The sunflower has many meanings across the world. Different cultures believe it means anything from positivity and strength to admiration and loyalty. In Chinese culture, sunflowers are said to mean good luck and lasting happiness which is why they are often given at graduations and at the start of a new business.
With an annual output of around 350,000 tonness of sunflower oilseeds, corresponding to about 90,000 tonnes of oil, Tanzania is one of the top ten sunflower oilseed producers in the world. Sunflowers are grown all over the country, mostly by small-scale farmers.
Therefore the development of the sunflower oil sector has a great potential for improving livelihoods and the welfare of relatively poorer households.
The Dodoma Region in the country’s central zone is a major producer, accounting for over 20 per cent of national production. About half of the region’s farmers are engaged in sunflower oil production, but few small-scale producers have realised the full potential of this sector, either in terms of improved quality or higher volumes. Among the factors contributing to low productivity and quality are inadequate machinery and limited or no access to value-added services and markets.
Since 2012, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), in collaboration with Tanzania’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, has been working to upgrade and modernise the country’s agro-industry and improve the competitiveness of locally processed goods, including sunflower oil, on national and international markets.
Within the framework of the industrial upgrading and modernisation project, a team consisting of UNIDO international experts and trained national consultants have provided enterprises with diagnostics services and assistance with implementing upgrading plans.
Micro- and small-scale oil producers in Dodoma were advised to form a cluster, invest in common facilities to store, clean and refine sunflower seeds, and to take joint marketing actions in order to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of their businesses. To this end, the project is currently helping relocate processors operating in residential areas to the Chamwino industrial park.
The project has also enabled producers to access affordable technology for sunflower oil refining. Recently, UNIDO teamed up with the country’s Vocational Education Training Authority (VETA) to help small businesses acquire modern machinery for refining and processing products. This has helped increase the competitiveness of the products and lead to a rise in incomes.
With the technical services provided by UNIDO, these small businesses have more capacity for production and storage, and better market access. The Dodoma sunflower oil cluster is a model for developing oil and other crop processing clusters for SMEs.
Similar approaches have been taken in enterprises operating in the dairy, as well as in other edible oil and food processing sectors. So far, UNIDO has examined 19 enterprises. To assist with the implementation of the industrial upgrading and modernisation project, UNIDO has trained a total of 50 national experts.
Tanzania demonstrated that SMEs can overcome most of their challenges if provided with technical assistance, management knowledge and business linkages
In the same vein, Farm Africa and UN Women are supporting women in the Ikungi district of Tanzania to increase their incomes through sunflower farming.
Female farmers are currently being held back by poor production practices and lack of access to markets. Under UN Women’s realising gender through empowering women and adolescent girls programme, Farm Africa is closing the gender gap in the sector by training sunflower farmers on how to access quality supplies and boost their productivity to meet the growing domestic demand for sunflower. Alongside training, Farm Africa is working with cooperatives to increase female membership. Farm Africa is linking cooperatives with suppliers and viable markets to provide women with the capital to expand their businesses.