Zambia: Farmer finds sweet spot producing orange-fleshed sweet potato vines and roots in dry season (Africa Rising)
Joram Elia stands in a bean field, holding a hoe for weeding in one hand and a phone and notebook for recordkeeping in the other. Together with his three partners, he has been growing green beans for two seasons. He says, “This is my daily routine. I always make sure that our bean farm is tended and that my partners are also doing well in other activities.”
The 27-year-old lives in Sakina, a small town about seven kilometres northwest of Arusha, in northern Tanzania. He travels three times a week from his home to tend the half-acre field in Arcedo village, about six kilometres northeast of Arusha.
After four years of searching for a job, Mr. Elia and his friends saw an opportunity to start an agribusiness, so they formed Keranyi Youth Development Group. Their main activity is farming, but they are also involved in cultural tourism and art. Mr. Elia explains, “We have chosen farming as our main activity because there is an opportunity in agriculture business, and we have most of the resources ready to do farming.”
He adds, “Working in a group, it is easier to get access to loans and training from government and private institutions rather than working alone.” The group has received two major loans to support their business: three million Tanzanian shillings ($1,314 US) from the government and 400,000 Tanzanian shillings ($175 US) from an NGO called Vision for Youth. They must pay back their loan to the NGO with 25% interest.
They have also received training from Vision for Youth on topics such as writing a business plan and presentation skills. Mr. Elia says, “Agriculture is a good business opportunity for unemployed youth. I see farming as a profitable business. Just like any other business, it is not easy. There are lots of challenges.”
The first challenge was finding funds. And the second was finding land to rent. The third was a shortage of rain, which dried out irrigation channels. But the most significant challenge was their poor knowledge of how to grow beans.
Last year, which was their first planting season, they expected to harvest 800 to 1,000 kilograms of beans. But their harvest was very poor, largely because they lacked knowledge of good farming practices. Mr. Elia explains, “We did not know the importance of [correct spacing], selecting good bean seeds, preparing land in time, and using fertilizers or herbicides.”
Despite the failed first harvest, Mr. Elia and his group have continued to farm. He hopes their hard work will serve as an example to other youth. He says, “It is very difficult to organize youth in this area. They do not see agriculture as a business opportunity; rather, they see it as a job for older and poor people.”
Saumu Issa is a program coordinator at Vision for Youth. She would like other youth to see agriculture as a good business, and notes that most of the resources needed to start farming are available in the area. And there is always a demand for food.
Vision for Youth supports young people to develop business plans and proposals, and provides loans for good business ideas. Ms. Issa says, “Generally, the business ideas that most youth have are making soap, bracelets, and shoes, and many other good business ideas.” She says it’s rare to find a youth who is interested in agriculture. She adds, “I was inspired to see [that] Joram decided to start bean farming.”
Mr. Elia has received agricultural training from Anginet Seed Company, in an effort to ensure that his second harvest is more successful. He now plants his beans in rows 40 centimetres apart, with 20 centimetres between plants. He uses urea fertilizer and weeds one week after planting and then three weeks later. He plants soon after the first rains fall and harvests soon after the leaves turn brownish. He works with Anginet Seed Company to plant good bean seeds, and the company assures a market for his product.
With his newfound knowledge, Mr. Elia is confident that he will get a good harvest in the coming seasons.
Vision 4 Youth 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. Joram Elia received training on creating a business plan from a Uniterra Tanzania volunteer. 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: Joram Elia on his farm