Working together to develop the potato sector in Tanzania
The potato harvest in Tanzania is five times lower per hectare than the yields in the Netherlands. An increase in production is needed to feed the growing population. In 2017, a successful Dutch/Tanzanian project started up a demo farm in the region to optimise production and exchange knowledge on potato production.
The potato production in Tanzania is a large agricultural subsector. In the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, where 90% of the potato farms are located, in total close to 220.000 hectares (see figure 1). In comparison: in the Netherlands almost 170.000 hectares of potatoes are harvested yearly. Notable is that the seed potato sector in Tanzania is small compared to the total potato sector. Almost all farmers keep and use their own seed potatoes (‘farm saved seed’) which is mostly of poor quality. The average yield in Tanzania is estimated to be of 8 to 10 tons per hectare, while in the Netherlands the average yield is approximately 45 tons per hectare. The expected population growth in Tanzania will most likely result in a drastic growth in demand for nutritious crops. Therefore, the demand of potatoes probably grow immensely and an increase in production is of high importance.
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The CD-PIT project
To support Tanzania with increasing its yield, the CD-PIT-project (Center for Development of the Potato Industry Tanzania) was setup in 2017. The project is one of the outcomes of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Tanzanian and Dutch government. In the MoU, cooperation between both governments has been recorded for the development of the potato sector in Tanzania. With a special focus on Dutch and Tanzanian businesses. The companies involved in the project work together in the different chains of the potato value chain.
Multiple companies are involved in the CD-PIT project, three potato trading companies (Agrico, Europlant and HZPC) offer new potato varieties, including cultivation and harvesting advice, Bayer supplies knowledge on crop protection, for the mechanisation of cultivation and harvesting Grimme is involved, Hanse Agrostore offers smart solutions for the procurement of potatoes and finally, Yara Tanzania is involved as fertilization specialist.
Together with cultivation, harvesting and sector specialists of Wageningen University & Research, Aeres Hogeschool and Pioneers Consulting, methods are being made to boost knowledge transfers in the field of potato varieties, crop management and entrepreneurship in Tanzania. To make the knowledge transfers successful, an organisation employing Tanzanian specialists on crop management and condition was set up in Mbeya, called Stawisha.
Central role for the demo farm
Next to the Stawisha office in Mbeya, the CD-PIT project has a farm of 20 hectares where, due to irrigation, potatoes are harvested twice a year. The farm has a multiple purposes. First of all, the goal is to research the possibility for an optimal yield in specific circumstances. Secondly, the farm plays an important role in the knowledge transfer, ‘seeing is believing’ as they say in Dutch.
On the farm, there are multiple demonstration fields that demonstrate all available Dutch varieties in Tanzania. Besides the different varieties, two different fertilisation regimes are implemented on the plots. One is typically used in Tanzania and the other one derived from Dutch standards. The previous harvests from the demonstration fields show that, the Dutch fertilisation regime result in the yield to be higher. After several harvests with the right variations and fertilizing regimes, the results paid off, harvesting a similar yield to the Dutch average from the Tanzanian demonstration plots.
Many visitors and knowledge transfers
During the first two years, close to one thousand farmers have visited the farm and the expectations are that these number will rise even further. Besides the variety demonstrations, crop management and protection, soil and fertilizing, and harvest techniques have been introduced to the visitors. Grimme, provided the farm with a small fleet of machinery. As part of the program, these machines are being demonstrated with explanations and information about how these machines have to be used and adjusted to the local setting.
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The position of the demo farm will become more important in the future. At the moment, the team is working on the realisation of a field visitors center, where they will give courses and symposia for the visitors. Recently a storage for potato has been delivered and is installed by Hanse Agrostore. This storage shows that it is possible for potatoes to be stored for three to four months in order to be sold for a better price later in the season.
Demo fields in the region
The second step for the CD-PIT project knowledge transfers, is the creation of demo fields in the region. During the rainy season of 2019, six demos have been established in the regions of Njombe, Iringa and Mbeya. Per demo, a group of thirty to sixty farmers are involved. The land for the demo fields are made available by these farmers. Four to five times during the cultivation of the crop, participants gathered on the plot to expand their knowledge on the choices that will have to be made (or have been made) on crop management. In fact, these farmer groups are study groups that discuss together the considerations that come with potato farming. The projects tries to connect with so-called AMCOS (Agricultural & Marketing Cooperatives Societies) as much as possible since these are already established and are known for their large member base. Because of that, it becomes easier to reach a larger range of farmers. Also, these AMCOS normally have more possibilities to invest in more advanced machinery and equipment then individual farmers.
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Extension officers are being trained
All activities for CD-PIT are focused on farmers. However, in the project, there is also attention brought upon future Tanzanian entrepreneurs, extension officers and consultants. Due to an additional budget made available by the Orange Knowledge Program (OKP) by NUFFIC, from the Netherlands, ten extension officers received a TMT training (Tailor Made Trainings) in Mbeya. The participants have been trained in all of the aspects of the potato value chain: from cultivation, preservation and marketing, to processing. These agri-consultants will be able to support (future) entrepreneurs, but shall also be shown their expertise with other agri-consultants.
One of the goals of the project is to develop a curriculum for two schools in Mbeya: MATI, an agricultural high school, and MUST, an institution for higher education. This curriculum aims at addressing the second phase of the potato value chain, mainly business and processing. The curriculum project part of TMT+ by NUFFIC has been approved and will be started in October of 2019 and will run for the next two years.
The potential of the potato sector in Tanzania is huge. Several steps are made towards increased efficiency and therefore higher yields. This development will most likely result in increased investment opportunities for farmers and therefore the sales of new potato varieties and mechanisation. The partners trust that this project will boost the Tanzanian potato sector and will result in a sustainable relationship between the Tanzanian and Dutch businesses.
For questions about the CD-PIT-project, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Agriculture Department of Tanzania, Agricultural Counsellor Ingrid Korving via email@example.com. The Agriculture Department gives regular updates on the developments in the agriculture sector in Tanzania, via our website, twitter @NLAgriKenya and a newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wageningen Plant Research (Field Crops)