Tanga. Maize production in various areas of Tanga has more than doubled during the past year as farmers adopt modern farming practices, thanks to joint promotional initiatives by the government and other stakeholders.
One of such stakeholders is Farm Radio International (FRI), a non-profit organisation that works to deliver effective programmes to serve small-scale farmers through radio.
FRI is implementing a project known as “UPTAKE” with financial support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under the New Alliance ICT Extension Fund Activity.
According to the FRI regional programme manager for East and Southern Africa, Mr Rex Chapota, the organisation supports broadcasters so that they can provide radio services, which will help share knowledge and augment the voices of small-scale farmers, their families and their communities.
“Ultimately, this will bring prosperity and food security among the small scale farmers. We work to ensure that every small-scale farmer has access to a radio programme,” he said.
And in Muheza District, for instance, a total of 35,342 tonnes of maize were harvested during the 2017/18 season, up from only 12,201 tonnes that were harvested during the 2016/17 season, according to the Muheza district crop officer, Mr Idrisa Kijazi.
“Apart from rains, this was largely due to the various initiatives that were implemented by the government and other stakeholders….We work with stakeholders who bring us improved seeds and other inputs as well as with FRI who complement the government’s initiative of sending the relevant education to farmers,” he said. Muheza has a total of 135 villages that are served by only 37 extension officers. “This is why FRI’s radio programmes are valuable to us,” said the district’s acting agricultural officer, Mr Hoyange Mmbambo.
With support from FRI, at least five groups in Muheza, Handeni, Korogwe and Kilindi, have been given solar-powered radios through which they get educative programmes on how they can shift from the traditional way of farming to modern ways. The programmes are aired on the Korogwe-based Voice of Africa radio station.
According to the coordinator for Tanzania Agriculture Partnership (TAP), Ms Asha Mbelwa, each group has between 10 and 60 farmers.
“It has been quite good and that is why we are now focusing on agricultural value chain as we go into the second phase of the programme,” she said.
Ms Mwashamba Mustafa, a farmer and secretary for Umoja ni Kazi group at Msonga Kibaoni area in Tanga, said it was largely due to FRI’s project that the villagers in the area can produce sufficient food.
“As soon as we started the group in 2016, we immediately initiated a demonstration farm. For the first time, we were able to produce 27 bags, each weighing between 100 and 120 kilograms, from our group’s one-acre farm,” she said noting that the maize bags were kept to beef up the 25-member group’s food security endeavours.
Each member, she said, also harvested twice as much as the preceding year from their farms.
Mr Peter Shirima, who is the treasurer for Mkombozi Group of Kwachaga ward in Handeni district managed to harvest 150 maize bags from his 5-acre farm in 2017/18. “This has never happened before. I used to harvest between 50 and 70 bags from the farm before I started taking this education seriously,” he said. Ms Zaina Mbena and Mr Suleiman Kajembe from the same group shared similar sentiments. The group has a total of 30 farmers.
Members of Nderemo Group of Nkama village, Kilindi district also have a number of success stories to tell. “We came to know FRI through TAP and since then, the going has been good. Currently, one is assured of harvesting between 20 and 25 bags per acre but in the past, we could yield only a maximum of three bags,” said Ms Jane Lumambo, the group secretary.
Having tasted the benefits of the project, farmers now want FRI to bring more radio sets and to ensure that it works with more and more stations. “This will ensure that the education extends to an increased number of farmers as FRI complements on our efforts,” said the agricultural officer for Kilindi district, Ms Seif Sempanga, echoing the sentiments that were also aired by an extension officer for Kwachaga ward in Handeni, Mr Deogratious Masanja.