About 80% of Tanzania’s working population is in the agricultural sector. As part of Tanzania’s road map towards industrialization through agriculture, one SAGCOT partner, the Clinton Foundation, has introduced the Community Agribusiness (CAB) approach, an extremely innovative and sustainable way of steadily commercialising smallholder farmers in the SAGCOT region.
In Iringa, the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) – an initiative of the Clinton Foundation – has laid the groundwork for establishing community-managed seed supply chains through in-kind loans.
This season, through the Community Agribusiness (CAB) approach, Clinton Development Initiative staff identified and trained 46 farmer-leaders, or “hub farmers,” on the multiplication of Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) with expertise and guidance from Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI).
Of the 46 hub farmers, 11 are in the Kilolo District and are multiplying dry beans seeds and 35 are multiplying sunflower seeds across the Kilolo and Iringa districts. For sunflower seeds multiplication, 23 hub framers are in Iringa District Council and 12 Hub Farmers are in Kilolo District Council. Each hub farmer is managing a farmer club with about 175 farmers who learn and apply best-fit agronomic practices to help increase the quantity and quality of their crops. So far, the program has reached 8,400 farmers in Kilolo and Iringa Districts that will benefit from this work and access to QDS’s.
“Working with CDI will allow the farmers in Tanzania to improve yield and as it will enable more farmers to have more reliable access to high-quality seeds,” Peter Nassari, TOSCI representative from TOSCI Njombe office asserts.
The Clinton Development Initiative is currently strengthening 12 Village Community Banks (VICOBAs) in Kilolo and Iringa District Councils providing farmers with certified seeds, through in-kind loans, to produce, sell and then use their revenue as a start-up investment into their accounts as savings for buying inputs, especially seeds. There are now 446 VICOBAs members run by smallholder farmers in the CAB programme, 66% of the members are women.
CDI is working in collaboration with TARI-Uyole to conduct on-farm trials for new soybean varieties with 24 hub farmers jointly identified between the two parties.
“We are testing four released varieties of soybeans to provide CDI Tanzania with reliable scientific data on the yield performance, of the recently released four soybean varieties trials in Iringa districts of Kilolo, Ilula and Iringa Rural. This is to promote the new varieties for commercial production under the CAB Approach. We also intend to obtain feedback on the key attributes of the four soya bean varieties to guide ongoing and future soya variety breeding programmes in Tanzania,” Dr Mary Ndimbo, soya beans researcher from TARI Uyole points out.
The research guided the cultivation process of soya beans in the on-farm trails currently conducted in 24 villages where farmers could witness the performance of the soya beans varieties.
This work is an evolution of the historic smallholder outreach program (SHOP) that the Clinton Development Initiative ran in the region. The Community Agribusiness approach builds on the success and learnings from the 3-year SHOP programme which rallied smallholder farmers into demonstration plots in the community and learns better agronomic practices.
The historic work offered farmers the opportunity, first hand, to see the importance of soil testing and nutrition, access to improved seeds, fertilizer and other inputs. As well as see the impact of the application of climate-smart agronomic practices and marketing skills and knowledge through expert advice.
With successful demonstration plots and growing interest from farmers, CDI shifted the approach to Community Agribusiness as an approach, to solve the deep-rooted systematic barriers that stood in their way of realising farming as a profitable business. This entails the community managing its own seed supply, community-driven marketing and managing access to financing. CDI’s goal was clear, support the formation of economically empowered farmer groups that were included in profitable value chains.
Patrick Mnyawami is a Hub farmer based in Kilolo District, Iringa Region. In 2014 when he started engagement with CDI he could barely feed himself and his family, surviving like most subsistence smallholder farmers cultivating one crop, maize.
Today, after being selected as a hub farmer, and receiving training on sunflower production, he now manages a sunflower-producing farmers’ club with 175 members.
“I have also assisted 21 farmers to grow soybean and maize of higher quality,” he remarks enthusiastically, regarding the impact he has seen across his community.
Through this, Mnyawami is not only a farmer but an entrepreneur whose life has changed drastically. He now has 7 cows, bought a motorcycle, grows maize and soybean, has a proper house (no longer a grass thatched hut), bought an extra 2.5-acre plot and runs an input distribution centre.
Mnyawami isn’t the only Hub farmer whose life has been transformed, Erika Andrea Mkini another Hub farmer from Kilolo DC district started farming dry beans in 2018.
“I am 90% sure that in Kilolo the production of the beans will grow, as the farmers in my area work together to sell beans together with other 11 hub farmers in Kilolo,” Mkini points out confidently about her new knowledge of improved farming practices.
She also looks forward to opening a small shop for agro-inputs in her village where she can supply high-quality fertilizer. She joined a VICOBA as a member and is more confident than before because she now has the support of the VICOBA.
This is just the beginning of greater things for the smallholder farmers in Iringa region. CDI hopes to move its community agribusiness work into 2 more districts and double the farmers’ network to more than 16,000 active farmers in the 2019/2020 season. CDI is also exploring entry into the avocado and poultry value chains to support the farmer-inclusive development of the sectors, as well as providing farmers with access to weather insurance for their crops.
This is a remarkable model of partnership which will see more farming communities within the SAGCOT region not only increase yields but also commercialise their production, realize their business aspirations, and be lifted completely out of poverty.