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It is just past noon in Kongo village in Pwani Region, about 60 kilometres north of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest city. Mariam Katema carries a hoe over her shoulder as she steps off the dusty road and into her cassava field. After checking her cassava plants, the 59-year-old demonstrates how to uproot the mature tubers. Taking a stalk firmly in one hand, Mrs. Katema rocks from side to side until the tubers break through the soil.
Mrs. Katema has been farming cassava in this village for more than 13 years. She has faced many challenges, but the biggest right now is getting a loan. She would like to borrow money to buy inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides, and to pay for transportation to take her cassava to markets outside the village.
She explains: “The problem is we are not getting loans. A bank loan takes a long time to process, and when you get the loan, you have to pay it back monthly. You know, we are cassava farmers, and cassava takes about six to seven months [until it’s ready to] harvest. So where will I get money to pay the bank every month?” Mrs. Katema says she would prefer to pay back her loan after a year, once she’s finished harvesting and selling her cassava.
Many women farmers in Tanzania struggle to start or expand their farming operations because they have difficulty getting land and capital. Land is usually passed down to sons. And in many families, it’s the men who decide how to spend the money.
Mrs. Katema dreams of buying more land and purchasing a tractor. But she can’t expand her cassava farm without a loan. Despite these frustrations, she earns enough money to provide for her family.
Mrs. Katema is a widow who cares for her three orphaned grandchildren. Her income from growing cassava pays for her grandchildren’s school fees.
Mwanaidi Shabani Muhama grows cassava in the same village. The 46-year-old farmer agrees that short-term loans do not benefit farmers like her.
Mrs. Muhama says, “[We have] issues with loans…. They need to regard us as farmers. It takes six months to harvest cassava. We need at least a year-long loan.”
Hamza Suleiman is an extension officer in Bagamoyo, and covers the district that includes Kongo. He advises farmers to approach smaller institutions for loans. For example, he says some community banks can offer lower interest rates and more flexibility.
Mr. Suleiman adds: “We are advising farmers to take loans from agro-dealers [agricultural suppliers] so that they can at least get a good deal with farming equipment such as tractors. It is difficult for one farmer to get a tractor, but if two [farmers] or groups apply for a tractor, they can get it, and they would be able to help other farmers as well.”
Mrs. Katema and Mrs. Muhama are considering joining with other farmers in the village to buy a tractor.
Mrs. Muhama encourages her fellow farmers to follow the advice of agriculture experts and use agricultural machinery to increase production. She says that, if banks provide credit with more flexible terms, more women farmers will be able to improve and expand their farming operations, and better provide for their families.
This story was prepared with the support of USAID’s New Alliance ICT Extension Challenge Fund, through the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Tanzania. For more information about the Fund, please see: https://www.ifad.org/
Photo: Mariam Katema with her cassava