Addressing a fresh batch of 17 students from Saint Maria Goretti Agriculture Training Institute in Iringa last week, Serengeti Breweries Limited’s Managing Director, Mark Ocitti said the group is being sponsored through the brewer’s ‘Kilimo-Viwanda’ scholarship programme.
Ocitti said the Silverlands farm located at Ifunda in Iringa is part SBL’s network of 400 farms where smallholder farmers work in partnership with the company to produce raw materials for its alcoholic beverages.
Ocitti said the farms are significant because apart from supplying the company with raw materials, they will also serve as practical fields for the students who currently number 70 in all and are training at four different institutions in the country.
“Apart from the financial support, SBL also provides the students with opportunities to learn other life skills and gain practical experience through activities such as brewery visits, field attachments to the farms, mentorship, entrepreneurship training and other forms of exposure,” the SBL chief said.
He further noted that through such an initiative, SBL is practically implementing President Samia’s philosophy of investing in young people to give them skills and knowledge in agriculture and industrial manufacturing. “In this way, we believe the students stand a better chance of becoming independent and more productive after completing their studies,” he noted.
SBL has a vast network of over 400 local farmers in eight regions across the country from where the brewer gets commodities such as maize, sorghum and barley for beer production. In return, the company provides farmers with free seeds, field technical services and links them to financial institutions to access credit facilities.
Addressing parliament last week, President Samia said, “Let's all make self-evaluation as Tanzanians to find the curricula that will help our youth and develop our nation academically.” She added that although the country has a lot of factories, skilled labour remains a major challenge. “So the education docket must seriously look at this.”
The President's convenient remarks come at a time Tanzania graduated from a least developed country to a lower-middle-income country last year, according to the World Bank Group. SLB believes that as pointed out by President Samia, in order to bring more effectiveness to the country’s education sector, the government needs to revamp its educational system to fit into the 21st century which should put emphasis on practical learning that will improve students’ chances to employ themselves.
Hatched in 2019, SBL’s ‘Kilimo-Viwanda’ the programme targets children from underprivileged families who cannot afford to pay college fees. The scholarship programme is a deliberate move by the brewer to strengthen the agriculture value chain thereby help transform the sector from subsistence to commercial production.
In 2020, SBL locally sourced 17,000 metric tons of grains which represent an equivalent to 70 percent of its annual total raw materials requirement. The company is targeting to increase volume of commodities to 85 percent by 2025.
Other colleges which benefit from the brewer’s scholarship programme include Kilacha in Kilimanjaro, Igabiro in Kagera and Kaole in Coast Regions. (Bagamoyo). Since 2019, over 70 students have benefited from the programme. The programme acts like a fulcrum to vocational training where students can manifest their talents and knowledge.