Tackling Family Farmers’ Challenges through Organized MVIWATA Grassroots Networks in Njombe District.

Many times enormous amounts of resources are invested to generate solutions to crises facing smallholder farmers that are never adopted. A timely intervention against challenges early identified by rural family farmers themselves, allows farmers to observe the effectiveness of their approach.

MVIWATA through its established grassroots networks has adopted this methodology ever since its establishment.  The methodology puts family farmers in the leading role in addressing his/her challenges in collaboration with fellow family farmers, which makes it much more dynamic and efficient.

Smallholder farmers and members of MVIWATA in Njombe District in the southern highlands of Tanzania are engaged in a variety of cash and food crops. The members of MVIWATA are developing and adopting a number of solutions to counter the challenges facing them using the established grassroots networks through their unity and solidarity under MVIWATA’s slogan MTETEZI WA MKULIMA NI MKULIMA MWENYEWE (The defender of a farmer is the farmer).  

With eight (8) grassroots networks in the district, namely Mtwango, Lyamkena, Kichiwa, Yakobi, Mlowa, Igongolo, Lupembe and Njombe Mji. MVIWATA Njombe district network has 1,206 members (804 men, 402 women) from 131 groups. These members own an average of 3,648 hectares of trees in the district as per the conducted survey.

The Mtwango grassroots network of MVIWATA in Njombe district exemplary has a total of 61 family farmers’ groups engaged in credits and loans (VICOBA and SACCOS), Tree nurseries and planting, Beekeeping, Small and Medium Enterprises (juices and carpentry) and collective selling of crops and buying of inputs.

Interventions conducted by MVIWATA in addressing the challenges.

Since the commencement of MVIWATA interventions in Njombe district in 2007, members, promoters and facilitators with the aim of addressing family farmers’ challenges have implemented different activities. These activities includes capacity building on leadership and advocacy in defending farmers’ interests, collective actions on markets and inputs, trainings on establishment and management of farmers’ credits and loan groups, construction of seed bank with the aim of preserving farmers’ seeds and indigenous knowledge.

Other interventions includes beekeeping, tree planting and livestock keeping activities of the family farmers.

Through the implementation of these activities, financial stability and sustainability of the family farmers have been assured through selling farmers’ crops like sweet potatoes, maize, beans, honey, avocados. In addition, timely availability of quality inputs and the control of misuse of weight and unit measurements during selling of farmers’ crops have been influenced.

MVIWATA grassroots’ interventions that involves exchange visits and meetings between farmers, promoters and cooperatives, provides a forum of learning about the practices, skills, experiences, and improvements made by other farmers and promoters. This aspect of stimulating and socializing knowledge is part of the strategies of MVIWATA, as is the commitment to apply this knowledge in other farms by farmers.

Forexample, Mkombozi family farmers’ group has 40 beehives located in itunduma village in Mtwango ward. Different neighboring farmers’ groups and network pay visit to Mkombozi group to learn and adopt beekeeping skills.

Likewise,  Umoja A, Sinai and UWAPA groups engaged in tree nurseries and planting, having demonstration plots for avocado seedlings, pines and eucalyptus have benefited more than 300 family farmers’ apart from the group’s members. The groups also have managed to plant 6,500 avocado seedlings.

With the facilitators and trained promoters, family farmers engaged with tree planting have been capacitated to realize the value of their timber products using simple and friendly technology. So far, 190.5 acres of pine and eucalyptus trees owned by farmers 113 (49 women, 64 men) have been assessed by the farmers themselves.

These family farmers’ networks and groups interventions in Njombe district has played a great role in tackling challenges facing smallholder farmers in Njombe. Other observable benefits includes established garage that is involved in processing of wooden furniture’s, through which they provide services to the community, and the processing unit acts as a market for timber growers in Mtwango ward.

The grassroots networks have also created a single joint supplier of maize. They have been able to sell collectively an average of 440 tons of maize to National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) per annum. Likewise, environmental conservation initiatives through planting of avocado, pines and eucalyptus trees has enhanced the sustainability of farmers’ grassroots networks in Njombe district.  

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