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Tanzania Expansion: Reaching Farmers in Ifakara, Mbarali, and Iringa

Posted On: August 17, 2023

In April 2023, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation began to shift its operations in Tanzania from Kahama, in the northwestern part of the country, to four locations in the southern half of the country: Ifakara district, in the Morogoro region; Mbarali district, in the Mbeya region; and Iringa district and Iringa municipality, in the Iringa region. 

“Our activities in Kahama have convinced a lot of staple-crop farmers to get into vegetable farming, because now they are assured of appropriate solutions to field challenges,” said EWS-KT Technical Specialist Mganga Togolai. “I am highly excited that the same thing is going to be experienced in the new expansion areas.”

“It came to our attention that there are some gaps with vegetable farmers in these areas,” explained Epaphras Milambwe, Knowledge Transfer Manager for Tanzania. “Most of the farmers rely on traditional methods for vegetable production, such as saving seeds from the last harvest, and many use pesticides in unsafe and inappropriate ways. In the Mbarali and Iringa areas, farmers must also contend with poor soil fertility.” 

Despite these challenges, the selected areas for expansion have the potential to become strong hubs of vegetable production, and the Tanzanian government has declared this part of the country a priority zone for horticultural production. EWS-KT is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with partners like international development organization ACDI/VOCA and Local Government Authorities (LGAs) in these areas to achieve our common goal of supporting smallholder vegetable farmers.

“In the southern highland regions, farmers mainly eat ugali [a dish made from maize meal] and rice, which leads to challenges in good nutrition for their families,” said Virginia Kisimbe, Team Lead for Morogoro, Iringa, and Mbeya. “Rice and maize are also the main commercial crops. In order to increase farmers’ income and improve nutrition for their households, knowledge of vegetable production is very important.” For rice farmers, growing vegetables to utilize the moisture remaining in rice paddies after harvest is one way to gain additional income.

In each of the four expansion areas, 10 demonstration fields have been established with selected farmers (called key farmers) in close collaboration with EWS-KT technical field staff. These demo plots showcase improved techniques and give local farmers an opportunity to learn through on-field training sessions.

Ifakara Area

The Ifakara area has the potential for greater vegetable production, with good weather, water availability, and fertile soil. Ifakara also has solid road infrastructure, with accessibility to markets in Morogoro town and Dar es Salaam. Local markets for vegetable sales include Mikumi, Kilombero, Mahenge, Malinyi, and Kilosa.

On 26 June, a Field Day was held at the tomato demonstration plot of key farmer John Mshimika. This was the first Field Day in Ifakara, and the event attracted 270 farmers and other community members for education and training.

We have also established a working relationship with Kilombero Agricultural Training and Research Institute (KATRIN), an agricultural college in the area, and a group of students from KATRIN were among those who attended the Field Day.

Technical Field Officer Winnie Kessy demonstrates trellis construction to male and female farmers.
Technical Field Officer Winnie Kessy (right) shows farmers in Ifakara how to support tomatoes with trellising.

Iringa Area

The Tanzania team actually operated in the Iringa area back in 2019, when EWS-KT first launched operations in the country. This region has several advantages for vegetable production, including established vegetable farmers, access to water, and good connections to the major cities of Dar es Salaam and Dodoma for expanded market opportunities. This is also a priority horticultural zone for the Tanzanian government and for many funding and implementing partners.

We are working in two locations in the Iringa region. Our work in Iringa district is more focused on rural communities, while our activities in Iringa municipality are tailored to urban farmers, who have smaller plots for vegetable cultivation. The two areas have similar vegetable production challenges, including lack of knowledge about improved farming practices and poor soil fertility. As the Kahama district has sandy soils with poor fertility, our technical field staff have extensive experience in sharing soil improvement methods, such as using organic manure and organic mulch.

Technical Field Officer Masam Sudi walks next to a raised bed, while farmers are lined up on the other side of the raised bed with hoes.
Technical Field Officer Masam Sudi (left) engaging farmers in Iringo Municipality through a training on land preparation.

Mbarali Area

Like Iringa, the Mbarali area in the Mbeya region is a priority horticultural zone for the Tanzanian government and many funders. It has good potential for improved vegetable production, with active vegetable farmers, access to water, and established market connections to Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, and Mbeya, as well as neighboring countries like Malawi.

Technical Field Officer Hellena Haule and three farmers hold seedlings in preparation for transplanting them to the field.
Technical Field Officer Hellena Haule (second from left) and farmers in Mbarali prepare to transplant seedlings.

Progress to Date, and Looking Ahead

At each of the 40 vegetable demonstration plots established with key farmers in these expansion areas, we have been holding on-field training sessions to build the skills of farmers in the community. Topics include crop and variety selection, land preparation, seedling production, live vegetation barriers as part of integrated pest and disease management, organic mulching, trellising, judicious water use management, safe use of pesticides, and proper crop fertilization.

To develop farmers’ business skills, our trainings also incorporate production planning, farm record-keeping, and market knowledge and connectivity.

In these new areas, our target is for 60% of the farmers we train to be young people, and youth engagement has been key to our early success. In alignment with the new Building a Better Tomorrow (BBT) government program for supporting youth, for instance, we have been able to train a group of BBT youth at KATRIN agricultural college in Ifakara on improved techniques for vegetable production.

In just a few months in the expansion areas, we have already developed relationships with stakeholders like Local Government Authorities, agricultural-input suppliers, and like-minded partners, and we continue to make new connections. As we scale up our outreach, more demo fields will be established by smallholder farmers and more Field Days and trainings will be conducted. 

“Extending knowledge to more vegetable farmers will enable them to improve their lives through increased productivity and, therefore, increased income,” said Epaphras. “We are actively seeking more resources to expand to other areas with untapped opportunities for smallholder farmers.”