Taha, UNDP championing smart horticulture among smallholder farmers

19Nov 2019
The Guardian
Taha, UNDP championing smart horticulture among smallholder farmers

IN Busega district of Simiyu region, a group of smallholder subsistence farmers are learning new horticulture farming techniques thanks to a partnership between United Nations Development Program and Tanzania Horticultural Association.

One of horticulture demo plots under preparation in Busega district. Photo: Guardian Photographer.

Most of the farmers have never seen smart farming before hence are eager to find out exactly how new concepts and technologies will help revolutionise their traditional agriculture practices.

Mwamanyiri Village Chairman, who is playing host to the demonstration plot, Mashauri Bogohe is excited with the new smart farming techniques saying the villagers are grateful to Taha and UNDP for the initiative.

“We’ve abundant land and water, but we didn’t have the knowledge and technology to produce high value horticulture commodities on a commercial scale. We are inspired and will apply the knowledge and technology gained here on our own farms,” Bogohe said.

The demonstration plot at Mwamanyiri Village is one of several others that Taha designed in Busega and Bunda districts of Simiyu and Mara regions, respectively, as part of a broader project to propagate modern horticultural techniques and innovations thanks to UNDP funding through a Connecting Youth and Women to Sustainable Agriculture project.

“We have been growing tomatoes using traditional methods, but Taha’s techniques and technologies are new to us. It is very smart,” said Theresa Masorwa, from Inuka na Bustani farmers group in the village.

Commenting on progress thus far being made under the project, Taha’s Agronomist, Ellard Tarimo said within the next three, the demonstrations plots will bear bigger tomatoes, watermelons, papayas and green leaf vegetables, compared to what the farmers normally get under traditional farming methods.

Tarimo said the two districts have a huge potential for horticulture production although historically the majority of smallholder farmers have been focusing on fishing and livestock keeping as their main economic undertakings.

“Despite the huge potential that Busenga and Bunda have, there is neither an agriculture estate nor crops processing industry,” lamented Tarimo who expressed home that the untapped potential will soon be unleashed and provide much-needed horticultural produce to the lucrative Lake Zone market.

Like any other places in the country, Busega and Bunda women and youth face a number of challenges limiting their participation in horticultural value chain activities. They include inaccessibility to capital, information and knowledge on production and markets as well as partial access to technologies.

Taha’s Project Coordinator, Monna Sitayo said her organisation has through the UNDP funded Connecting Youth and Women to Sustainable Agriculture project, identified, mobilised and mapped out youth and women groups which have been integrated into extension systems to provide them with reliable services they need to modernise their horticulture farming.

“We will further identify and profile youth and women who efficiently apply appropriate practices and technologies as role models to catalyse their peers’ involvement in horticulture farming,” Sitayo told journalists on a field visit to Busega and Bunda recently.

Through the project, 775 farmers in Busega and Bunda districts have been mobilised. Others are in Arumeru, Siha, Moshi Rural and Same districts.

Sitayo noted that 266 out of the  775 farmers, have been trained on good agricultural practices and they include 54 in Arumeru, 92 in Bunda and Busega districts, 60 in Same, 20 in Siha and 40 in Moshi Rural.

It has also been promoting use of bio-pesticides and biological control agents, and linking up farmers with service providers to ease access to improved, quality and affordable inputs. “We’ve successfully established 17 fully-fledged demonstration plots and developed water infrastructure to facilitate crops production,” she added.

New data indicated that Taha supported farmers have increased yields up to between 300 and 400 percent in the past decade, depending on the type of crops, technologies applied and geographical areas.