A Uniquely African Green Revolution Is Happening: Evidence From The Southern Highlands Of Tanzania

AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata (middle) with an international delegation at Super Seki Investment factory in Iringa Region, Tanzania where they produce fortified maize flour. The company serves over 2,000 smallholder farmers
AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata (middle) with an international delegation at Super Seki Investment factory in Iringa Region, Tanzania where they produce fortified maize flour. The company serves over 2,000 smallholder farmers

20 years ago, Ms. Rita Sekilovele, famously known as Mama Seki in the wider Southern Highlands of Tanzania, used to sell traditional brew which brought with it social stigma and regular run-ins with the local authorities. One day, she decided enough was enough and switched to “milling”  maize flour.

Her first consignment was only two “debes”- 2 tins 10 kgs each. Today, her milling firm – Super Seki Investment, is the largest producer of fortified maize flour operating in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, with an assured market across Tanzania and in the neighbouring countries.

With support from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – as part of a wider ecosystem of affiliated rural organisations, agencies and businesses who work together to deliver the critical components of agriculture transformation – she has increased her mill’s capacity to buy maize from smallholder farmers spread across Iringa in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.

“We are buying maize from farmers groups representing over 2000 smallholder farmers in the region,” she notes. She supports the farmers’ groups with an assured provision of inputs. Her very limited education – she dropped out of school in class 2 – has not inhibited her quest for agribusiness to lift up the lives of smallholder farmers. “I only know how to write my name, to sign papers but I am great at counting money and handling financial issues!” she says.

Mama Seki is playing an important role in transforming agriculture from a solitary struggle to survive to a thriving business  for the  2000 smallholder farmers she serves.Through her effort, she embodies the transformative power of agriculture in Africa.  

According to Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President AGRA,  agripreneurs like Mama Seki, are the way to Africa’s prosperity; powered by agriculture. Their small and medium-size enterprises handle 80% of the food consumed on the continent and provide a market for millions of smallholder farmers transforming their lives.

CONSORTIUM APPROACH: BUILDING LINKAGES ACROSS THE WHOLE AGRICULTURE VALUE CHAIN WITH SMALLHOLDER FARMERS FRONT AND  CENTER

While the success story of the Iringa Region green revolution can be attributed to the resolve by the Government of Tanzania, multiple stakeholders, like AGRA have supported the Government to make it possible.

In 2007 AGRA programs started providing farmers with innovative financing and high-yield crop varieties, and forged partnerships with private seed companies and small agrodealers in Southern Highlands, which includes Iringa.

Available records indicate that by 2009, about 700,000 smallholder farmers in the Southern Highlands managed to produce a record maize harvest, which was able to feed many other regions in the country that were drought-stricken. Since then, for Iringa Region, according to the regional authorities, there has never been going back.

According to Prof. Nuhu Hatibu, AGRA Regional Head (Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda), originally AGRA had five main programs to catalysts the green revolution in Tanzania -seeds, soils, market, policy, and financing. And in all operations, it was working in partnership with the Government and other stakeholders.

To consolidate the gains made over the years and after a lot of research, discussions, and collaborations,  AGRA  introduced the consortia model in 2017.

The model enhances collaboration with the local governments, farmers, and businesses to deliver integrated programming at farmer-level. The government, development agencies, and businesses come together within a defined geographical area to collaborate to achieve agriculture transformation with smallholder farmers front and center.

The consortium for Iringa Region is known as Ihemi-ludewa Consortium. Thanks to investments by AGRA and the PIATA  partners the consortium has reached over  150,000 smallholder farmers. These farmers, in turn, reach out to their peers spreading practices that have made the region an agricultural powerhouse.

According to the AGRA President, the consortium model brings “together organizations that have the experience, skills, and knowledge to address the problems currently faced by farmers.”  It weeds out duplication, is more effective in reaching out to the wider community of smallholder farmers and putting the local governments at the forefront of the green revolution to create the desired business environment.

She describes the model as best suited to provide novel and holistic solutions to the constraints faced by smallholder farmers and providing the necessary linkages across the crops value chain needed for long term solutions and sustainability. More importantly for Tanzania, the consortium model works to make the public-private sector-driven Agriculture Sector Development Programme (ASDP phase 2) a success. The aim is to “transform the agricultural sector towards higher productivity, enhanced commercialization and smallholder farmer income for improved livelihood.”

AGRA works through the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation In Africa (PIATA).  This is a unique strategic partnership launched in 2017 that enables African agriculture actors to do business differently as they support leaders to drive an inclusive agricultural transformation. PIATA members include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency forInternational Development (USAID) the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ. In Tanzania, farmers have translated it to mean “PiATA Tija”, or solution-based agriculture.

TRANSFORMED LIVES

AGRA 3-year support to Ihemi-ludewa Consortium (2017 to 2019) has been linking farmers to input and out markets leading to increased maize, beans, and soybean production.  In essence, supporting farmers to increase incomes and improve livelihoods through innovations that are scaled up.

In the video below, Mr.  Victory Mhanga one of the smallholder farmers who has benefited from the program explains how his farm productivity has doubled and about the assured market.

