Zambia: Farmer finds sweet spot producing orange-fleshed sweet potato vines and roots in dry season (Africa Rising)
The village of Ayasanda has five neighbourhoods and 2,000 people, who live in a mixture of modern and traditional houses. The Bereko forest is east of the village, making the area a green spot along the route from Babati to Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania.
It is 18 kilometres from Babati to Ayasanda, in the Manyara Region of northern Tanzania. This is where the Inuka group members live and farm.
The group comes together once a week to share knowledge, and strengthen their farming skills.
Emmanuel Hewas is the founder of the farming group, which started in 2014 with just 15 members: 10 men and five women. The group now has 30 members, half of whom are women. Mr. Hewas says they started the group when they realized they were missing out on opportunities such as training workshops.
He adds, “We saw that our voice would be heard [if we formed] a group, rather than working individually.”
He says the members of Inuka knew about good farming practices, but were able to receive more training from organizations such as MVIWATA by forming a group.
MVIWATA is short for Mtando wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania, or the National Networks of Farmers’ Groups in Tanzania. The organization’s goal is to bring farmers together, to advocate for farmers, and to strengthen communication between small-scale farmers.
Many Inuka members have doubled or tripled their harvests since receiving training, and their lives have changed with the increased income. Mr. Hewas says, “Before MVIWATA, we were living in huts. Now we have constructed modern houses which are powered by solar energy, unlike before when we used to light our houses with kerosene lamps.”
Rebeca Nada is a new member of Inuka, and is also a member of the Umoja farmers’ group. She says, “The reason why I join farming groups is because I have witnessed other farmers becoming [more] successful in groups. Their voices become more powerful in a group.”
The Inuka members also support each other with a savings and loan system, which Mrs. Nada says has been helpful to her, providing access to money in times of need.
Training from MVIWATA has also helped her increase her maize and cowpea harvests. She adds, “MVIWATA has given us knowledge about good farming practices and good seeds. Through MVIWATA, I was able to attend different seminars where I met seed suppliers.”
Donald Laizer is an agricultural expert who leads many trainings for MVIWATA. He says training on land preparation, seed selection, fertilizer use, and harvest and post-harvest practices improves farmers’ skills. He says the most important topic covered in the trainings is the farmer’s role in the value chain. The value chain is the series of steps that adds value to a product before it’s sold. Farmers produce a raw material, and can increase the value of their product through processing and other post-harvest activities, which earns them more money.
Farmers also share their experiences with MVIWATA, particularly on topics such as market conditions and disease outbreaks. They share their views on policy issues, too. As an advocate for farmers, MVIWATA communicates farmers’ views to the government and to private institutions.
Joseph Mfanga is the program manager at MVIWATA. He says the biggest lesson the organization has learned is that farmers are ready and eager to learn and adopt new techniques. He adds that MVIWATA wants to “bring farmers together to have a strong voice and become independent.”
MVIWATA is a partner of Uniterra Tanzania. Uniterra Tanzania works with local partners in the fruit and vegetable and tourism sub-sectors to help young people and women access better economic opportunities. Uniterra provided funding for this story. Uniterra receives financial support from the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca. Learn more and follow Uniterra Tanzania on Facebook at: facebook.com/wusctanzania
Photo: Emmanuel Hewas on his farm