Tanzania: Women continue to grow beans despite gender challenges

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

Although it’s noon and very hot, Verantikisi Daniel Kaaya sits on a brown wooden chair on her veranda holding a round metal silver tray that she is using to winnow beans. She says, “I have been growing beans for many years despite [the many] challenges I face…. [These] challenges do not hinder me from growing beans.”

Mrs. Kaaya lives in Kikatiti village in Arusha, in the northern region of Tanzania. Some of the obstacles women in this area face include the unavailability of seeds and the lack of extension advice for women on seed selection, planting, weeding, storage, and harvesting techniques.

Mrs. Kaaya adds, “Land ownership, pesticides application, and decision-making [about farming practices] are the greatest challenges we face.”

On land ownership, Mrs. Kaaya says that most women in her area have poor yields because they grow beans on small plots given to them by their husbands, who own and control the land.

Mrs. Kaaya says she is lucky because she has easier access to land than other women in her area. She explains, “My husband has authority on land but he works for a tour company, so he allows me to use land to grow beans and other crops in the way I want.”

Local women also struggle to apply pesticides in their bean fields because their husbands are too busy with other work to help them. Mrs. Kaaya explains: “On pesticides application, I hire men to help me because it is a very tough to carry a pesticide sprayer tank on my back… Sometimes I apply pesticides myself when I fail to get men who help me.”

Mrs. Kaaya says most of the women who grow beans in the area do not make farming decisions and have no opportunity to negotiate with their husbands. Although Mrs. Kaaya does not make decisions in her family, she says that at least sometimes her husband listens to her ideas.

She explains, “I do negotiate with my husband on what to grow, in which plot, as well as how to use the harvest, and whether to sell or not.”

Honoratha Shirima is the extension officer in the area. She says there is a need to train most men in the area on gender equality so that they give their wives opportunities such as using land. Mrs. Shirima explains, “If women will be given the mandate to own land and have opportunity in decision-making, it will result in development.”

Grace Vanika is a bean farmer who lives in Kikatiti village. She says beans are mostly grown by women in the area, but the challenge is that culture prevents women farmers from thriving.

Mrs. Vanika adds that it’s difficult for women in her society to follow good agricultural practices for beans because traditional culture gives men more authority over everything, including the money earned from selling beans.

She explains: “Though most men do not grow beans, they have power over the harvest…. Women farmers in my society are given small plots to grow beans…. A woman can be given an acre or less out of five to ten acres.”

Mrs. Vanika says that, although the women use the small plots to grow beans, men should try to help their wives so that together they can produce good yields that help their families.

Mrs. Vanika says that, to deal with these challenges, women bean farmers in her area have formed groups of 20 to 25 farmers. That way, agricultural extension workers and non-governmental organizations can more easily train them on techniques for growing beans.

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/