargill, Royal DSM, Buhler, The Hershey Company and Ardent Mills. This program provides knowledge and technology transfer to build the capacity of African food processors, improving availability of nutritious foods and creating market opportunities for smallholder farmers.
The SAFE team worked to strengthen the brand of Three Sisters by improving the label as well as seeking advertisement opportunities. In addition, the SAFE team has been advising Three Sisters on how to bolster sales by increasing their distribution channels.4. NEW FACTORY STRATEGIC PLANNING
As part of the business plan, Three Sisters purchased a plot of land to establish a sunflower oil refinery, which would allow the sisters to purify their oil into virgin oil and penetrate new markets. The SAFE team is providing strategic and business advice on construction, materials and the floor plan of this facility.5. ACCESS TO FINANCE
A TechnoServe Senior Business Advisor Gertrude Kawau worked with Three Sisters to prepare necessary paperwork and provided advice during the loan application process with financial institutions in Tanzania.
“Previously, we did not know anything about the quality of the seed and how it changes the oil. But later we got training and started using the moisture meter which tells the quality of the seed so the oil has now improved very much,” said Maryam.
Since participating in the SAFE program, Three Sisters has experienced the following:
• Increase in processor revenue: Improved quality and increases in the sale of sunflower oil has resulted in a 55.2 percent increase in revenue (from 296,395,000 TZS to 460 948,488 TZS).
• Increase in number of supplying farmers: Three Sisters increased the number of contract farmers supplying raw materials from roughly 500 to 1500 farmers.
• Improvements to sunflower oil quality: Through Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Hygienic Practices trainings, Three Sisters was able to improve the quality of their sunflower oil.
• Access to finance: Three Sisters Sunflower Oil Mills was able to access a $50,000 USD loan through Root Capital, which has allowed the company to purchase a refinery machine with a higher production capacity. This machine has been incorporated into the floor plan of the new oil refinery that is being constructed.
• Access to new markets: Three Sisters sunflower oil is now being sold in nine regions in Tanzania. In addition, TechnoServe Business Advisor, Gertrude Kawau, continues to work with the youngest Majengo sister, Jamila, to implement the marketing strategy developed over the course of the SAFE program.
By The Numbers
Increase in number of supplying farmers.
Increase in processor revenue.