Blazing new trails to reach those furthest behind
How WFP’s logistics network in Tanzania is helping reach people in need across six countries and boosting the local economy in the process
A train on a boat
On 2 July 2018, in the port of Mwanza, on the Tanzanian shores of Lake Victoria, the sound of horns announced the departure of MV Umoja — Unity in Swahili — headed for Port Bell, Uganda. What made this ship stand out among the port’s usual traffic was its cargo: 18 train wagons of vegetable oil donated by USAID/Food for Peace and destined to World Food Programme (WFP) operations in Uganda.
The wagons had travelled for two days on the Tanzanian Rail system from Dar es Salaam and would continue their journey to their final destination on the Ugandan network.
This shipment marked the re-opening of the rail-lake-rail corridor on Lake Victoria, which had closed over 10 years ago. The route reduces transit time by over 50 percent and costs by 40 percent, meaning WFP can get food more quickly to those in need in neighbouring, landlocked countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
Well known for its wealth of natural resources including wildlife, minerals, island beaches and the towering Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is also a thriving logistics hub, providing supply chain services including transport, storage and milling for other countries in the area.
The country’s transport corridor is not used for commercial good exclusively — it also serves humanitarian and emergency efforts by transporting live-saving food for millions of people affected by conflict, droughts and floods across six countries.
Any given week, 50 WFP trucks are on the road carrying food in Tanzania but, over the last two years, the organization has increasingly began using the railways.
“Orchestrating emergency food for vulnerable people is an enormous task,” said Michael Dunford, WFP Tanzania Country Representative. “Ensuring that the food is delivered in the most cost effective way is critical. Delays or inefficiencies in the supply chain can have negative impacts on thousands of families. That is why we are constantly searching for ways to improve our operations to support more families for longer.”
To coordinate logistics in support of programmes in Tanzania and neighbouring countries, WFP has established strategic hubs in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma and Isaka.
WFP’s robust network helps to boost the national economy and provide jobs for local transporters in addition to directly supporting the Port, Railways and Revenue Authority.
Impact on local economy
In 2017, 200,000 metric tons (mt) of WFP food assistance — enough to feed almost one million people for a year — was transported using Tanzania’s supply chain services, injecting US$ 23 million into the economy.
WFP’s Dodoma warehouse, with a storage capacity of 10,000 mt, serves WFP operations not only in Tanzania, but also the region. The warehouse allows WFP to make advance purchases of food, so that it will be readily available in the event of an emergency. The pre-positioning of food at the warehouse creates regular demand on the local maize market which sustains prices and can encourage smallholder farmers to increase production.
When it is possible and prices are favourable, WFP buys food — typically salt, beans and maize — locally. Over the past five years 200,000 mt of food equaling US$ 68 million was purchased locally in Tanzania.
Another way WFP logistics is helping develop local capacities is by working with local transporters, like in the strategically-located Isaka warehouse facilities, which lie on the border between Shinyanga and Tabora regions, with access to the railway and highway system.
“Using the Isaka warehouse helps WFP, it helps us as transporters and it helps those receiving food because we are able to receive more shipments, faster, and save money — which means that WFP can help more people,” said Aliraza Murji from Simba Logistics, a WFP partner which has increased its fleet of trucks by over 60 percent in the last year.
A partner of choice
Being a big player in logistics all over the world, WFP is a partner of choice and is setting trends that are helping the development of Tanzania’s infrastructure, transport and trade sectors. In the words of Masanja Kungu Kadogosa, Director General of Tanzania Railway Corporation, “Being partners with WFP helps us to build trust and confidence with the public and private sector. When WFP began using the railway again two years ago, it helped to bring back customers and business has been increasing since.”
The reopening of the train-boat-train route to Uganda across Lake Victoria is another example of this.
“The opening of the Lake Victoria corridor is also, in fact, the opening of an economic corridor for the East African region which will help attract public and private sector investment,” said Riaz Lodhi, WFP Tanzania Head of Supply Chain.
Erick Hamis, Acting General Manager for Marine Services Company Limited, added: “This route will provide economic advantages for those who live here in Mwanza while also boosting trade between Tanzania and Uganda. Seeing a reputable international organization such as WFP using the route has already enticed other traders. We have received a number of inquiries from people who are excited to get on board.”