The Government has signed for euros1.5m worth of grant money from the European Union to support the Tea Research Institute of Tanzania (TRIT) boost small tea and coffee farmers improve productivity and quality of their produce for better market access.
Speaking on Tuesday at the signing ceremony held in Mufindi, Filberto Sebregondi, EU head of delegation in Tanzania explained that the EU is very much aware of the profound challenges the sector is facing particularly the low profit margins for smallholder tea and coffee farmers.
Link the floor level income to old inefficient agricultural practices that has affected a decline in productivity of the existing varieties now compounded with limited access to markets the sector is crashing.
“This is why EU intends to keep its commitment to promote sustainable and inclusive growth which entails focusing and prioritising assistance to effectively even the playing field for small scale farmers.
Tea is a major commercial commodity in Tanzania and is fifth most exported crop. Small scale farmers seem to be optimistic with the crop’s potential the sector has in recent years, experienced more than 30,000 increase in number of small scale farmers.
Yet the actual figures are disheartening, the crop amounts to a little over 30m/- in export earnings annually.
Sebregondi did have some encouraging findings though; after outlining the above rather discouraging data he explained that initial evaluation of the intervention programmes recorded significant improvement in the livelihoods of targeted groups.
The selected group has exercised learned sustainable practices and managed to improve soil fertility on their farms by adopting the use of improved agricultural practices.
EU intends to assume an integrated approach all along the ‘tea value chain’ in order to increase productivity and as a result support the small farmers’ effort to dig themselves out of poverty.
EU head of delegation aired these intentions while marking the second phase of Trade and Agricultural Support Programme (TASP 11). EU intends to continue to supporting the tea and coffee sub sectors as well as extend its assistance to yet other ‘high potential’ sub sectors with the objective of improving productivity as a spring board to accessing the markets.
EU has a long standing agriculture and food security relationship with Tanzania, some euros55.5m has been allocated to trade and regional integration with a clear focus on agriculture under the National Indicative Programme enabled by the 10th European Development Fund covering the 2008/13 period.
“In recognition of the sector as the key driver of poverty reduction and economic growth, euros32m were allocated under the EU Food Facility to strengthen Tanzanian’s efforts to cope with the consequences of soaring food prices.
Further, more than euros15m has also been allocated towards the transformation of the Tanzanian sugar sector, while euros100m is to be utilised over the reference period.
These achievements are seen as testimony to the significant contribution being provided by the Kilimo Kwanza initiative in conjunction with the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and Tanzania Food Security Investment Plan (TAFSIP).
However, Mufindi District Commissioner Evarista Kalalu underscored the reality that despite the tea industry being one of the fastest growing sectors attracting a good number of small scale holders, it has for the last three decades been facing major constraints that impeded its development and growth.
The DC detailed a list of what he called, ‘restricting factors’ as, inadequate human resources with requisite skills and hence the low productivity, poor soil care and the use or lack of appropriate fertilisers which in turn brought about diminishing marginal returns, coupled with inadequate marketing and promotion efforts resulting in the inability to boost yields.
Evarista Kalalu summarised the tea-coffee plight saying “…we have limited market access because we lack information and the know how to effectively produce good tea and develop sustainable and value adding practices.”