In 2017, the Aga Khan Foundation’s (AKF) farm livelihoods and natural resources management interventions benefitted over one million people worldwide. In Tanzania, an AKF staff member met with one of those farmers to learn how he is working with local smallholder farmers to create an agricultural model where everyone benefits.
Nickson “Nick” Mlowe, a 26-year-old Tanzanian farmer from Mtwara, is a very busy man. In one moment, he’s ploughing fields. The next, he’s fixing farm equipment. A fractured melody of barked orders bounces off the dirt road as we venture onto his property. As we proceed, it becomes clear that our presence is throwing a spanner in the works of a perfectly functioning, albeit wonderfully chaotic, machine. Still, Nick greets us warmly and ushers us towards a set of four steps leading into an adjacent building. I look around, wondering why we have stopped here, before my guide clarifies with a wry smile, “This is our field office. Have a seat!”
Nick is the farm manager at Changarawe, a 40-acre farm. He arrived at Changarawe by way of the Sokoine University of Agriculture, in Morogoro, about 200 kilometres from Dar es Salaam. Today, under Nick’s supervision, Changarawe produces sweet peppers, green, red and yellow capsicum, tomatoes and watermelon.
A few years ago, Nick and Changarawe faced major challenges when it came to producing red capsicum, for which there is growing demand in Tanzania. At the time, Nick estimated that Changarawe produced about 1,000 kilogrammes of capsicum per month. Limited access to markets meant that approximately 30% of the harvest was being lost to spoilage – a monetary loss of approximately 450,000 Tanzanian Shillings (US$ 195) per type of capsicum per month. Another challenge was a lack of technical knowledge amongst farm staff, particularly around greenhouse management – a crucial element to the successful cultivation of capsicum.
As part of its GIZ-funded Food Value Chain Development Project, the Aga Khan Foundation connected Nick with Ramosh, a buyer in Dar es Salaam. Today, as a result, the farm is able to move produce to market much faster. Impressed by the quality of Changarawe’s product, Ramosh is now sourcing one megatonne of capsicum per week from the farm and has expressed interest in purchasing butternut squash, beetroot, sweet melon, English cucumber and eggplant.
All five of Changarawe’s greenhouses are now at maximum capacity and, with the support of the Foundation, Nick is partnering with nearby smallholder farmers to meet this growing demand. If Changarawe is able to produce all of these products at scale, Ramosh has indicated that it will source all of its produce from Nick’s farm.
In addition to connecting supply with demand, AKF and the district government are keen to ensure that the knowledge transfer of best farming and distribution practices are widespread. Not only do the smallholders assist Nick in meeting his quota, but the farmers from the area also come to Changarawe to learn. The model envisioned by the community is one whereby local smallholder farmers sell to Changarawe, who in turn sell to Ramosh. AKF is currently in the process of securing widespread smallholder farmer participation. The aim is to make farms like Changarawe become local economic engines that catalyse significant increases in production, local employment and incomes for smallholder farmers.
Nick’s determination is infectious as we chat – his unyielding desire to continue moving forward exemplifies his entrepreneurial spirit.
There is an African proverb that echoes around Changarawe: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The farm sees itself not only as a promising business, but also as the heartbeat of a district, and an economic engine infusing life into the hearts and homes of smallholder farmers and labourers. Creating shared value means Changarawe’s progress is everyone’s progress. Its growth is inclusive. In a world where most of the poor are smallholder farmers, this model offers hope for a better quality of life for Mtwara’s poorest farmers. Changarawe and its smallholder farmers can go far together.
Support for Nickson is implemented under the Food Value Chain Development Project (Kilimo ni Biashara), a 3-year project under the GIZ programme E4D/SOGA and financed by UKAID, Norad, LNG Plant Project, and the German Government. The project creates and facilitates economic opportunities for smallholder farmers and businesses to produce, process, and provide food for external markets, with a focus on the natural resource industry.
This article was originally published on the AKF UK website.