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Ohio Fisher MBA Students Study Sustainability in Rural Tanzania

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Each year, MBA students at the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business have the unique opportunity to study abroad for a three-week immersion experience called the Global Applied Projects (GAP) program. The program is a chance for Fisher MBA students to gain international experience while working on real world business challenges. MBA students can choose between eight GAP countries, which include the United Kingdom, India, Botswana, China, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Germany.

In July, six Fisher MBA students visited Tanzania to study the sustainability of rural water access on behalf of the Global Water Institute and their Sustainable Village Water Systems program. The trip focused on boosting rural communities, using water as the starting point for economic development. Fisher MBA students also learned about solar mini-grids and post-harvest food processing and how they can create sustainable development.

According to a brief overview report, the GAP team started its project by completing some preliminary research in Tanzania, which revealed two key points:

  1. Middlemen take advantage of farmers, using their lack of business knowledge and resources to pay less for their crops.
  2. Farmers lost a good portion of their income due to post-harvest loss of grain.

In order to fix these two issues, the Fisher MBA students explored how to empower smallholder farmers using harvest loans. These loans, pioneered by Swiss micro-finance NGO Helvetas, help farmers sell their crops when their market value is highest instead of immediately upon harvesting. They work by using the farmer’s harvest as collateral in return for a low-interest loan. The GAP team found that, by doing this, farmers were able to pocket 50 to 100 percent of the value of the loan principal.

The Fisher MBA students then took on post-harvest loss by suggesting that farmers use a combination of reusable double-walled nylon storage bags and large metal storage silos. These two options would help to prevent spoilage, spillage, and consumption of grain by animals.

Finally, the students investigated solar energy technologies available in rural Tanzania. In most cases, they only found small-scale operations with few applications and a lack of scalability for a broader user. The major issue was the use of mini-grids, which resulted in low adoption rates and project failure. The only exception was Devergy, which provided rural households with power using a pre-pay energy option.

The complete reports from the Fisher MBA GAP team are below:

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.