Located on the northern tip of Lake Nyasa, Kyela is 915.4 Km from the commercial capital Dar es Salaam and it is well-known for producing taste, aromatic rice and organic cocoa.
The production of rice in Kyela is mainly favored by its geographical location and weather. Rivers such as Mbaka, Kiwira, Lufilyo and Songwe flowing into Lake Nyasa all cross through Kyela. This makes the district constantly have wet land that is suitable for rice production. Apart from rice, Kyela also produces other crops like bananas, cashew nuts, beans, and water melon.
Farming activities are dominated by smallholder farmers, in the district with a population of 221,490 as per the 2012 census.
But farmers, estimated to be more than 200,000, are still mired in poverty due to a number of challenges including limited application of fertilizers to farms.
“Shortage of fertilizers has been failing our crops thus we do not get enough yields,” says Tuliza Kisambwe, when wadding off birds, in her seven acres of rice in the area.
It is four kilometres from her village to the district headquarters, so in the 20017/2018 farming season Kisambwe, who is a widow and mother of five in Kapamisya village, was forced to hire motorcycles to buy fertilisers, but, when she reached there she was told that there was no fertilizer.
“There are no agro-dealers around this area and during this harvesting season we are to harvest very little we did not apply fertilizers in our fields and the elements have not been in our favour as there were limited rains,” laments Kisambwe who relies on farming to support her family.
Another farmer in the area, John Mwakipesile, said that it does not make sense for the government to spend billions of shillings to import fertilizers which, at the end of the day, do not reach farmers.
He therefore suggested for the establishment of a better system to supply fertilizers so that it reaches farmers on time.
"The current system doesn’t help farmers despite the fact that the district is blessed with good soil that produce the best rice in Tanzania and perhaps the East African region,” says Mwakipesile, a former Kyela MP.
Owning a three-acre farm of rice and two acres of cocoa, Lutusyo Mwalwebo of Lukuyu Ward in the district expresses his disappointment on the difficulty he has been facing to get fertilizers in the area.
“I know the importance of using fertilizers, but the challenge is where to get it,” Mwalwebo says, revealing that sometimes he’s forced to travel as far as ten kilometres to the district headquarters to look for fertilizers.
“And when you reach there you find the price has been exorbitantly inflated,” he adds.
According to the farmer, this season he had cultivated 3.5 acres of paddy but used only one bag of diammonium phosphate (DAP) for planting, as UREA and calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN), which are used for top dressing and flowering and tussling, were not available.
“By the time the fertilizers came it was too late, because every stage is critical in farming,” he says, suggesting the need to bring back the former system whereby farmers used vouchers to get fertilizers.
With the 2017/18 indicative price, farmers in Kyela were expected to save 22,000/- per 50kgs; as a bag of DAP were to be sold at 54,289/- compared to the previous 79,375/- but they say that they are buying at 70,000/- per bag of 50kgs.
As per the indicative price, a bag of 50kgs of UREA fertilizer was supposed to be sold at 41,710/- from an average of 64,285/-.
“To us, this was a huge relief, but when in reality that has not been the case because in the areas where the fertilizers are available the prices are too high compared to the indicative prices due to the shortage,” says Mwalebo.
Farmers in Kyela district are said to be buying farmers at such inflated prices compared to all other districts in southern highlands regions of Mbeya, Iringa, Ruvuma, Rukwa and Njombe.
Lwimiko Mwaipopo, chairman of Makwale irrigation scheme, said through different trainings offered by different institutions including the district’s agricultural department, production has increased per acre as well as making them to grow rice twice a year.
Theodra Pila, member of the National Network of Small-Scale Farmers Groups in Tanzania (MVIWATA) in Kyela advised the government to come up with a better system that will make farmers get farm inputs on time.
“It is also important for the government to come up with a system that will make farmers sell at good prices as well as provide opportunities for them to export their produce for better returns,” he said.
Agricultural officer with Mtenda Rice Ltd, Caroline John, also encourages farmers to acquire education on modern rice farming for high productivity.
Dr Hunter Mwakifuna, District Council chairman also advises farmers to refrain from ordinary farming and venture into modern farming, which ensures better yields.
Authorities in the district have called on fertilizer suppliers to adhere to regulations and sell the fertilizer at indicative prices, warning them from selling the commodity at higher prices that farmer cannot afford.
Claudia Kitta, Kyela District Commissioner admits on the challenge, saying the government has this year decided to change from the previous warehouse receipt system to enable farmers purchase agricultural inputs direct from shops.