Smallholder farmers are potential engines for economic growth – they are key to building sustainable food systems, advancing food security, and achieving Zero Hunger. Agriculture remains one of the most vital sectors of Tanzania’s economy, responsible for approximately 29 per cent of the GDP.
With the demand for food growing rapidly in Tanzania, smallholder farmers play a pivotal role in meeting this demand by producing 70 per cent of the food that feeds 61.74 million Tanzanians.
That is why the Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA) focuses on making markets work better for African smallholder farmers (women, men and youth) and helping them transition to commercial agriculture by providing adequate information, investment, and support at all stages of the process – from seed to market.
In April 2022, FtMA revitalised its operations in the 14 districts of Southern Highlands, Central Zone, and Northern Highlands of Tanzania, covering Morogoro, Njombe, Iringa, Mbeya, Singida, and Manyara regions.
Boosting farmers’ incomes
Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA), a consortium of six organisations – AGRA, Bayer, Rabobank, Syngenta, WFP and Yara, came together in 2016 to increase the productivity and income of these smallholder farmers and develop commercial viability for all stakeholders.
Better and predictable access to markets unlocks opportunities for smallholder farmers to reliably sell more produce with better quality and at higher prices. This, in turn, encourages them to invest in their businesses, increase the quantity, quality, and diversity of the crops they produce, and inject their incomes directly into the rural economy, creating employment and growth.
In collaboration with the Alliance Members and other public and private sector organisations, the programme aims to increase the incomes and resilience of smallholders by providing them access to commercially sustainable value chains.
FtMA has done this by building a network of self-sustaining Farmer Service Centres (FSCS) that comprise, amongst others, Agro-dealers & Aggregators, Farmer Organizations, Agricultural Marketing Cooperatives Societies (AMCOS) and individual entrepreneurs (village-based agricultural advisors) who provide a variety of services that enhance farmers productivity, strengthen their livelihoods, increase market linkages, and encourage farm digitisation.
Currently, the FtMA Program in Tanzania serves approximately 125,000 farmers through a network of 295 FSCs at the last mile within our regions of operation. These FSCs offer farm inputs, post-harvest management equipment, and a wide range of services, including financial services and mechanisation services such as ploughing, ripping, harrowing, planting, and threshing.
This achievement has been made possible through a collaborative effort involving more than 334 private and public sector partners we have fostered within the country. Moreover, the FSCs are vital in facilitating smallholder farmers’ access to agricultural markets, bridging the gap between local and regional markets.
While there has been a direct financial benefit to most farmers, as their incomes have increased due to selling more crops, the benefits have often been more fundamental and longer lasting.
Notably, since the inception of the FtMA program, the total quantity of crops sold has reached an impressive 15,600 metric tons, with a corresponding value of US$7.2 million. Additionally, agricultural inputs have been successfully sold, amounting to a total value of US$3.6 million.
The program’s significance is further amplified by the invaluable business skills acquired by these farmers, empowering them to navigate formal markets with confidence and acumen.
By mastering the ability to negotiate better prices and assert their terms of market engagement, they have attained a more influential position within the agricultural ecosystem. Consequently, they now stand as key players in the agricultural value chain, solidifying their place in the industry.
Access to financial services
Furthermore, FtMA has made significant strides in supporting smallholder farmers’ access to reliable and affordable formal and informal financial services. By working closely with commercial and development banks, FtMA has accelerated the provision of financial services to reach even the most remote areas – the last mile.
Over 1,980 smallholder farmers have gained US$1.7 million in loans from prominent financial institutions, including CRDB Bank Plc, NMB Bank, Equity Bank, and Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB).
These loans are allocated for various farming activities, from purchasing agricultural inputs to acquiring a combine harvester that enhances mechanisation and service provision for farmers.
Additionally, FtMA’s focus on enhancing smallholder productivity through adopting climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices and promoting improved inputs and mechanisation has resulted in increased yields and improved farming efficiency. This boosts individual farmers’ income and contributes to food security and economic growth.
FtMA has engaged over 299,000 farmers through 1,949 active FSCs across Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, benefiting more than 1.4 million households. In addition, we have built a network of 1,611 private-public sector partners.
Food systems transformation requires partnerships along the value chain. No single organisation or government can act alone to transform a food system. Hence partnerships are a critical component of transformation, and we are proud to do so with different organisations to bring about socio-economic transformation in Tanzania and Africa as a whole.
Peter Kazungu Byemaro is a Country Coordinator of FtMA Tanzania, a public-private sector-led consortium of actors seeking to transform food value chains in emerging markets. He is available at email@example.com. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.