Executive director of the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO), Revocatus Kimario says the world is currently experiencing several challenges brought by the pandemic, urging farmers to change and start thinking on the major products with high demand globally.
He says that even though Covid-19, has affected almost all sectors across the globe, Tanzanian farmers can still continue to reap big if they invest their efforts in producing what people needs in the meantime.
“We have to be creative; we should stop complaining at all, there is still a very big opportunity for farmers and traders to benefit from horticulture despite COVID-19 challenges,” Kimario told ‘The Guardian’ in an exclusive interview.
He wants the farmers to form groups and take advantage of the ongoing mega projects in the country to supply their produce.
According to him, SUGECO has conducted a study and found that Tanzania has a very huge market of fresh produce which is yet to be filled by local farmers and traders.
He says that the survey found that there is high demand for spices, veggies and fresh fish but still local farmers and traders were decrying the lack of market.
According to Kimario, the majority of farmers think that sending their produce abroad is the most payable business, a perception which needs to be changed.
“Farmers should now start engaging on high valued crops like vegetables, short-time fruits, mushrooms, aquaculture and poultry in the areas where they are and they can experience good profit thus transforming their lives,” he says.
He acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected farmers and traders due to several measures taken by countries including lockdowns, travel restrictions and closing of borders where the majority of farmers are facing challenges in transporting their produce.
Kimario says that the country needs to undergo youth mindset transformation to change their negative perceptions towards agriculture in a bid to attract more youths in agribusiness undertakings, a move that will curb the current unemployment challenge.
According to him, this can be done through provision of education to youth on entrepreneurship initiatives through training, practical field work and making easy access to capital through provision of loans with lower interest rates and grants to attract their effective involvement in the agribusiness.
“SUGECO is doing its best to change youth mindset on agriculture, we have trained a number of Tanzanians in the country that managed to transform their lives through embarking on modern agriculture, so I hope if these efforts will be accelerated, the country could witness rapid change of the sector,” he says.
Janet Maro, executive director of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) urges farmers to first conduct a market survey before embarking on cultivating a certain crop.
She says it is better for the farmers to spend time, walk around or search on the internet to see what the market needs the most at the particular time.
“As the Word is grappling to fight the second wave of Covid-19, majority of global markets are accessible due to travel restrictions and other conditions, but still Tanzania farmers can earn a lot in the local market, there is high demand of fresh produce in our markets, so I advise farmers to be innovative and produce what can be sold easily,” she says.
He named some of the farm produce which have high demand now in the market as species, nutritional flour, peas, sunflower oil, brown rice, beetroots and other organic food products.
Maro says that in its several projects to support farmers, SAT is currently working with some 857 small holder farmers in Mvomero, Morogoro Rural supporting them to conduct organic farming and thus connect them to markets.
Lucas Ngandi, an onion farmer in Mang’ola, Morogoro says several horticultural producers might consider turning to growing less risky crops due to challenges in the market.
According to him, the just ended onion harvest season has been a mess for him as he has ended up getting losses due to challenges in the market price.
President John Magufuli in his several public speeches has been emphasizing Tanzanians to keep working hard, saying those that have decided to lockdown their countries will need food from Tanzania.
He wants Tanzanians to invest more efforts in farms so as to produce enough food to feed the country and others for export.
“We may not see the impact at present but I am sure, there will be a serious food shortage in the coming years because demand will be high in countries that are on lockup. Demand will be high there because their people have stopped being productive... That will be the right time for those of us who work hard to help our colleagues because they will have no food,” he said.
In its report dubbed ‘Impact of COVID-19 on agriculture, food systems and rural livelihoods in Eastern Africa issued last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) urged countries to maintain open borders for the trade of goods and services (including agricultural inputs), especially for critical value chains while ensuring sanitary and human health inspections amid Covid-19 pandemic.
The FAO also urged for countries to also guarantee the safe movement of agricultural workers, including pastoralists within countries and across borders in compliance with international standards and national public health guidelines. In essence, policies should ensure access to goods and services while reducing risks of transmission.
The organization also advised countries to enhance access to digital technologies and services and encourage their use to minimize face-to-face transactions while allowing provision of a wide range of market-oriented services along the value chain.
Cognizant of the digital divide between rural and urban areas, policies should promote different actors (public sector, private sector and civil society organizations) to support farmers’ production and marketing activities and raise communities’ awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic.