It’s taken half a century to do something this simple

BBC NEWS | Africa | Can Tanzania reap bumper harvests?

Generally, traders come directly to farmers to offer a price. Farmers are forced to accept either because lack of good roads and affordable transportation means they can only sell locally, or they do not know what the market rate is….

Many sell at a low price simply because, like Mr Chacha, they need money immediately.

It creates a vicious circle where farmers are unable to improve their crop yield by buying better seeds and fertiliser because they are getting such little money for their produce.

On average, small-holding farmers in Africa get only a third of the yield per hectare of farmers in other parts of the world.

A project designed to help small-scale farmers in Tanzania is an example of the basic interventions that could help bring about a “green revolution”.

“We are helping farmers so much,” says Joshua Mwankunda, acting programme co-ordinator for the Agricultural Marketing Systems Development Programme (AMSDP).

“There has been a tremendous increase in yield since we started working in 2002.”

The project helps farmers by facilitating small loans to allow the purchase of high-yield seeds, machinery and fertiliser, and crucially has improved participating farmers’ access to markets.

“Since AMSDP built the canal next to the paddies I know farmers who get 50 bags per acre from that high-yield rice instead of my 25. That would help me and my family very much.”

Another important addition has been the role of “market spies” – mkulima shu shu shu in Swahili.

“I go to the villages trying to find the prices of rice or other crops and I put it on the board so that the farmers can know the price it’s being sold at,” says Stanley Mchome, the mkulima shu shu shu for Magugu village.

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