It’s early in the morning and Elizabeth Francis is bending over to inspect banana suckers for the Harambee farmers group, of which she is a member. Most days, the 65-year-old mother of four travels about six kilometres from her home to the two-hectare farm where the group cultivates bananas.
Mrs. Francis explains that, apart from banana farming, the group raises poultry and grows and sells tree seedlings. She says, “The purpose for establishing this group—which has 30 members—was to eliminate poverty. Each member of our group has benefited.”
Mrs. Francis lives in Kindi Juu village in the Kilimanjaro region of northern Tanzania. She is the treasurer of Harambee farmers group, which started in 2006.
She has benefited from the trainings that the group received from various institutions. It’s where she learned the farming techniques that are helping to improve her life. She says: “Since joining this group, I have been very successful in farming. Previously, I did not know about value addition, but now I am benefiting a lot from selling processed banana products.”
Mrs. Francis has been able to access training from other organizations, and is also learning from her fellow group members. She has acquired skills on how to rear chickens. She explains, “Previously my chickens were just dying. But I had the training opportunity in poultry farming through my group, and now I have many chickens.”
Mrs. Francis says the group started adding value to bananas in order to boost their income. They process raw bananas into flour, crisps, and other products. They are making more money with these value-added products than when they were selling raw bananas.
The tree seedlings also contribute significantly to their income. She says: “In 2018, we successfully sold 1,000 tree seedlings and were paid 300,000 Tanzanian shillings ($129 US). We used the money to buy 150 hens to be raised by the group in order to lay eggs.”
Mrs. Francis says the group has been selling and distributing tree seedlings to various regions in Tanzania, including Dodoma, in order to increase income while also helping reforestation efforts in line with government plans.
Niko Luambano is an agricultural specialist in Arusha region. He says it’s easy for farmers to receive training when they are organized in a group.
Mr. Luambano adds: “Many farmer groups are dying because of lack of expert advice. It is good for this Harambee group to use specialists in order to acquire farming skills for them to achieve their goals.”
He says: “Harambee group has invested in bananas. They have learned that it is best to focus on the technical steps in modern banana plantations to ensure they get the most out of the crop. The steps include digging holes, putting enough fertilizer in one hole, and making sure the soil is good for the crop.”
The group’s income is shared with the members, helping to improve their livelihoods.
Theresia Mushi is another farmer in the Harambee group. She says group farming has been a game changer for her income as well as her farming knowledge. She explains: “Actually, there has been an economic change in our household compared to previously when I had not joined group farming. At that time, I was not earning enough to support my family.”
Mrs. Francis attributes her success to the group. She explains: “This group farming has really helped me build a house and improve my household economy.”
She adds: “This group has helped me to pay school fees for all my four children. One has just completed a teacher training and readiness course. I have managed to achieve this through the money I get from the Harambee farmers group.”
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 support 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