- “Our greatest strength is our people. TDL is the largest wine producer in Tanzania and the largest consumer of grapes in the country. The company has been pioneering the development of the Tanzanian wine industry, a commitment which includes the support of local grape farmers,” – Timea Chogo, Commercial Director at the Tanzania Distillers Limited (TDL).
By MILLICENT MWOLOLO
In this Q&A, TIMEA CHOGO, Commercial Director at TDL stresses on the value that TBL places on smallholder farmers through continual training and support to improve yields and grow incomes.
Why are smallholder farmers a critical part of TBL’s value chain?
“Our smallholder farmers are the main producers of grapes for our wine and brandy products. Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL), is committed to employing sustainability at each stage of the brewing process from, ‘seed to sip’. We take pride and ownership in every step of our business. We also ensure that we have direct contracts with our farmers.
Explain TBL’s commitment to empower smallholder farmers, especially women?
Women are vital to the agriculture industry, and we remain committed to empowering female farmers by incorporating initiatives that will promote gender equality, impart agronomic information and skills to improve business and financial skills development. We also provide access to training to improve crop yields and quality harvests.
What are some of the growth opportunities that the company has availed to smallholder farmers and in what ways are these channels growing the farmer socio-economically?
Smallholder farmers are a key contributor to the success of Tanzania Distillers Limited, and ensuring we can decrease the barriers they face in running successful farms will not only benefit us as a business, but also help ensure they are financially able to run a profitable business.
Some of the common barriers smallholder farmers face include securing market for their grapes, and providing good quality grapes that can fetch good income in the market. To this end, we have also provided them with extension and viticulturist services for higher productivity, quality, and income.
Also, their incomes from the market are usually segregated into small chunks, which makes it hard for them to fully finance their agribusiness ventures and other responsibilities. In response to this, we have worked to ensure that our farmers receive fast payments help them meet their farm management commitments on time and their social responsibility.
To further empower our farmers financially, we have linked them to a financial institution where they are able to source for loans that help them with vineyard management. We have also ensured that they have access to a pesticide company to get chemical sprays.
How much has TBL invested in farmer training on good agronomics, the use of agricultural technologies and climate-smart agriculture?
We have committed to do regular farm visits, trainings, and trials surrounding Dodoma. We also have viticulturist from DISTELL, South Africa visit Tanzania twice a year, helping with viticulture practices on the farms, training, and trails. The viticulturist also trains TBL extension officers and the small holder farmers as well. We have also committed to conducting continuous trials to improve productivity and quality through adopting single pruning per year, different from twice per year that is currently used.
How has TDL’s partnership with Ministry of Agriculture, and the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) improved on the fortunes of smallholder grape farmers?
We have partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) to introduce the direct contract farming model to grape farmers in Hombolo, Dodoma. The project has so far proven to be a success and to date, TDL has purchased 233 tonnes of grapes from the contracted farmers in 2021 and is committed to expanding this project in the next grape season. In addition to this, as part of TBL, sustainability is a significant part of our business, and the group focuses on areas that drive the greatest impact in the communities in which it operates.
What have been the most common agriculture supply chain challenges affecting farmers in Tanzania?
The Covid-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented stresses on food supply chains, with bottlenecks in farm labour, processing, transport and logistics, as well as momentous shifts in demand. Most of these disruptions are a result of policies adopted to contain the spread of the virus. However, the food supply chain has shown remarkable resilience despite these challenges. As part of our research, we have noticed that many farmers lack the access to accurate sourcing, tracking, and compliance, as potential roadblocks in their supply chain journey.
Where do you see smallholder farmers under TBL in the next three years?
Skilled farmers are not only better able to assure sustainable livelihoods and growing businesses, but they also make better use of natural resources. Agronomic support across Africa is provided by AB InBev’s in-country agronomic teams, who provide regularly updated production guides and host a variety of training events. We also foresee a situation where crop management protocols are developed, outlining effective management practices that are critical for productivity. This will make our farmers more competitive in the market, increase their resilience to climate change when they adopt climate-smart agricultural practices and generally make the agricultural systems more sustainable.
In support of this, a local-variety development programmed is in place for all priority crops in each country. Crop research trials are conducted by AB InBev’s research and development teams, and seed varieties tailored to local conditions are made available to farmers.”
Towards the making of commercial grape farming in Tanzania
Irene Madeje is one of the farmers growing grapes for Tanzania Distillers Limited. Ms Madeje farms Chenin white grapes and Makutupora red grapes at her 18-acres farm in Bugiri. Her farm is under drip irrigation with trellising system in place. Her previous drip irrigation system had been improperly done. Ms Madeje is one of the smallholder farmers under TBL contract and through several training of proper grape farm management. She has been able to include irrigation and trellising system. This has seen her harvest shoot to 43 tonnes, up from the previous 13 tonnes. The increased productivity has seen Ms Madeje fetch TSh64,500,000 per season. She is projecting to produce 100 tonnes of grapes per season in the next one year, and earn TSh90,000,000 per season.
Ms Madeje’s experience is not in isolation. In Hombolo, Samuel Obata is also growing Chenin white grapes and Makutupora red grapes on his 4.5-acre firm. His farm is under fallow and rain field irrigation with trellising system in place. The previous drip irrigation system had been improperly done. Also, the pruning was incorrect, and GAP was not basically properly followed.
Mr Obata is one of the smallholder farmers under the TBL direct contracting and has received several trainings on proper grape farm management. This has seen his farm’s productivity increase to 31 tonnes up from 26 tonnes of grapes he harvested the previous season. This has seen him earn handsomely this season, pocketing TSh60,000,000 which is a great improvement from the RSh46,500,000 that he made last season. He is targeting to produce 45 tonnes of grapes within the next one year.
Both Ms Madeje and Mr Obata are among the initial 24 grape farmers contracted by TDL in 2021, and the number is set to increase by the end of 2022. This has pushed TBL’s investment in local sourcing to TSh350 million through the direct contract farming.