Dar es Salaam. Agriculture programme supported by the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in collaboration with other partners has transformed livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Lindi and Mtwara regions who have managed to save Sh120 billion in three years.
AKF’s multi-sectoral Coastal Rural Support Program has been working in partnership with regional and district governments since 2009 to improve and increase agriculture production, facilitate market connections, and support access to finance. Speaking on the sidelines of the seminar on making markets inclusive for smallholder farmers, the executive director of Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT), Mr Sosthenes Kewe said that being one of the project partners they were happy to see that 178,000 smallholder farmers have graduated from poverty and are now raising billions of shillings through informal savings groups.
For three years, the AKF in collaboration with FSDT, the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and European Union had been providing training for poor farmers to run projects through savings groups of between 10 and 25 persons.
The country director of AKF Mr Abid Mallick said; “We are not providing cash at all but we are training poor farmers on how to raise money for running their own undertakings such as looking for better markets for their crops, running community-based irrigation schemes, building better houses and financing education for their children.”
According to him, they have witnessed threefold increase in rice yields just by farmers adopting correct agronomic practices without depending on direct cash support from donors.
“Over 150 local entrepreneurs with training supported by AKF have established agro-input supply businesses and selling inputs at the farm-gate level. Resilience has improved, as over 178,000 individuals mobilized in savings group are saving regularly,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries of the project in Lindi, Ms Mwanahamis Saidi who is under savings group known as CBSG said that before the project her family was in abject poverty but now they have managed to send the children to better schools, maintain food security and are now constructing a modern house.
In his opening speech the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Mr William Ole Nasha said that the government would continue to support smallholder farmers, lifting them from poverty strings to better livelihoods.
“Our goal is to make agriculture practice resilient, inclusive, and efficient and market responsive throughout the country,” he said.