Israel experience ‘a game changer’ for Morogoro farmers

What you need to know:

  • They learned different farming techniques such as drip irrigation, the use of integrated pests management (IPM), competitive fertiliser application system and more crop management.

Dar es Salaam. Experience from Israel and passion for agriculture have helped Yohana Iteyo (32) to drop the notion many youth still embrace that farming is for those who did not go to school.
Born and raised at the Idodyandole Village in Manyoni District, Singida Region, Mr Iteyo and his co-partner Novatus Karebo went to Israel for a 12-month internship in 2016, where they learned new commercial farming skills.
The experience, together with the use of modern farming technologies, has enabled them to practically show commercial farming and change the mindset of the youth.
They learned different farming techniques such as drip irrigation, the use of integrated pests management (IPM), competitive fertiliser application system and more crop management.
Mr Iteyo - who graduated from the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) Horticulture science in 2017 - says the experience built him passion in agriculture and especially horticulture, and now he is a role model to other young people who believe in self-employment. He believes horticultural produces have quick and high returns due to their high demand. Their short production cycle and enormous health benefits.
He started with initial capital of Sh4 million invested in a farm that was fully covered with outdoor indeterminate tomatoes where Mr Iteyo and his colleague were and are still supervising and managing.
Today, over 2,000 youth have benefited from their practices in a sense that some have been impacted directly through regular training while others have been and are still part of crucial daily working team. “We have registered our company under the name of ‘Feelmore Agro-Investment Ltd,’ although for some reasons, operations are yet to be reflected under its name. But, we hope things will be fine next year,” he says.

Why farming
“I decided to engage in agriculture because farming will probably remain the major economic activity in majority of rural families including Idodyandole where I was born and raised,” he stresses.
At the age of 17, while in secondary school, he started a garden of vegetables just to make sure that he gets hands-on experience. “From that point, I developed earnest interest and passion in farming and all that followed aimed sharpening my skills and knowledge in farming different crops and I am today thankful that I am at this level of which I stand firmly saying my dream came true.”
“I grew up seeing everybody engaging in farming for some common reasons including food security, but also economic reasons. So, I decided to chip into horticultural farming due to its quick and high returns triggered by huge demand, the short production cycle, and healthy benefits,” he said.

How he started
“Right from October 2017 upon my return from Israel internship, I started farming tomatoes and onions at Kingolwira-Morogoro using Israel farming techniques that took me to the stages of being part of the agribusiness mega projects from Prime Minister’s office as site consultant coordinated by Sugeco that was dealing with training of a group of about 1,500 youthful farmers in Lindi and Ruvuma regions on the use of modern farming technologies more of greenhouses and the use of drip irrigation systems aiming at optimising farm resources for profit generation.

During my stay and supervision of PMO’s project, we observed that many youth were less interested with farming due to the mindset that farming is just a way of life and a few could tell that agriculture can be business. Many considered agriculture as an exhausting and dirty sector that can be done by old people to sustain their families,” he says.
“Thank God our stay managed to help change many youth’s mindset and now they are doing it as business for their livelihood. In my view together with my farming experience to date, agriculture especially horticulture pays, only that it needs the solid commitment, the use of science and technology in farming, but also flexible mind in running agri-projects that in most cases are affected by weather, seasonality together with the forces of demand and supply.”
“After people saw the creativity, I found myself spending a lot of time around the fields teaching farmers best agriculture “So there is more money from consultation than direct farming for us, although we have bought the land in Zanka Village in Dodoma to establish our own farms and training centre. Many people are already showing interest,” he said.
He quit private farming in 2017 after he realised that consultation pays him more than getting himself fully attached with his farm work and now he and his colleague are officially at Kondoa Catholic diocese supervising all agribusiness related projects while still offering private consultancy to all in need.

Marketing, production and beneficiaries
Commercially, he is producing tomatoes (both indeterminate and determinate varieties) for the local market around Kondoa and Dodoma, although sometimes they have customers to whom they supply their products in Pemba.
Thy have also started hunting for markets around neighboring countries but the results are not yet..
“On a high season we sell over 14 tonnes a month while six tonnes are an average amount of tomatoes we sell during a low season.”
“Kondoa has less sustainable farmers dealing with tomatoes and the likes, so what we do is to make sure we maintain quality and freshness so that we can win competition against traders supplying tomatoes from neighboring regions mostly Iringa, Babati and Moshi,” he says.
At the beginning, they were able to raise Sh500,000 from tomatoes direct sales but now they are able to accrue an average of Sh1.8 million a week, depending on time of production season.
“Now because of the perishability nature of horticultural crops in relation to the challenge of storage capacity, we usually make a selling plan that allows us to pick and sell at the very same day and that is only possible because we don’t have many farmers around Kondoa. Moreover we invest in quality seeds that have a longer shelf life (21 days) from picking day given they were well managed while in the field.”
For now, the main challenges experienced in agriculture include unreliable markets, lack of timely agri-information from agronomists and respective authorities, unpredictable rise in input prices with no or less correlation with prices of produce, less availability of highly productive and competitive crop varieties.