Contract agriculture gives grape farming a big push in Dodoma Region

15Aug 2016
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Contract agriculture gives grape farming a big push in Dodoma Region
  • • Farmers’ children get subsidised education as incentive

Grape farmers in Dodoma Region have been facing many challenges related to cultivation of the crop in that they have often engaged in the activity without earning a commensurate profit from it.

A farmer checks the ripeness of green grapes at a village farm in Dodoma Region. More wine firms are increasingly taking into contract farming in the region, a move which farmers claim, has tremendously improved cultivation of the crop and the tillers’ welfare.

Yet, amidst these anomalies, social economic demands like poor housing and the failure by parents to take their children to school have been stalking them, so says Yerendi Makuya of Handali village in the region.

However, of recent, the situation appears to be changing, he says, thanks to the advent of liberalism. New opportunities associated with the arrival of investors are emerging with hopes that things might change for the better as industrial wine processors go deep into the villages as they look for grapes to buy.

Makuya, a grape farmer who was speaking on behalf of fellows, says some wine processors have started building good relations with the farmers as they source for industrial raw materials for their factories.

In so doing, the investors want production of vines to be increased as the farmers, for their part, look forward for social economic and financial empowerment.

One of the companies involved in this new arrangement of increasing production and purchasing the produce from the farmers is Tanzania Distilleries Limited (TDL), a group company of Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL Group). The company makes seasonal purchases and pays the farmers profitably right at their produce farms, says Makuya.

He says the newly adopted strategy is in stark difference with the prior practice under cooperative unions which, was exploitative and bureaucratic.

“Since we started production under the arrangement with TDL, we have been benefitting a lot in that we get farm inputs - equipment, seeds, herbicides, extension services and market assurance for our produce,” he says.

“There is more to this,” the highly elated Makuya adds, “the company pays the fees for our children through a fund known as ‘Zabibu Kwanza’ (Grapes First).

Giving an example, he says, his son completed Form Four education last year under this decent arrangement between the wine brewing firm and the farmers.

Another overjoyed farmer is Yohana Petro from Mpunguzi village. He says the new farming partnership has helped in liberating their children in education.

“The firm helps in paying school fees for our children. Besides, it avails text and exercise books to them free of charge, and school uniforms. This has alleviated the economic difficulties facing many of the farmers,” he adds.

Despite the challenges, there is another thing which eggs on the grape farmers, he says. And that is the fact that the grape they produce is of high quality and is capable of producing the best wines in the world.

“We often feel proud when we see the wine coming from the grapes we produce though many of us do not use the drink because we do not have the purchasing power to buy it,” he says.

For his part, agricultural researcher with Makutopora Viticulture Training and Research Centre (MVTRC) Reon Mrosso says, the centre has been working together with the farmers in a move to empower them to increase the quality of vine production.

Commending the firms that work with the farmers, he says,” most of the challenges facing them include the meagre earnings from what they produce. So if they manage to strike better deals, the kind of TDL’s to empower more farmers, production of grapes will change and make the farmer’s livelihoods better.”

He urged investors who are ready to assist the government and farmers in growing grape agriculture to come up because the sector still has many opportunities, adding that in the farming there are abundant ways to grow the economy.

TDL wine quality manager Jacob Mwevika says Dodoma Region still has more opportunities for grape farming because there is ample land and conducive weather, adding that production at the moment is still far below market demand.

He says TBL Group has embarked on an agricultural value chain that links the farmers, extension service officers, wine brewers and the input suppliers to grow the economy of the crop.

It is in view of this that more farmers are now taking up grape farming, he says, and that the Group is working with respective authorities to import better seeds from South Africa in a drive to enable the growers produce grapes of different varieties. The new varieties could also be used as food.

“The increase in better seeds is one of the things that will bolster the growth of the grape economy, reduce poverty and change the standards of living of the farmers,” Mwavika said.

More than 700 grape farmers in the region have benefitted out of this investor-farmer arrangement. Under the deal there is an increase in grape production and more supplies to the wine brewers on one hand. On the other, the farmers’ farms in the rural fold are qualitatively changing.

The strategy is under implementation in Bihawana, Mpunguzi, Mvumi, Hombolo, Mbabala, Veyula, Makang’wa, Mzakwe and Mbalawala villages.Also under the implementation of the strategy the farmers get training on modern farming by MVTRC.

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