Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Arumeru, Tanzania

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Arumeru, Tanzania

High Value Crops: the perfect tool to fight poverty

The demand for sustainable fruit and vegetables is expected to rise as the population becomes more aware of the importance of consuming healthy and sustainable food. Consumers agree that sustainable food tastes better, is beneficial for people’s health and protects future production. At the same time, growing High Value Crops - the name often given to these fresh fruits and vegetables - is a good strategy for increasing small-scale farmers’ revenues. This is a necessary step in the fight against inequality, because 70% of people who reside in rural areas live under the poverty threshold.

The horticultural industry is the fastest-growing agricultural sector in Tanzania, recording an annual average growth of 9 – 13% in the past 7 years. Arumeru in the Arusha region, north of Tanzania, is a perfect location for export because of its good connections to the major eastern African seaport of Mombasa. Moreover, the region’s equatorial climate allows the cultivation of vegetables and fruit all year round.

Because of their high potential, we have decided to work with passion fruits, peas and French beans. In the region there are several farmers’ organisations, of which VECO has selected eight: MEHA, KIBIU, Laturock, WAKIBIKI and Mshikamano, Parachich, Malala, Muyovega and Mount Meru.

In total, these organisations represent 500 farmers. To pool their efforts, the regional farmers’ associations created an umbrella organisation. This new entity is called MUVIKIHO and will offer marketing, finance and training services to all its members. There is also a national farmers’ organisation called TAHA (Tanzania Horticulture Association), which represents all of the country’s farmers regardless of their farm size and has a direct link with the government and other stakeholders.

Nearly all of the farmers’ income comes from their crops. The families do all the farm work themselves: only 32% hire extra paid labour. Most farmers do not have a private vehicle for transporting their goods. There is a developed road network between cities but rural tracks are only functional during the dry season. Nearly all adults have completed primary school and 95% are literate. About half of the houses are connected to the grid but the electricity supply is irregular.

Challenges

  • High incidence of pests which affects productivity, especially in the case of passion fruit.
  • It is difficult for the farmers to acquire affordable, quality inputs (seeds and fertilizer).
  • Productivity and quality are low because the farmers use rudimentary techniques and the post-harvest facilities are either inexistent or badly-equipped. This results in a 30% rejection loss for each harvest.
  • With limited or non-existent irrigation, most crops depend exclusively on rainfall. This has been further complicated by climate change.
  • It is necessary to acquire market certificates such as GLOBALG.A.P. in order to export.
  • Due to the weakness of the farmers’ organisations, producers cannot sell collectively and thus lack leverage in negotiations.
  • The farmers have difficulties accessing credit due to the lack of local credit unions. Their financial situation is complicated by a delayed payment policy.
  • Weak commercial chain with mistrust between farmers, exporters and importers.
  • The roads and other basic infrastructures are weak, which increases transportation costs.
  • Frequent changes in legislation and price fluctuation make the market insecure.
  • Due to the lack of opportunities, young people are leaving the countryside, endangering the future of horticultural production.

Our Strategies

  • To prevent diseases, we link the farmers with Research Institutes to establish sustainable, disease-free nurseries within farming communities.
  • To improve quality, we help farms to acquire a GLOBALG.A.P. certificate by establishing a Quality Management System. This opens doors to the better paid and more stable European market.
  • To increase productivity, we organise training on Good Agriculture Practices.
  • We promote the creation of Village Savings and Lending Associations so that farmers have the credit to install irrigation systems and make other investments.
  • We give training on market systems and collective sales to the farmers so that they see the benefits of collective marketing.
  • We train the members of the farmers’ organisations on management and how to create business plans, which is crucial to gain access to government funding.
  • To strengthen trade, we help to repair the partnerships between exporters and producers, creating contracts accepted by all the partners with a fixed price according to prefixed quality standards.
  • We support TAHA’s lobbying activities to improve the road infrastructure and create a reliable framework.
  • We organize multi-stakeholder meetings where we showcase our best experiences to encourage companies to link smallholder farmers to their sourcing policies.

What do we expect to achieve by 2017?

  • 70% increase in the number of smallholder farmers meeting the quality and volume requirements of local and export modern markets.
  • 70% of sales will be sold collectively through long-term contracts and stable prices.
  • Post-harvest rejects will have been reduced from 30% to 5%.
  • 70% of the farmers will have access to credit through Village Savings and the organisations will be given government grants.
  • 60% of the farms will have sustainable irrigation systems.
  • The export companies in the region will have sourcing policies that are beneficial for smallholder farmers.

What do we expect in the long term?

  • The vegetables and fruits trade will be a key economic sector for Tanzania.
  • The farmers’ organisations, coordinated through MUVIKIHO and TAHA, will be successful in lobbying the government to create and maintain better infrastructures.
  • The European and other western markets will receive a steady supply of fair trade vegetables and fruits.
  • Improvements in productivity and quality will make the crop attractive for the new generation and put an end to the rural exodus.