Farmers in Tanzania reaping the rewards with Farm to Market Alliance
‘I couldn’t believe it. This was the largest harvest I’ve ever had.’
The sun has barely peaked over the far-off horizon, but Juliana Magulu is already awake and making tea before heading out to feed the chickens. There’s no rain this time of the year in Ukomora, a village tucked in the rolling countryside of Njombe region, some 700 km south-west of Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
High altitudes and cool temperatures create a morning dew on the trees and shrubs around her house. On the surface it looks like any other dry season Juliana has experienced in her 57 years living and working on farms, but this year’s maize harvest is different for her and for 50,000 other farmers throughout Tanzania.
“I couldn’t believe it. This was the largest harvest I’ve ever had,” she says.
A new beginning
Juliana, a mother of five, is a participant in the Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA), a consortium of eight global members formed in 2015 with the objective to make markets work better for farmers. Under the Alliance, farmers like Juliana can now access affordable finance, quality inputs, effective post-harvest management and other agricultural technologies while gaining access to markets.
“Before this year, planting was always a difficult time,” says Juliana. “Most years we didn’t have enough money for both food and fertilizers, causing us to have to make hard decisions.”
Due to a combination of annual rainfall patterns, lack of access to credit and lack of guaranteed markets, smallholder farmers in Tanzania often struggle to find the means to invest in high-quality inputs. For many this often spells disaster but not this year for Juliana.
“Food is the most important thing that we can really struggle with, but thanks to the Alliance, this year I don’t have to worry about it,” she explains.
Creating access to loans
Through FtMA, smallholder farmers have access to loans, which they can use to buy quality inputs. As part of the Alliance, Juliana made a down payment of US$45, which provided her with access to hybrid seeds, fertilizer and herbicide that she otherwise would not have been able to afford. In addition, Juliana and other farmers received advice on the best times for planting and adding inputs.
“The key is to ensure that we are able to assist farmers throughout the planting season and beyond,” says Ananth Raj, FtMA Coordinator in Tanzania. “We are able to achieve this by building a broad coalition of partners. It’s the consistent access to low-cost, high-quality services that will unlock the real potential of smallholders.”
Under FtMA, farmers are also provided with a variety of training, including full-day workshops on post-harvest loss reduction. Before working with FtMA, farmers’ post-harvest losses could reach as high as 40 percent each year in Tanzania. By introducing improved techniques and storage technologies, farmers like Juliana are able to reduce their crop losses and dramatically increase their household incomes. During the training, farmers are also given the opportunity to buy air-tight systems such as polyethylene bags and PVC silos, which not only control moisture but also decrease losses from insect infestations.
Innovating the agricultural value chain
FtMA is constantly building tools designed to educate, equip and empower all stakeholders in overcoming the major systemic problems in the agricultural value chain. Recently, FtMA tested a mobile app that helps strengthen relationships and increase transparency among farmer organizations. This tool enables cooperatives to deliver digital receipts, digitize warehouse data and disseminate other relevant information, such as market price, with the aim of creating a digital market place.
In partnership with Imperial College London, FtMA tested a pilot of a weather insurance product, which protects farmers against climate vulnerability, while recognizing the quality of inputs and trainings. The insurance gives farmers the confidence to increase their investment, which potentially leads to higher yields.
Reaping big rewards
This season, the World Food Programme (WFP) and 12 private sector buyers across Tanzania pledged to buy up to 20,000 mt of maize from FtMA farmers, giving them access to predictable demand. Subsequently, contracted farmers are empowered to negotiate fair prices at harvest. In her first season with FtMA, Juliana increased her maize yield by 50 percent.
“The increase in yields, combined with reduced losses, makes a huge difference when it comes to feeding your family and breaking out of subsistence farming,” Ananth Raj added. “We are really looking forward to seeing how Juliana does this year. Hopefully she can keep increasing her profits and improving her livelihood.”
In the 2016–17 planting season, FtMA has doubled its previous outreach to 50,000 farmers, with plans to scale up to 75,000 farmers by 2018. In the first two years of operation, FtMA has already had a large impact on the lives of the participating farmers and news of the initiative is spreading in the villages.
“It didn’t take much,” Juliana said, “After seeing how big my harvest was, all my neighbours and friends began asking me what I did differently and then how they could join.”
WFP is one of the eight global members of the Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA), which was formed to make crop markets work better for farmers by linking them to local and regional markets. Other members of the consortium are: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Bayer Crop Science AG, Grow Africa, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Rabobank, Syngenta Crop Protection AG and Yara International ASA.
FtMA aims to transform existing agricultural practices through four strategic pathways, providing smallholder farmers with access to affordable finance, access to quality farming inputs, access to predictable markets and access to effective post-harvest management and other agricultural technologies. The commitment of FtMA is to empower 1.5 million farmers across 10 countries by the year 2022 using this comprehensive value chain approach. FtMA is operating in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.
For more on WFP’s activities in Tanzania, follow @WFP_Tanzania on Twitter.