Martin Mgallah, sunflower project manager of Agricultural Markets Development Trust (AMDT) made the call when speaking here at a three-day symposium involving sunflower stakeholders across the edible oil crop value chain.
Mgallah said that the formation of groups would enhance productivity as it can be easy for farmers to get access to information regarding best farming practices, access to loan, affordable and quality input among other practices.
"This is the only way to relieve sunflower farmers from poverty trap as through those groups they can be able to get loans from financial institutions," he said, adding that groupings make farmers have a voice on everything they do include more control over market prices.
According to him, groupings make small scale farmers achieve full economic benefits and make sunflower farming a profitable venture.
He described AMDT as an organization meant to empower sunflower growers in the country, vowing: "We'll continue to work closely with different stakeholders to ensure that farmers operate in groupings so that they can be able to access loans, hence scale-up productivity."
AMDT has been implementing different projects in 15 regions, whereby until now more than 150,000 sunflower farmers have been reached.
The idea is to empower smallholder farmer so that he/she benefit out of the crop by using better agronomic practices, he said.
Anita Mwakyoma is one of the sunflower growers and edible oil processors, who cited limited access to loans as one of the key challenges thwarting the development of the farming sub-sector.
“More people are interested to venture into sunflower farming, but the challenge is start-up capital for us to get into productive farming," she said, adding that many farmers are unable to get access to improved seeds, which are very expensive.
"The situation has been making small-scale farmers go for ordinary seeds which are cheap, with low production. This is what makes farmers remain in a vicious cycle of poverty," she said.
Sophia Mwanandenga, a Songwe-based sunflower grower urged seed breeding companies to ensure that seeds are sold at a reasonable prices, something that will increase crop production.
Responding to the availability of loans to smallholder farmers, Tanzania Postal Bank (Mbeya) representative, Leonard Katamba said: "For years, smallholder farmers are not eligible to loans due to their failure to meet loans conditions set by the financial institutions.
"After realising that TPB has come up with a special programme that encourages farmers to form groups, which will assure them to get loans from banks and other financial institutions."
"And this has started bearing fruits in different areas such as Mpwapwa (Dodoma), Iringa and Njombe regions," he added.
Seed breeder from Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) Samweli Mwenda said the institute has been working hard to ensure that a farmer gets better seeds and increase the production of sunflower in the country.
"As government, we're determined to ensure that farmers increase production per acre, the move that would contribute heavily to the country's industrialisation agenda."