Good Food for Cities

Inclusive & future-proof vegetable and fruit businesses in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands

April 28, 2023

How do you feed a rapidly growing population that relies heavily on agriculture for employment? Despite erratic rainfall and frequent droughts, smallholder farmers in the Iringa, Njombe, Mbeya, Songwe and Katavi regions of Tanzania are struggling to increase their vegetable and fruit yields. Yet, there is huge potential to grow. More than 25% of GDP comes from agriculture. Unlocking this potential is the aim of this initiative in the southern highlands of Tanzania.

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East Africa, Iringa, Njombe, Mbeya, Songwe, and Katavi

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This project includes 30,000 smallholder farmers in Tanzania's Southern Highlands: 10,000 farmers in Iringa: 5,000 farmers in Njombe, 10,000 farmers in Mbeya/Songwe, 5,000 farmers in Katavi, 500 off-takers of fruit and vegetables, 5 exporters of horticulture produce and 1 million consumers.

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From 2020 until 2024


The population of Tanzania is expected to double by the year 2050, rising from just under 60 million inhabitants in 2020 to almost 130 million in 2050. Growth is particularly high in urban areas. The growing urban population will continue to depend on smallholder farmers, who currently contribute 75-80% of agricultural production.

At the same time, smallholder fruit and vegetable farmers in Tanzania face many challenges. There is limited access to new technologies and farming techniques, the value chain does not benefit smallholder farmers, and climate change is causing erratic rainfall, droughts and floods.

These challenges lead to low productivity and poor quality of produce in the sector. In addition, a study conducted by Rikolto in Mbeya and Iringa in 2021 found no pest residues in food samples. However, the study found high levels of biological contaminants such as E. coli, S. aureus and salmonella. In addition, the study found lead contamination levels up to five times higher than the legal limit. Besides affecting public health, poor food quality leads to rejected goods and reduced prices for farmers.

However, there is also a huge potential for growth. Agriculture accounts for more than 25% of GDP, 85% of exports and 80% of the workforce, making it critical to economic growth and poverty reduction.

EU-funded project boosts horticulture sector

Funded by the European Union's flagship AGRI-CONNECT programme, Rikolto, Agrónomos sin Fronteras, Inades-Formation Tanzania, MIICO Consortium and the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) Mbeya are implementing the Building Inclusive and Competitive Horticulture Businesses in Tanzania's Southern Highlands project. Through this project, Rikolto and its partners are working to improve food safety, food security and job creation throughout the food system in Iringa, Njombe, Mbeya, Songwe and Katavi.

Specifically, through the Generation Food Accelerator - a business incubator - we aim to empower 400 young people to play a transformative role in the food system by strengthening their food safety and sustainability businesses.

Our strategy

To cater to the diverse needs of Farmer Business Organisations, we have teamed up with iCRA and other partners to enhance their management skills, offer guidance on sound bookkeeping practices, foster effective leadership to meet members' needs, and test pioneering digital solutions to boost farmers' access to finance.

As of 2022, we are collaborating with 34 farmer organisations and 82 farmer clusters, reaching out to 14,162 farmers and setting up 489 demonstration plots to encourage the adoption of climate-smart agricultural techniques and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

We have also conducted training sessions for a total of 197 local extension officers from the local government on GAP and climate-smart agriculture.

Driving financial inclusion and literacy among women and young people

We initiated the Generation Food Accelerator project in May 2021. The project involved planning sessions to prepare for the first Generation Food event in five regions - Katavi, Songwe, Mbeya, Njombe, and Iringa - with the participation of 100 young entrepreneurs. Additionally, we organised five bootcamps, one in each region, for twenty youth-led businesses per region.

After the bootcamps, 30 businesses proceeded to the incubation phase, receiving tailored mentoring from experienced business coaches. The incubation phase concluded in February 2022, with 18 young entrepreneurs receiving grants and mentorship for six months to kickstart the growth of their ventures.

Building on the success of the first cycle, a second cycle of the Generation Food Accelerator was launched in Iringa and Njombe in February 2023 to support 120 young entrepreneurs in developing their food businesses. Another Generation Food Accelerator for Mbeya, Songwe, and Katavi is scheduled to commence soon, with the aim of reaching 180 young horti-preneurs in these three regions over the next year.

