M a r k e t N e w s

Tanzania: AGRA - Changing Lives of Smallholder Farmers

Posted on : Wednesday, 24th August 2016

 Augusta Madembwe is a farmer based in Ikuna, Njombe. Speaking in Mbeya during Farmer's Day (Nane Nane), recently, she confidently attributed her success to the use of improved seeds, saying this has changed her into a 'professional farmer.' "I'm a proud farmer.

When done the right way, farming pays. I'm a professional farmer, thanks to the knowledge that I've gained in the last few years, on improved seeds and other available technology on my farm," she said.
For the third year in a row, she has been able to make a bumper harvest of potatoes and maize, after using new seed varieties and fertilizers. From each acre, she now produces over 120 bags.
The recent transformation has seen her decide to expand her farm to 12 acres this year. Speaking in the presence of Mr Owekisha Kwigizile, SAGCOT Centre Potato specialist, she said this (farming knowledge) should have come a long time ago.
"Potatoes are a very important cash crop. I want to build on what I have gained from SAGCOT and partners like AGRA," she noted. Mr Owekisha adds that the potential for the crop is great and requires huge investment to build industries around it.
"At the moment in Tanzania, we only have only three legally recognized potato varieties, despite the crop being a major food crop across the country. SAGCOT center and other partners like AGRA, among others, are working together to increase the number of improved varieties, " he said.
This good result has its own stories way back in 2015 when Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs awarded grant of NOK 9,000,000 (US$ 1.2M) to Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to fund one-year inception phase of the Inclusive Green Growth of the Smallholder Agriculture (IGGSAS) Programme done within Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) with YARA International as key partner.
During the period, AGRA has put in place the systems and structures (human capital and resources) and piloted a publicprivate partnership (PPP) model as anticipated in the grant.
AGRA has also conducted the necessary environmental and ecological assessments and developed a results tracking and impact measurement system. Following the success AGRA launched second four year implementation and up scaling phase starting July 1, 2016 - June 30, 2020.
The launch was witnessed by AGRA's president Dr Agnes Kalibata. During the function she pointed out that this partnership was great opportunity for AGRA scale up its work in Tanzania, a country that has tremendous potential as bread basket.
"For the last nine years, AGRA has worked extensively in Tanzania. We have cultivated broad alliance of public and private sector partners who are all working to unlock the potential of Tanzania's smallholder farmers and help them move beyond subsistence to earn an income from their hard work," she said.
The initiative, with an overall goal of increasing incomes and food security of at least 30,000 farming households in the Mbeya Region of Tanzania by 2020 has its effects in a lot of famers in the country.
As the programme focuses on strengthening at least 6 crop value chains to operate more efficiently while increasing access to inputs and knowledge of agronomic practices among smallholder farmers, will advocate for climate-smart agriculture with much intentions on new seed varieties.
Ms Augusta is among over 1.4 million farmers in the country using new seed varieties, thanks to AGRA, which has invested more than US$51 million to support 96 agricultural development projects in the past decade, has something to cheer up.
With the focus on putting farmers at the center of the country's growing economy, AGRA has been investing in key programs along the food value chains to develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment.
Tanzania is steadily fighting to reduce food insecurity and double incomes of smallholder farmers across the country, and AGRA is wholly committed to be at the centre stage of the green revolution in the country, according to veteran agriculturist and head of AGRA in Tanzania.
AGRA's Country Head for Tanzania, Dr Mary Mgonja said greater adoption of technology in agriculture for smallholder farmers will be an assurance of continued national food security and surplus products for the market.
According to Dr Mgonja AGRA's grants have played a great role in addressing the challenges small scale farmers face across the agriculture value chain, from seeds and soils to markets, access to finance and policy.
Some of the results of the investment have been introduction of improved seed varieties, better fertilizers, post-harvest handling and storage technology for grains and innovative agricultural finance, among other outputs.
Because of the changes Dr Mgonja said she was very optimistic about the future of agriculture in Tanzania. She also hailed the government of Tanzania for making progress in improving agriculture policy environment to address challenges faced by stakeholders in the sector, making it easy for them to chip in.
"AGRA will continue collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries to ensure our activities align with the government's agriculture initiatives," she said.
She added that AGRA's support was aligned to the government's Big Result now and Kilimo Kwanza. Working to improve farmer access to quality seed of improved varieties, AGRA has partnered with the Government of Tanzania and 15 local seed companies to provide farmers with higher-yielding seed by supporting the development, multiplication and distribution of seed.
In this, AGRA supports country-level crop breeding teams who work closely with farmers to develop new varieties suitable for local conditions. Improved seed lifts crop production providing farmers with increased food security and incomes.
However, the utilization of the new varieties, was made possible after AGRA worked with the Government to improve seed policies so that locally-owned private seed companies can access publicly released varieties for production and marketing. "AGRA has been paramount in enabling a better business environment for seed trade through Micro Reforms for African Agribusiness (MIRA) project.
In June this year we confirmed a new seed policy, that allows private seed companies to license and produce varieties that were developed and released by public institutions," Tanzania Seeds Trade Association (TASTA) Executive Director, Mr Baldwin Shuma, said.
"This means the country's smallholder farmers are getting quicker access to the latest seed technology that our national researchers are producing," he added.

Source : allafrica.com
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