International Studies & Programs

Agripreneur Spotlight: Abdul Mkono

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Published: Monday, 04 Mar 2019 Author: Global Youth Advancement Network

Abdul Athumani Mkono farmed his first plot of land when he was 23 years old, weeding, fertilizing, and watering it with care. Months later, he was pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of his harvest. Immediately Mkono imagined how rewarding large-scale farming might be, especially compared to his small 50-by-20 piece of land. 

Today, Mkono is the CEO of Makaru Agro Limited in Tanzania — an agribusiness company dedicated to sustainable, profitable and unique agricultural products. Since 2014, Mkono’s agribusiness has produced crops such as okra, tomato, watermelon, chili, spinach, hot and sweet pepper, and cabbage each year. Mkono prioritizes the production of his chili peppers, as they are his largest and most profitable crop with 10 ton exports each month.

With limited funds and laborers, meeting market demands has been challenging for Mkono over the years. Makaru’s laborers have a minimum productivity requirement of 8.7 kg of fresh chili a day, but most of them hardly harvest 3-5 kg a day.

“At one point, Makaru had a sale agreement with a Kenyan partner for five tons of dried chili. We initially planned that 35 laborers would suffice, budgeted their pay, and paid them in advance,” Mkono said. “When it was almost time for delivery, we only had one ton prepared by our 35 farmhands.”

Prolonged production cycles were not accounted for in the budget, leaving Makaru short-handed and struggling to generate their necessary outputs. Luckily, Mkono creatively addressed these issues by implementing incentives and clearly defined output indicators for staff.

Climate change is another factor that affects most farmers across sub-Saharan Africa. Climate variability causes flooding in coastal areas, while causing droughts near inland plots that result in wilted and dried crops.

Despite these challenges, Mkono remains focused on his chili production as it is cost effective and can be stored for up to three years in fresh, dried or powdered form. In fact, Makaru recently purchased a small processing plant and is now in the pilot stage of making powdered pepper.

Alongside his business, Mkono also voluntarily offers extension services and technical and advisory services to over 1,000 farmers in the Tanga, Dar es Salaam and Morogoro regions of Tanzania. Because of widespread concern about market access, Mkono coordinates farmers to explore contractual farming for the production of chili peppers. This outgrower scheme ensures the farmers maintain steady market access, while assisting Makaru to meet production demand. The outgrower scheme is comprised of 31 growers that can produce over 55 tons of chili peppers each month. 

“Creating employment opportunities for youth in my region has always been my dream,” Mkono said. “With the outgrower scheme, I’ve been able to create about 200 jobs in three months.”

Makaru was recently selected by Seedstars as the Best Startup in the Tanga Region, and was invited to join their regional summit in Dar es Salaam. At the Summit, the agribusiness will have a unique opportunity to grow their network, engage with stakeholders and mentors and continue their impactful work in Tanzania.

Abdul Athumani Mkono holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and agribusiness. He is also a participant in the Young Innovators in Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Development (YIELD) project. In partnership with MSU's Global Youth Advancement Network and funded by MSU's Alliance for African Partnership, YIELD is an initiative that helps young entrepreneurs access and maximize opportunities in the agri-food system in Africa.

To learn more about Makaru Agro Limited, visit: