Rice in Moshi, Tanzania
Rice is the staple food for most of the world’s population. Production will need to grow exponentially in the coming years, as by 2050 the global population is expected to reach 9 billion, mostly living in urban areas. At the same time, climate change and water scarcity are endangering the rice fields. A new approach is necessary and small-scale farmers are key to its success.
Tanzania is the second biggest producer of rice in East Africa, after Madagascar. However, it is still not equipped to supply the region, as it can only cover 80% of its internal demand and has to import the rest from Asia. In general, Tanzanian consumers prefer the local rice for its unique taste and aroma but quality issues make Asian producers more reliable. The government considers the rice sector key in the fight against poverty because 90% of production comes from small-scale farmers.
The Lower Moshi scheme is being implemented in the Moshi Rural District of the Kilimanjaro region. It covers a total of 2,300 Ha, 1,100 Ha of which are reserved for rice cultivation. The scheme was initially managed by a project funded by the Japanese government before being handed over to the local government. It is now run by the Lower Moshi Irrigators Association (LOMIA) which unites all of the region’s 4,500 farmers. LOMIA’s main objectives are to maintain the irrigation system and to represent its members when interacting with the local and national authorities.
The irrigation scheme covers 4 villages: Mabogini, Chekereni, Rau and Oria. Because of issues with shortage of water the villages of Oria and Chekereni have recently stopped growing rice. As the water in nearby rivers gets less and less, because of changes in climate and extensive use of water by other farmers, the traditional method of flooding the rice fields is no longer feasible. As a result, at this point only 417 Ha, of the 1,100 Ha included in the irrigation scheme, is being cultivated.
The farmers’ incomes remain highly dependent on rice. There is a developed road network between cities, but rural roads are only functional during the dry seasons. Most farmers don’t have machinery so their workload is huge. 60% of families hire some sort of paid labour, but most activities are done by the women and children of the household. Nearly all adults have completed primary school and 95% are literate. Half of the houses are connected to the grid but the electricity supply is irregular.
- The inputs are unreliable and expensive. They represent 25% of the total production cost, which is an excessive burden for the farmers.
- Shortage of water, due to climate change, extensive use of supply by farmers and use of non-efficient / traditional methods of irrigation
- Productivity and quality are low because the farmers use rudimentary techniques.
- The crop is very labour-intensive due to a lack of machinery. This increases production costs.
- The product does not meet the necessary quality standards (Global GAP) to compete with Asian imports. Export under these conditions is impossible.
- The post-harvest processing companies are not well-equipped, which reduces the quality of the final product.
- Bad production and post-harvest techniques lead to a 30% rejection of each harvest.
- The weakness of the farmers’ organisation leads to an inefficient market chain where the producers cannot sell collectively. As a result, they do not have any leverage in trade negotiations.
- The high start-up costs, combined with the difficulty of acquiring credit make the rice crop unattractive to young people. They abandon the fields to look for jobs in the cities.
- Frequent changes in import and export legislation make the situation insecure for both farmers and investors.
- There are high transportation costs due to the poor road infrastructures. This makes circulation nearly impossible during the rainy season.
- To increase productivity, we organize training on Good Agriculture Practices (such as the Rice Intensification System) and promote their usage via Demonstration Plots.
- Piloting a new method of growing rice called SRI (System of Rice Intensification), which uses less water than traditional methods, in the villages Oria and Chekereni.
- To make the inputs more affordable, we work with LOMIA (Lower Moshi Irrigators Association) to buy them collectively.
- To reduce the workload and increase productivity, we promote the mechanization of rice production.
- To facilitate access to credit, we promote either the establishment of independent finance centres or the use of SACCOS (Savings and Credit Cooperatives).
- VECO empowers farmer-owned rice processing cooperatives, which can improve and expand farmers’ post-harvest services (i.e. storage, drying and packaging). We link them with farmer organisations, ensuring a fair price for both sides.
- To improve quality, we partner with the Tanzania Bureau of Statistics to promote the implementation of Quality Management Systems, so that all parties can acquire their Global GAP certificates.
- We provide management and entrepreneurship courses for farmers and their companies, so they can build strong collective marketing strategies.
- We help the farmers’ organisations in their efforts to lobby for better infrastructures.
- To strengthen trade, we facilitate a three-way inclusive contract between exporters, processors and producers.
- We organise multi-stakeholder meetings where we showcase our best experiences to encourage companies to adopt a more inclusive approach towards small-scale farmers.
What do we expect to achieve by 2017?
- 20% of production will meet the International Quality Standards.
- A 39% increase in productivity.
- 20% of the rice production will be sold collectively by the farmers’ organisation under long-term inclusive contracts.
- Half of farmers will have access to credit through SACCOS or their own Village Savings organisation.
- Thanks to cheaper, collectively bought inputs and mechanization, the overall cost of production will be significantly reduced.
- Export companies in the region will have sourcing policies that are beneficial for smallholder farmers.
What do we expect in the long term?
- The Tanzanian government and rice stakeholders will create a framework that encourages the rice industry.
- East Africa will have total sovereignty over its rice.
- The future of the rice trade will be protected thanks to a more sustainable system.
- Improvements in productivity and quality will make the crop attractive for the younger generation and put an end to the rural exodus.