22 October 2012

Tanzania: Raising Fortunes From the 'Valley of Rice' in Same District

Dar es Salaam — RICE is slowly but surely overtaking maize as the main staple in East African Region.

The reason is simple. Rice dishes come in various forms, from the ordinary boiled 'Wali,' to the party favourite pilau (rice boiled in broth) or the highly spiced 'biriani,' not to mentioned the simple rice porridge (ubwabwa) or where it is floured and kneaded to make local bites (Vitumbua).

It is in that regard, demand for rice is currently on the increase in sync with the crop pricing but that only depends on a particular variety of rice, which determines the taste and pricing. Many areas have been growing rice in Tanzania. Some like Kyela in Mbeya region, Magugu in Manyara Region are becoming household names, for producing what can be described as tasty and highvalued rice variety.

Kyela and Magugu may have been at it for years but none of the two areas have experienced a major transformation of livelihood (for the better) among its growers like the paddy farms in the Hingilili Valley of Ndungu Division in Same District of Kilimanjaro. A recent visit to the 'valley of rice,' revealed bustling activities as local farmers worked to prepare the land ready for the next planting season.

In the background local masons were also busy on projects that keep transforming village houses from mud-walled and grass thatched structures into modern brick, mortar and iron roofed mansions. Fortunes of farmers in the Valley are viewed changing for the better. Businesses are also coming up, motorcycle transportation ventures.

Grocery stores, tailor marts bars and restaurant just do prove that local people are investing heavily and area residents also have the purchasing and spending power. "We are bracing for the 'vuli' (short rains) season that is why you see farmers and tractors raising dust in the fields. If you come here next December the entire landscape will be green with paddy crop," explained Mr Yusuph Mohammed, the local Community Village Facilitator. Farmers in the 55 square kilometres of Hingilili Valley work in three seasons.

The Masika (long rains) between March and May the 'Chamazi' (Irrigation) season of between June and October and Vuli (short rains) of November to February. For irrigation, the valley is fortunately sandwiched between two rivers, Maliranga and Lushoto; courtesy of the well conserved Shengena Forest, which serves as the water source for various parts of Same District and beyond.

'Pamoja Twaweza,' is how the over 9000 farmers in the Hingilili Valley greet each other. The salute simply translates into 'Together We Can!' and judging from the way they have managed to strongly dictate how their farm produce should be handled and sold, the villagers certainly can. But of course with some support which came in form of 'Market Led Agriculture Programme' or MLAP being executed under four institutions; Farm Concern International (FMI), Micro-Insurance, Small Enterprises Development Agency (SEDA) and World Vision Tanzania (WVT), the main coordinator.

Previously growing a Japanese variety of rice, the farmers suffered poor prices and limited demand because the exotic seed did not produce the best crops. The rice did not taste good and had to be sold cheap, according to Kadando Village Chairman Mr Mussa Saidi Mweta. Then entered the World Vision through its Children Focused, community empowerment programmes and the MAKINDUBE Area Development Programme was hatched to rescue the rice farmers in the valley.

Farmers needed financial support and this is where WVT incorporated SEDA services but again, who will guarantee the loans given to peasants? The third institution (Micro- Insure) thus had to be involved to insure the growers while Farm Concern International provided the farmers with operational and marketing skills.

FMI is an Africa-wide Market Development Agency, developing pro-poor marketing models and strategic alliances to enhance economic growth among poor communities. SEDA reportedly issued loans amounting to over 195 million/- to 600 local growers in the area, members of 47 farming groups operating in the three local wards of Mahore, Kiurio, Ndungu and Bendera wards (whose acronym forms the name Makindube) with a population of nearly 45,000.

With loans and training the MAKINDUBE communities transformed themselves from small scale subsistence growers into a joint, large scale growers of rice. This time, using improved paddy variety, which they call 'Saro Five,' from the Agriculture Seed Agency of Morogoro to replace the poor Japanese variety. But the new ASA rice seeds are essentially known as 'Paddy TXD 306,' with 93 per cent rate of germination.

"Within just a short period of time we are seeing a difference," said one of the farmers, adding that after acquiring the loans, they expanded their farms, increasing their harvest. "Paying our children's school fees is no longer a nightmare. In fact paying small domestic bills are things we are about to take for granted. They are no longer going to give us headaches," they stated.

Local grower, Ms Zabibu Ramadhan Mkanza revealed that they used to harvest just 25 sacks (2500 kilogrammes) per acre, but after getting loans they now produce 52 sacks (5200 kilogrammes) per acre. Jointly, all growers decide on pricing and stick to their agreement, thereby safeguarding themselves from being cheated. Prices too have jumped from 20,000/- per 50 kilogramme per package to over 80,000/- .

Demand for their rice has transcended national boundaries because Kenyans and Ugandans flock into the valley during harvest season to buy rice.

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