“Kilimo Tija” means more than a catchy phrase that resonates with smallholder farmers in Kigoma, north-west Tanzania. Translated from the Kiswahili language to English, it describes the shift to a productive, profitable and solution-based agriculture.
This is an AGRA-supported partnership with farmers in 217 villages, the government of Tanzania and a consortium of five organizations to increase staple food production, incomes and livelihoods in Kigoma region.
According to Donald Mizambwa, Associate Programme Officer AGRA, the region straddles the trade corridor linking Tanzania with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Zambia and provides limitless opportunities for trade in agricultural products both for local and regional markets.
“The project is an integrated effort to address the constraints faced by smallholder farmers, in a region where the agro-potential is underutilized.” he says. Smallholder farmers comprise over 80 percent of the adult population in Kigoma Region, which covers an area of 45,066 square kilometers of which 8,029 km2sq is covered by water. AGRA is also involved in scaling up system and farmer level initiatives in selected priority agro-economic zones as well as enhancing supply chain efficiency through effective agribusiness deal-making platforms.
Maize is one of the leading food crops, registering the highest consumption in the region. According to the profile by the regional government, the soils throughout the region are suitable for maize growing. However, yield improvements are expected with improved seed, fertilizers and good agronomic practices.
For Zitto Kabwe, the Member of Parliament for Kigoma Urban constituency, tackling poverty should also embrace sector-wide interventions. “Poverty alleviation efforts must address agriculture and its challenges,” he says. These views find currency not just with smallholder farmers in Tanzania but throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where agriculture is the building block of economies.
“We need initiatives that are geared towards assured food security and agribusiness prospects,” notes Joseph Rubuye, Kigoma’s regional agricultural adviser, “this translates to good economic prospects for both farmers and the region that must be sustained.”
Moshi Ihiza, a leading cassava farmer at Kanazi village in Kasulu District, Kigoma, notes with pride that it was his farmer group that volunteered the first maize demonstration plot when “Kilimo Tija” made its debut in 2017.
“We learned how to move from traditional farming practices to modern, commercialized agriculture, starting by investing in improved seed and fertilizers as well as spacing crops and other good agronomic practices as required,” he adds.
Another happy farmer is Mrs Nezia Sigaza. She produced enough maize to feed her family in the previous season and expects to sell the surplus after the next season. Her story is replicated many times over among the villagers involved in the project, many of whom had become resigned to harvesting just two sacks of maize from 0.4 ha (one acre) plots. However ever since they adopted improved seed and fertilizer, some farmers harvested between 18-20 sacks on the same acreage.
To support industrialization efforts, the Tanzania Agriculture Development Bank (TADB) has begun the process of identifying companies to invest in the construction of a palm oil processing plant in Kigoma.
But more important is the commitment to efforts by the government to consolidate food crop production for assured food security and agro-processing. When Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa visited the region late last February, he was emphatic that agriculture and agro-processing were the assured pathways to improving people’s lives. Aggregation, value addition and a structured trade environment expands market access opportunities for farmers.
The agro-processing sub-sector has the potential to contribute to Tanzania’s long-term economic development by generating employment, raising productivity, transfer of skills and technology, increasing competitiveness, substituting imports and enhancing exports. Rapid urbanization and rising incomes have contributed to increased demand for value-added products in the agriculture sector.
According to the MP, Zitto Kabwe, the support of a wide-range of stakeholders is required in the edible oil initiative. “However, it all begins with increasing the production and productivity of the palm trees in the region,” he stresses. Other cash crops grown are coffee and tobacco.
The second phase of Tanzania’s Agricultural Strategy Development Program (ASDP II), positions the country to transform its agricultural systems and increase the productivity and income of smallholder farmers. To its advantage, Tanzania has high agricultural potential and a growing private sector interest in investing in agriculture.
AGRA’s strategy responds to the country’s needs and prioritizes initiatives that complement the work of other actors to significantly increase smallholder farmers’ income and food security by enhancing productivity, strengthening linkages between market and production systems, supporting government to deliver on its priorities and supporting development of an improved enabling environment.
Among AGRA’s past investments in Tanzania include a total of US $50 million in input systems development, market development and policy. Planned investment focusses on supporting the Government of Tanzania in planning, coordination, implementation and creating an enabling environment. This initiative includes partnering with the Government in the roll-out of ASDP II and strengthening the agricultural sector coordination and delivery; as well as creating an enabling policy environment that attracts increased private sector investments.