The real impact of our MSc course “Tropical Forestry” cannot be detected and evaluated in the classroom, but in the personal and professional development of our previous students in their career steps afterwards. In the beginning of this year, we were happy to learn about an initiative of four of our Alumnis from Uganda. They formed a company named “Tropen Concept Group” to bundle their expertise and knowledge on Agroforestry for consultancy and project work. In the following interview two of them, Minsi Babeku and Vianny Ahimbisibwe, explained us their motivations, targets and which influence their MSc studies in Tharandt had on this activity.
What is your enterprise, the Tropen Concept Group, about? What products or services are you offering?
Minsi: The Tropen Concept Group is a sustainable Agroforestry Company from Uganda with the aim of adding value to forestry and agricultural products and offering services and consultancies in the tropics and beyond. The company is an Umbrella of Tropen Forests, Tropen Farms, and Tropen Services. Our Tropen Farm has a size of about five acres, raises cows, goats, pigs as well as poultry, and has a crop garden. The Tropen Forest is a well-managed plantation with pine and eucalyptus hybrids, Tropen Services offers contracting, consultancy and training services
Who established the business and how did you get involved? Who is currently working in your team?
Vianny: The company was founded by Minsi, who already had a consulting company before and wanted to integrate the farm system approach to connect the farm and forestry aspects in a sustainable manner. The company comprises six specialists of which four (Minsi, Vianny, Hellen and Mabel) are DAAD Alumni from the MSc. Tropical Forestry and Management at TU Dresden, Tharandt, Germany.
Minsi: I founded the enterprise in January 2018. Our management team consists of four employees: An Agroforestry Manager, a veterinary for the farm, an accountant and a farm manager. The specialist and consultant team comprises six specialists for the following fields: Forest planning, harvesting, agriculture, forest governance, ecosystem services as well as agroforestry and climate change.
What was your motivation to participate in the Tropen Concept Group?
Vianny: I am a professional forester and want to apply my knowledge in small-scale forestry and farming to improve the livelihood of people working on farms and in the forest by creating sustainable jobs and therefore fighting poverty. Being different from other academicians, I just wanted to start something to make a change than waiting for opportunities. By engaging in the Tropen Concept Group, I can apply and at the same time increase my knowledge. In my opinion, knowledge that is not implemented is useless.
Minsi: I was a forestry consultant at another company before, but had the aim to expand and integrate agricultural and community-based approaches to the business.
What is the general objective of your company and what are your aims for the future?
Minsi: The general objective is to provide professional management of forestry and agricultural farms and to harvest and market agricultural and forest products. By combining forestry and agriculture, we want to add value to the products, increase the sustainability and create new jobs to improve the livelihood of the local population. A good example for that is the production of biogas on our farm: We produce biogas from the dung of our animals to use it as an energy source for cooking and lightning. This helps the local population to satisfy their energy needs and reduces the pressure on forest resources at the same time, as the inhabitants do not need to cut trees from the forest for energetic use. After biogas production, the remaining slurry can still be used as a fertilizer on the fields.
In the future, we want to acquire enhanced technology, use improved seed material and optimize the market access for all our products. As many of our contracted forests are ready for harvesting in the next three to four years, we have to acquire new technology and reliable staff to handle this task
Vianny: My personal aim is to implement knowledge from my studies to the Tropen Concept Group in order to increase the livelihoods in the area and the sustainable use of natural resources.
Which contents of the Master course “Tropical Forestry” are relevant for the success of your business?
Vianny: Knowledge about forest economics is one of the most relevant aspects in our company. Besides, silvicultural contents are frequently applied for woodlots and the consulting of bigger companies. Another important field is the project planning, forest assessment and modelling.
Minsi: Most of the course contents are relevant for me now, especially silviculture, agroforestry, project and forest planning, forest assessment and modelling, harvesting and management. Governance is also a very important field in my recent occupation that has to be mentioned.
Did the Master course enabled you to acquire knowledge or experience for your recent occupation?
Minsi: Yes, definitely. Before studying in Tharandt, I was a scientist with focus on my specialization. During the Master course, I got a more holistic perspective. It is necessary to combine social, economic and cultural issues with scientific knowledge, as scientific techniques alone are not sufficient to manage a forest sustainable. The course taught me how to be a manager and how to develop, integrate and enforce own ideas to reach overarching goals like improved livelihoods and increased sustainability.
Vianny: Yes, a lot!
We thank Minsi and Vianny for their time to answer our questions and wish the whole Tropen Concept Group success!
Tropen Concept Group website: https://tropen-concept.com/
The profile of Minsi Babeku can be read on our blog, too, as we already reported about his development after the accomplishing the MSc course.
By Manuel Göbel & Maxi Domke