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Local farmers in Tanzania turn small plots into cash crops

Posted on 9th Jun | 2015

Daniel Obare is a 45-year-old farmer from Mbarali Village in Mbeya, Tanzania. Three years ago he was a subsistence farmer, producing tomatoes and green peppers for his family’s consumption and selling the surplus on the side. Obare used traditional farming methods—as many farmers in Tanzania do—planting traditional seeds in sunken beds at unmeasured distances apart. Compiled with an improper use of fertilizers and pesticides, these practices yielded low production and hence, low income. In his single acre where he grew tomatoes, Obare would spend up to 300 US dollars (600,000 TZS) Shillings to prepare the land, purchase seeds, hire labor, and ensure irrigation. After sale of the tomatoes he would collect between as little as 400 US dollars (800,000 TZS) in revenue. Without a substantial profit for each round of production, no one could blame him for not considering his farm as a main source of income. In September 2014, Obare visited the yearly farmer’s convention in Mbeya called the Nanenane Fair. It is here he met members of the Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), a Tanzanian organization supported by USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative. The organization engages producers, processors, exporters, input suppliers, and logistics handlers in the agriculture value chain and provides technical support to small-holder farmers by promoting good agricultural practices (GAPs) to boost production capacity. Recognizing that GAPs could change his existing methods, Obare made a move and joined TAHA. On his acre of tomatoes, Obare slowly incorporated GAPs, applying methods such as raised beds, proper spacing, irrigation technology, improved seeds, and proper use of fertilizers and pesticides. In just one production season his revenue skyrocketed to nearly 3,500 US dollars (7 million TZS). With the incorporation of drip installation, Obare also saves 100 dollars (200,000TZS) in production costs—a difference of which he was making in profits just a couple years before. Obare now has three acres of land, and has expanded his crops to include watermelons. He has installed drip irrigation for two of the three acres. Obare’s good fortune has extended past his own personal business gains. “My life style has completely changed with this business. For instance my daughter who was in a government school has been transferred into private school that has more facilities. I can confidently pay Tshs 1.5 for her annual school fees.” Obare also plans to influence his neighbors by allocating part of his land as a demonstration plot and teaching others how to use improved technologies and GAPs. Like the growth of Obare’s business, USAID has enabled TAHA to grow from a small collective to a major voice in the agriculture industry, reaching close to 13,000 farmers throughout Tanzania’s most populous farming regions—Arusha, Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Coast, Morogoro, Njombe, Zanzibar, and Mbeya—in less than three years. In addition to technical support and market linkage services, TAHA is working closely with government authorities in a bid to create a business-enabling environment for horticultural industry actors.

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