Dar es Salaam — Fear is waning for farmers who used to crack their heads on how to afford inputs, subsistence and other needs at the same time whenever the farming season arrived.
Amos Sinkala, 27, is one of the farmers who faced such challenges. The resident of Chiwanda Village in Momba, Songwe, needs six bags of fertilisers worth Sh340,000 for his two acres of a maize farm.
Formerly, he would pay money and sometimes forfeit other basic needs. Or he would take a loan for agricultural inputs with interest.
However, under the maize value chain interventions, Amos can access inputs from his Mkulima Amcos after paying a 50 per cent advance and settle the remaining amount after harvest.
The Maize Value Chain initiative is implemented by development partners and the sector stakeholders under the Agriculture Markets Development Trust (AMDT).
"Paying advance of 50 per cent is convenient because I can use the remaining 50 per cent to cover various family needs like school fees for my child. I like this model because it gives us financial freedom to pursue other activities. I'm happy this season we received fertilisers on time and an extension agent trained us about good agricultural practices like spacing," says Mr Sinkala. The planned interventions in the maize value chain are aimed at stimulating systemic changes in a number of areas in Tanzania.
The strategy is implemented from 2016 to 2021 and seeks to reach hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.
The targeted areas for pilot interventions include Mbeya, Iringa, Songwe, Rukwa, Ruvuma, Njombe, Dodoma, Kigoma, Kagera, Mwanza, Manyara, Morogoro, Arusha and Kilimanjaro. The project, which targets about 150,000 direct beneficiaries, kicked off in those regions except for Kilimanjaro and Katavi, according to the AMDT market system manager for maize, Mr David Mabula.
"We expect to improve maize productivity and ultimately increase farmers' income. It may appear a few people are targeted but these are direct beneficiaries. We basically aim at making systemic changes which bring about the positive impact to all smallholder farmers in Tanzania," he says.
The initiative aims at changing four main areas by improving collaboration and contractual arrangements among value chain actors; enhancing the information system and extension services; enhancing availability and adoption of improved post-harvest technologies and good post-harvest practices; and improving strategic coordination and the business environment for agricultural micro, small and medium enterprises in the value chain.
Optimistic about outcomes
Implementing partners of the initiative are optimistic about the outcomes as others claim to widen their businesses through contractual arrangements. The maize project has also seen increasing extension services to farmers who are now attended in groups. "We have seen great changes and profit because of big consignment sold, presence of stable markets and presence of good business environment between us and farmers. We trained farmers about gaps and way to combat fall armyworms. We are doing this so that farmers can have productivity and benefits from the loan. Secondly, if we are closer to farmers and making sure they don't lose their produce/maize in any stage, it guarantees us the loan will be paid safely and timely," says Mr Deo Mtewele of Mtewele General Traders in Njombe.
"For sustainability, we will work with other service providers. For example, we have reached an agreement with Mkombozi Agribusiness and it will do soil testing areas and recommend farmers about types of inputs to use."
Agrovet Iringa used to work with farmers individually and without any formal models.
It believes the maize project, through which education is provided and inputs sold, farmers will increase production from between 5 and 10 bags to between 20 to 30 bags for a farmer who observes all what they were taught.
Ms Maria Mwaisobwa from Phiretajo Vicoba in Mbeya says her firm supervises 2,400 groups and its main work is to initiate development groups and train members about collective saving as well as supervising the groups and connecting with various opportunities like banks, health insurance and other services.
"Formerly, we were working in four regions of Songwe, Mbeya, Rukwa and Njombe, but now through the maize project we have added Ruvuma and Iringa. We are training farmers to inculcate the culture of savings so that when the farming season approaches they will have enough income to cover farm activities," she says.
"Our target is to reach 300 groups."
Musoma Food is the implementing partner responsible for training farmers about proper use of inputs.