In 2017, the SAGCOT area was graced by the launch of a new cluster, the Mbarali cluster, covering Mbeya and Songwe regions. Following the 2017 launch, it was essential for the SAGCOT Centre to engage all stakeholders in the region to clearly define their agricultural investment and development plan in the region.
This process is what SAGCOT Centre refers to as the Mbarali Cluster Development Framework (CDF). This is a data-driven 3-month long research process involving multi-stakeholder engagement across the public, private, non-state actors sectors, and farmers associations. This process of data collection and insights collection culminated in an initial validation workshop held in Mbeya from 2 to 3 October 2018.
“Information is power. All this data is essential to determine the scope of investment in the Mbarali Cluster. Through going through this data we will develop a clear roadmap on the key areas.” SAGCOT Head of Cluster and Partnership, Maria Ijumba emphasized at the beginning of the two-day exercise.
This was echoed by the Mbeya Regional Commissioner, Hon Albert Chalamila, who officially opened the workshop. He highlighted the importance of prioritization to “ensure the effective and sustainable development of the vastly untapped agriculture sector in the region.”
The vastness of Mbeya cannot be understated, a point was driven in by Charles Ogutu, Mbarali CDF consultant, “the climate and environment of Mbeya are extremely fertile, we have seen that Mbeya climate is conducive to cultivate over 51 crops. But it is essential to be strategic.”
The validation process saw SAGCOT partners from various sectors deliberate and prioritise 6 value chains for the cluster. This resulted in the prioritisation of 6 initial commodity value chains for the Mbarali Cluster as follows; avocado, dairy, poultry, round potato, rice and sunflower.
These were just some of the considerations placed in the prioritization of these 6 value chains:
It was further emphasized throughout the workshop that it was essential to be attentive to the private sector which is more conversant with the business landscape, value and potential of these various value chains.
“The world over 90% of agriculture is driven by the private sector. The government’s key role is to facilitate not to enact. As Government, we need to shift our thoughts to listening to the private sector to facilitate them.” Songwe Regional Commissioner, Brigadier General Nicodemus Elias Mwangela emphasised as he closed the workshop.
Following this initial exercise, an in-depth value chain analysis will be conducted by the SAGCOT Centre Mbarali CDF research team. This analysis allows the review of stakeholders and explores the challenges, gaps, opportunities and true potential of the six selected value chains. This process will then produce the complete Mbarali Cluster Development Framework which will guide the stakeholders of the cluster’s operations to be validated in November 2018.