Enhancing trading relationships between actors in the fruit and vegetable value chains.

Within a year, we surpassed our four-year target of engaging in contract farming with a minimum of eight big off-takers and buyers. We also supported the training of 31 experts in partnership brokerage and negotiation.

To provide an affordable alternative to expensive certificates,

We co-developed a Participatory Food Safety System (PFSS) tailored for the Tanzanian market. The system serves as a tool to raise awareness, train farmers and food handlers, and ensure food safety from farm to consumer.

The PFSS is currently being piloted by Rikolto and TCCIA Mbeya, with a focus on fresh produce and the associated health risks. We aim to improve traceability by building capacity and trust between vendors and farmers, who often do not know each other, and encourage participants to take an active role as assessors in a peer review system.

Piloting district or regional commodity multi-stakeholder platforms to promote sustainable vegetable production

Four multi-stakeholder platforms have been established: one for Food Smart City Mbeya (Jukwaaya Usalama wa Chakula Mbeya in Swahili), one for the chili value chain in Katavi, and two for the avocado value chain in Njombe and Songwe.

These multi-stakeholder platforms go beyond discussion and have tackled issues such as market infrastructure, hygiene assessment systems in markets, and policy issues for avocado exports for instance.

We aim to establish 30,000 home gardens across Iringa, Njombe, Mbeya, Songwe and Katavi to promote nutritious diets.

To achieve this, we combine home gardens with a program on small livestock keeping, such as rabbits and chickens, to have a circular food system at home. By 2022, we established 7,893 home gardens and distributed 13,700 kits with indigenous seeds for a home garden to farmers in vulnerable situations. We are also training farmers as nurseries to produce these seed kits.

To promote high-nutrition diets, we have established a network of community development officers to coach community leaders and launched a public campaign on food safety.

By 2021, we reached 829,644 citizens through 86 radio campaigns and 57 cooking shows. Additionally, we conducted training-of-trainers for 134 local government authority officers and 187 local health workers on the importance of high-nutrition diets.

Establish peer groups for women and youth within farmer organisations to address nutrition issues.

We supported the launch of Produce Tanzania, a safe food hub led by youth in Mbeya City. The retail selling point for fresh fruits and vegetables opened on 25th March 2022, and sources products from a network of 250+ farmers who follow high-quality growing standards in the Mbeya region.

Facilitate a participatory approach to upgrading market infrastructure in Mbeya for food safety and traceability.

While we have been training food vendors and improving food stalls to enhance food safety in Arusha, we have taken the improvement of market infrastructure and safe kiosks to another level in Mbeya. Together with TCCIA Mbeya and Mbeya City Council, we set up a Market Infrastructure Improvement sub-committee under the multi-stakeholder Food Smart City platform in Mbeya, co-facilitated by Rikolto within the framework of the project. Through this collaboration, we are improving market infrastructure in the Sokoine, Soweto, and Igawilo markets. We are constructing 273 new food stalls with co-investments from vendors, renewing roofing, and installing fruit and vegetable washing areas with clean water.

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Expected results

By the end of the project, four main results should be achieved:

  • Smallholder fruit and vegetable farmers have an increased access to sustainable Business Development Services, such as finance.
  • The profit margins for members of the farmers organisations and other value chain actors are increased through improved trading relationships and efficiency within the horticulture value chain.
  • Governance and coordination mechanisms within the fruit and vegetable sector are improved through strengthened horticulture platforms and member-based organisations.
  • The consumption of high nutritious diets has increased in the five Southern regions through women and youth participation in sustainable nutritional sensitive horticulture value chains.

Long-term expected results

The performance of Tanzania’s fruit and vegetable sector will be improved. There will be an increased competitiveness and profitability for smallholders and traders in the Iringa, Njombe, Mbeya, Songwe and Katavi Regions. This will contribute to job creation and food and nutrition security.

Who do we work with?

This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of Rikolto and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the EU.

Inades Formation Tanzania
MIICO Consortium


Shukuru Tweve

Cocoa Coordinator & Food Smart City & Horticulture Senior Agribusiness Advisor

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