Tanzania eyes 300 percent hike of sisal yield in three years

Saturday June 25 2022
Sisal pic

A farmer harvests sisal. PHOTO|FILE

By George Helahela

Tanga. Tanzania Sisal Board (TSB) is mobilizing and attracting the youth engaged in sisal production to meet the government’s target of harvesting 120,000 tonnes of the produce by 2025.

The target would be a significant increase from the current 39,484 tonnes produced last season that increased from 36,379 tonnes produced in 2019.

A TSB 2022 report says the 120,000 tonnes will involve 60,000 tonnes that will be produced by farmers growing the crop in plantations, while small holder farmers from 16 regions with conducive environments for production will contribute 60,257 tonnes.

The document names the regions as Tanga, Coast, Morogoro, Dodoma, Singida, Shinyanga, Mwanza, Geita, Simiyu, Mara, Kagera and Manyara.

Other regions are Kilimanjaro, Lindi, Kigoma, Tabora, Rukwa, Katavi, Mtwara and Ruvuma.

The main strategy TSB has embarked on is mobilizing and attracting the youth’s engagement in sisal cultivation as is being done in major producing countries like Brazil.

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The board is determined to ensure that the youth account for 70 percent of new sisal growers in the country.

Speaking to The Citizen during an exclusive interview held recently at the TSB headquarters, the acting executive director, Mr Saddy Kambona said the board continues with the registration process of new sisal growers.

“Our target is to register 60,000 small holder farmers by 2025, but 70 percent should be the youth,” he said.

“Already, 12,000 new small holder growers have been registered constituting 55 percent of the youth,” he added.

According to him, TSB is determined to use social media, particularly WhatsApp, where a campaign dubbed, the ‘Whatsapp Mkongeni’ has been launched.

He said the campaign is intended to mobilize and attract youth participation in the lucrative green-gold production.

The TSB boss said insufficient number of sisal growers attributed to the low production of a crop that has been declared by the government as being among the nine strategic agricultural produce. He commended efforts by the sixth phase government for its role in the crop revitalization especially ownership nullification of undeveloped farms in Morogoro and Tanga regions.

“These potential farms were handed over to TSB for distribution to motivated farmers especially the youth,” said the TSB boss.

According to him, 100 hectares located in Magunga-Korogwe have been given to the Tanzania Diaspora Hub, most of whom are youth.

Furthermore, Mr Kambona expressed his satisfaction with the trend of the youth registering for sisal production through the ‘WhatsApp Mkongeni’ campaign.

“They are positively responding as the level of awareness increases daily. TSB received 2,642 applications from motivated farmers who are subject to the distribution process,” he said.

Turning the dream true

“We cooperate with respective councils, district authorities for distribution of better sisal seeds to motivated farmers. TCB also coordinates on accessibility of land for use by small holder farmers and new investors in the sector,” said Mr Kambona.

Furthermore, he said TSB is also identifying and coordinating the accessibility of quality and low cost sisal processing machines and cooperated with the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (Tari) at the Mlingano centre in researching the crop.

“We also supervise for better and efficient production methods by mobilizing farmers to join in Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Societies (Amcos) in their respective districts in for easier coordination of extension services, harvesting and access to the market,” said Mr Kambona.

He said TSB is also coordinating block farming for small holder farmers to allow smooth empowerment exercise by commercial banks and financial institutions.

According to him, the board is also mobilizing and coordinating a tripartite contractual farming agreement between farmers, banks and buyers.

Farms distribution

According to the TSB 2022 report, the board owns five sisal plantations including the Hale; Magoma; Magunga; Ngombezi and Mwelya sisal estates.

“These farms were given to TSB by the government so that they could be distributed to small holder farmers. 2,642 applications were received following the 2020 announcement,” reads the document in part.

“Applicant requirements were equivalent to 50,000 hectares against the available 19,000 hectares,” adds the document, revealing that only 800 of them have received respective farms.

“Emerging land disputes has slowed the exercise forcing the board to spend more time in conflicts resolution,” it adds.

Sisal trading systems

Large and small scale sisal farmers who are not members of Amcos, trade their produce through contractual agreements signed with buyers.

However, small scale farmers who are Amcos members collectively trade their produce through a sisal tendering process that requires potential buyers to procure all the produced crop within six months.

The document says in 2019, a total of 22,779.9 tonnes of sisal lion was exported generating $38.057 million, while 14,645.8 tonnes was domestically sold, attracting Sh43.907 billion.

“At least 26,059.8 tonnes was exported in 2020 attracting USD41.830 million, while 11,601.6 other tonnes was traded locally raising Sh36.075 billion,” reads report in part.

Last year according to report, 28,404.4 tonnes were exported generating USD47.73 million, while 13,796.02 tonnes sold locally generated Sh41.712 billion.

“In total, 77,244.13 tonnes were exported in the three respective years providing $127.617 million, 40,043.44 tonnes sold locally generated Sh121.694 billion,” according to the document.

Sisal trading trend

The crop made Tanzania a global top producer in 1964 when 230,000 tonnes was produced as compared to 2020 when 28,600 tonnes were exported.

Of the total exports, 15,817 tonnes were exported to China accounting for approximately 54 percent of the export.

The Bank of Tanzania (BoT) annual report 2020/21 shows that Tanzania earned $101.6 million between 2016 and 2020 from sisal exports, while $17.2 million and 28.7 million was earned between 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Furthermore, the Central Bank report shows that $18.8 million; $19.3 million and $17.6 million were respectively generated in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

But, a report from Repoa suggests that while TSB has embarked on youth attraction in sisal production, there was a notable decline in the youth participation in the sector from 80.26 percent in 2008/09 to 62.91 percent in 2014/15.

Speaking on the move, Mr Obson Obadia, a sisal farmer in the Coastal and Tanga regions cautioned TSB to ensure that a conducive sisal trading environment is prepared in order to maintain motivation in the youth.

“TSB should respond to long existing challenges that led to the crop downfall in order to avoid discouraging farmers especially mobilized youths,” he said, adding that they should also establish reliable market network.

Furthermore, Mr Obadia said the campaign will address the growing unemployment challenge facing the youth in the county, especially if the board is really committed.

“The board should research and provide farmers with improved quality seeds, fertilizers, essential improved agricultural inputs, well-trained professional extension officers who will closely supervise and advise farmers,” he added.