Tanzania: Contract farming helps vanilla producers get good prices, stable market

April 02, 2018
A translation for this article is available in French Swahili

Penina Mungure and her two daughters walk through their fruit and vegetable garden, inspecting vanilla vines for problems. The weather is cool, the sky is clear, and the sun is about to set. Mrs. Mungure says, “Growing vanilla requires close supervision of the vines in the farm—at least twice a week.”

Mrs. Mungure lives in Kilala village near Mount Meru in northern Tanzania’s Arusha Region. In the past, the greatest challenge for her and other vanilla producers in the area was the lack of buyers. But five years ago, a company from the nearby town of Moshi called Natural Extracts Industries or NEI started buying her vanilla pods.

She says, “I will keep on growing vanilla because I am sure of the market and the price is good.”

Mrs. Mungure says she has been growing vanilla for many years because the crop requires fewer inputs than other crops. She explains, “Growing vanilla does not cost much money because the crop does not need industrial pesticides and fertilizer.”

She says that, since she started growing vanilla, pests and diseases have never invaded her garden. If she finds pests like snails, she does not apply pesticides—she just removes them by hand.

Mrs. Mungure started contract farming with NEI in 2013. Apart from guaranteeing her a market, the company also helps her learn best practices for growing vanilla.

Vanilla farmers sell both pods and vines. But they prefer to sell pods because removing the vines reduces the number of pods the plant can produce. The price for a kilogram of vanilla pods ranges from 60,000 to 80,000 Tanzanian shillings (US$27-35). Growers can sell a two-metre vine for 2,500 Tanzanian shillings (US$1.10).

Nickson Severine is an agronomist at NEI. He visits farmers in his area at least once per month to see how they are doing and help them solve problems. He says, “I often advise and educate the farmers on how to grow vanilla properly, individually or in groups, when needed.”

Mr. Severine says that his company assures farmers of a stable market. The company also provides farmers with water tanks to store water for irrigation, which is especially helpful when there is low rainfall and during dry seasons.

Philipo Sululu has been growing vanilla in Arusha for 10 years. Like Mrs. Mungure, he entered into a contract with NEI to ensure a guaranteed market. He has also learned how to grow and take care of the crop from the company.

He says the contract arrangement helps him produce more vanilla pods and vines than before. He adds, “I will keep on growing vanilla because I have an assured market that offers me good prices.”

Although the contracts provide farmers with more money, Mr. Sululu says the crop requires hard work. He explains, “Growing vanilla needs much time in supervision of the farm … and attaching the vines to poles, because vanilla is a climber crop.”

He says more farmers in the region are now starting to grow vanilla because of the available market. Farmers are entering into contracts with NEI to buy their crops at good prices soon after harvest.

Mrs. Mungure says that, since she began contract farming, her yearly production has tripled from five kilograms to 15. She earned 720,000 Tanzania shillings (US$320) last year.

In addition to growing vanilla, Mrs. Mungure also keeps chickens. She is using the earnings from selling vanilla to expand her chicken farm. She also uses the money to buy clothes for her family and pay for water, electricity, and other expenses.

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