AGRA 3-year support to Ihemi-ludewa Consortium (2017 to 2019) has been linking farmers to input and out markets leading to increased maize, beans, and soybean production.  In essence, supporting farmers to increase incomes and improve livelihoods through innovations that are scaled up.

In the video below, Mr.  Victory Mhanga one of the smallholder farmers who has benefited from the program explains how his farm productivity has doubled and about the assured market.

It is not only crop yields that have increased. Lives are getting transformed too. With the assured market for his harvest, Mr. Mhanga, as well as over 2000 farmers from various villages, have an agreement to sell part of their harvest to Mama Seki.  With the increased harvest, he is able to have adequate food for his household and excess for sale, to better the lives of his family. He is happy to move away from subsistence agriculture to farming as a profitable venture.  

True to  its name, originally  “Lilinga,” which means fort in the local Hehe language, Iringa has transformed itself as a fort of food security. 

As a result of the increase in production seen in Iringa and other regions, Tanzania is becoming food self-sufficient while selling the excess to other nations within the East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) blocs.

A cross-section of the delegates led by AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata visited Mr. Mhanga on his farm
A cross-section of the delegates led by AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata visited Mr. Mhanga on his farm

GOVERNMENTS ARE CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF CONSORTIA

The success in Tanzania hasn’t been by accident. Every engagement has been deliberate. Mr. Wilfred Myuyu, Acting Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) for Iringa,  President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG), noted that since the consortia in Iringa was formulated, the regional government has been involved. It helped in identifying the needs of the districts and ensuring the project was implemented smoothly.

The local government has been promoting national agriculture policy in the region that calls for high productivity, use of modern farming methods and improved markets. The government is also the primary provider of agricultural extension services in the area and permitted its staff to get involved in the project which is critical in the implementation of Agricultural Sector Development Programme 2 (ASDP – 2)

He commended PIATA TIJA for promoting agriculture resilience, sustainability, and economic inclusivity and noted that the market-led model with the support of the government promoted by AGRA Ihemi Ludewa consortium should be replicated in other regions in Tanzania.

Mr. Wilfred Myuyu (in the middle), Iringa Region Acting Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) addresses a workshop for sharing experiences about the green revolution in his area.  On his right is AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata and on his left, is  Prof. Nuhu Hatibu, AGRA Regional Head for EAC.
Mr. Wilfred Myuyu (in the middle), Iringa Region Acting Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) addresses a workshop for sharing experiences about the green revolution in his area. On his right is AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata and on his left, is Prof. Nuhu Hatibu, AGRA Regional Head for EAC.

Mr. Muyuyu commended PIATA TIJA for promoting agriculture resilience, sustainability, and economic inclusivity and noted that the market-ledmodel with the support of the government promoted by AGRA Ihemi/Ludewa consortium should be replicated in other regions in Tanzania.

The AGRA President told the regional authorities that agriculture there is no single partner that can move agriculture forward alone. To reduce fragmentation and ensure alignment to government priorities,  she emphasized the critical role played by the central and local governments.

In the video below Dr.  Kalibata calls on the governments to hold actors including AGRA accountable to ensure delivery against set target.

PRIVATE SECTOR PLAY

The private sector also plays a key role in ensuring the smooth implementation of the whole agriculture value chain in attaining the green revolution. Through PiATA TIJA platform, private sector companies that provide inputs like fertilizers and seeds have increased their sales tremendously. Seedco Company noted that it has increased its sales by 70 percent. Through the introduction of the consortium model, there was increased access to services and inputs which are catalysts of increased yields. To maintain the momentum, as envisioned in ASDPII, a continually improving business environment is desirable.

GOING TO SCALE: AGRICULTURE POWERING INDUSTRIALIZATION AND REGIONAL TRADE

While commendable, the progress in Iringa will mean nothing if it remains an isolated island of success. Tanzania should consolidate these gains to position itself as the regional food powerhouse and make great strides in agri-industrial development.  For this to happen, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Hussein Bashe said it was important for all resources invested in the sector to create the desired impacts. Unfortunately, he said, this was not always the case.

So, it is paramount for the central government to have full knowledge of all invested  resources for accountability and monitoring purposes. This would ensure there are visible impacts in creating wealth for smallholder farmers.

He rallied agriculture stakeholders including AGRA to ensure investments made in the sector have the desired impacts for the smallholder farmers in every sense of the word.

He offered government’s commitment to reduce  challenges to agricultural transformation by working with development partners and neighbouring countries. He also called for harmonization of standards and better coordination within the region.

Industry and Trade Minister, Mr. Innocent Bashungwa said that improved agriculture productivity, value addition and processing,  and trade will be the surest path to Tanzania’s prosperity. He committed to work with the ministry  the Ministry of Agriculture and partners like AGRA for ago industrialization.

Dr. Kalibata AGRA has committed to work with the Tanzanian Government to develop a 6-year flagship on Agro-Industrialization for Markets, Jobs, Growth and Food Security. Its main focus will be commercialization and value addition as outlined in component 3 of Agricultural Sector Development Programme 2 (ASDP – 2), while stimulating outcomes of the other components of the programme. This will ensure that the transformation witnessed in Iringa is scaled up across the country and that investments are aligned to national priorities.

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