Orange sweet potato revolution: The AGRA effect

Orange sweet potato revolution: The AGRA effect

Augusta Madembwe is a farmer based in Ikuna, Njombe district, Iringa region. She confidently attributed her success to the use of improved seeds, saying this has changed her into a “proud, professional farmer.”
“When done the right way, farming pays. Thanks to the knowledge that I’ve gained in the last few years, on improved seeds and other available technology on my farm, I can now say I am a pro!” Augusta said.
For the third year in a row, she has been able to reap bumper harvests of potatoes and maize after using new seed varieties and fertilizers. From each acre, she now produces over 120 bags compared to 35 bags before.
The transformation has seen her decide to expand her farm to 12 acres this year. And she said this farming knowledge should have come a long time ago. “Potatoes are a very important cash crop. I want to build on what I have gained from Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) and partners like AGRA,” she noted.
Owekisha Kwigizile, potato specialist with the SAGCOT, adds that the potential for the potato crop is great and requires huge investment to build industries around it.
“At the moment in Tanzania, we only have only three legally recognized potato varieties, despite the crop being a major food crop across the country. SAGCOT and other partners like the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are working together to increase the number of improved varieties,” he said.
It was back in 2015, when the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs awarded a $1.2 million grant to AGRA to fund a one-year inception phase of the Inclusive Green Growth of the Smallholder Agriculture (IGGSAS) Programme done within SAGCOT, with YARA International as key partner.
During the period, AGRA has put in place systems and structures (human capital and resources) and piloted a public private partnership (PPP) model as anticipated in the grant.
AGRA has also conducted necessary environmental and ecological assessments and developed a results tracking and impact measurement system. Following the success, AGRA launched a second, four-year implementation and up-scaling phase starting July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2020.
The initiative, with an overall goal of increasing incomes and food security of at least 30,000 farming households in Mbeya region of Tanzania by the year 2020, has its effects on a lot of farmers in the country.
The programme focuses on strengthening at least six crop value chains to operate more efficiently while increasing access to inputs and knowledge of agronomic practices among smallholder farmers. It will advocate for climate-smart agriculture with much intentions on new seed varieties.
Augusta is among over 1.4 million farmers in the country using new seed varieties, thanks to AGRA, which has invested more than US$51 million to support 96 agricultural development projects in the past decade.
Tanzania is steadily fighting to reduce food insecurity and double incomes of smallholder farmers across the country, and AGRA is wholly committed to be at the center stage of the green revolution in the country.
With the focus on putting farmers at the center of the country’s growing economy, AGRA has been investing in key programs along the food value chains to develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment.
SAGGOT CEO Godfrey Kirenga said greater adoption of technology in agriculture for smallholder farmers will be an assurance of continued national food security and surplus products for the market.
According to him, grants have played a great role in addressing the challenges small-scale farmers face across the agriculture value chain, from seeds and soils to markets, access to finance and policy.
Some of the results of the investments have been introduction of improved seed varieties, better fertilizers, post-harvest handling and storage technology for grains and innovative agricultural finance, among other outputs.
Because of the changes, Kirenga said he was very optimistic about the future of agriculture in Tanzania and also hailed the government of Tanzania for making progress in improving agriculture policy environment to address challenges faced by stakeholders in the sector and make it easy for them to chip in.
In this, AGRA supports country-level crop breeding teams who work closely with farmers to develop new varieties suitable for local conditions. Improved seeds lift crop production providing farmers with increased food security and incomes.
The utilization of the new varieties was made possible after AGRA worked with the government to improve seed policies so that locally-owned private seed companies can access publicly released varieties for production and marketing.
“AGRA has been paramount in enabling a better business environment for seed trade through Micro Reforms for African Agribusiness (MIRA) project. In June this year we confirmed a new seed policy that allows private seed companies to license and produce varieties that were developed and released by public institutions,” said Tanzania Seeds Trade Association (TASTA) Executive Director, Baldwin Shuma.
“This means the country’s smallholder farmers are getting quicker access to the latest seed technology that our national researchers are producing,” he added.

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