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 consumers in Europe ánd Africa becomes more aware of the importance of consuming healthy and sustainable food. 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 Rikolto (formerly VECO) has selected eight: MEHA, KIBIU, Laturock, WAKIBIKI and Mshikamano, Parachich, Malala, Muyovega and Mount Meru.

To pool their efforts, the regional farmers’ associations created an umbrella organisation. This new entity is called MUVIKHO and will offer marketing, finance and training services to all its members. Created in 2012, MUVIKHO has grown from nothing to over 700 farmers, and new groups keep on joining. 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.
  • Quality seeds and fertilizers are expensive so farmers are often tempted to use counterfeit or lower quality products.
  • 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 25% rejection loss for each harvest.
  • Famers depends on furrow irrigation which has significant water loss and is increasingly unreliable with climate change. However higher tech irrigation remains expensive.
  • Market certification such as GLOBAL G.A.P. is required in order to export but it is very expensive to acquire
  • 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 current ways in which financial institutions do business e.g. requiring collateral and previous years business records
  • There remains a lack of trust between farmers, exporters and importers and contracts are often not honoured. This includes the farmers side selling.
  • 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 as well training on better ways of using pesticides.
  • 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 organize multi-stakeholder meetings where we showcase our best experiences to encourage companies to link smallholder farmers to their sourcing policies.
  • We collaborate with Tanzania Horticulture Association’s to create a better business environment such as promoting irrigation technologies.

What changed for umbrella organisation MUVIKHO and its members?

  • MUVIKHO obtained independent Global GAP certification, meaning they are not tied to one buyer any more who had monopoly over their business
  • Less fruits and vegetables remain unsold. Rejection rates dropping from 25% in 2013 to 5% in 2017
  • In 2016 the price paid for peas and French beans by export companies went up 20% due to strong competition between the companies to win contracts with MUVIKIHO.
  • Annual sales of over US $210,000 each year
  • Growing fresh fruits and vegetables is therefore a good strategy for increasing small-scale farmers’ income.
  • 70% of the farmers have access to credit through Village Savings

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.

Belgian Directorate General for Development