How partnerships doubled farmers’ produce in Mbeya region
TR Reporter, Mbeya
Dennis Mwanjelwa learnt of Mtenda Kyela Rice Supply market only a year ago but could not be any happier today.
With the new season starting later in June, Mwanjelwa is already counting his luck. The smallholder rice grower from Chamoto village, in Mbeya region, tripled his harvest over last year’s produce.
“I am now looking forward to selling all my 15,000 tonnes of rice to the company. I pinched myself when the yields shot up from just 5 tonnes I got in the previous year,” says an excited Mwanjelwa who grew rice on his three acres piece of land.
He attributes his quick success to training by Mtenda Kyela Rice Supply market initiative after he was convinced to join in the scheme. Along with 15,000 other villagers, they have since been taught how to raise yields and earn more from the same piece of land.
“I will make good money in June. As soon as my children are off to school, I plan to construct a small rice store because I see my harvests growing even further. I have a new target next year,” says Mwanjelwa.
Unknown to farmers, Mkenda Kyela Supply Company is part of public-private plan to develop the agricultural sector in Tanzania. The company will buy 100,000 tonnes of rice from Chamoto farmers and others in the region.
The company is a partner in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor (SAGCOT), a vehicle fostering responsible agribusiness investments in in the rich southern highlands.
“We are here to work with the small holder farmers for mutual benefit. We offer them interest-free loans on farm inputs, training and extension services. Our firm offers a ready market for the resultant produce at a win-win price,” says George Mtenda, the company’s Managing Director.
Mtenda says they have 15,000 farmers onboard in the area and target to reach 30,000 more in the next few years.
Peter Lucas, a local government official in Chamoto village, says despite earlier rumours, he is optimistic the models that work with both large scale and smallholder farmers would be important for national food security.
“There were speculations that investors were coming to grab farmers’ land but it is now apparent there was a misrepresentation. Farmers have embraced the initiative because like the investors, they are also benefitting,” he says.
Mr Wassira says the goal is to tap into private investments to make profitable use of 350,000 hectares of land under AGCOT, create 420,000 new jobs and add an income of $1.2 billion annually.
Official details show to date, SAGCOT has registered more than 70 partners, with another 30 prospective investors pledging $1 billion under the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in 2012 by President Barack Obama as part of a grand initiative to transform the future of farming and food production. Tanzania is a member of the initiative and is collaborating with development partners (Donors) to achieve its goals.
The SAGCOT initiative is the fruition of a long held desire in government to create an efficient system tapping from both the public and private sector to enhance economic development of the nation. The new Public-Private Partnership law and policy will guide the path.
According to a senior analyst within the President’s Delivery Bureau (PDB) on agriculture, James Ngwira, the Kilimo Kwanza Growth Corridor initiative is a key pillar in the partnership.
The corridor links the port of Dar es Salaam to Malawi, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It benefits from good ‘backbone’ infrastructure – including road, rail and power – and passes through some of the richest farmland in Africa. The area could become a globally important producer of crops and livestock.
The PDB official says the SAGCOT Investment Blueprint describes how $2.1bn of private investment could be catalyzed over a 20-year period, alongside public sector grants and loans of $1.3bn.
With its growth, Ngwira says it would also see annual value of farming revenues $1.2 billion and regional food security would be assured.
The Agriculture Council of Tanzania (ACT), the umbrella organization of the agricultural private sector, believes partnerships such as SAGCOT would trigger meaningful growth.
“A commercialized agricultural sector has a huge potential to reduce poverty among the agricultural community that forms about 80 per cent of our people,” says ACT Chairman Dr Sinare Sinare.
“SAGCOT is thus a baby of Kilimo Kwanza –our homegrown initiative to mainstream small-scale farmers in the agricultural value chain,” he says.