Yara Knowledge Centres adding momentum to sustainable farming

Mr. Winstone Odhiambo, the Managing Director of Yara Tanzania and Rwanda. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • During her recent state visit to Norway, President Samia Suluhu Hassan witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Food Security and Agriculture, cementing the two nations’ bilateral collaboration on agriculture. The gesture was a resolve to strengthen Tanzania’s capacity and ability to transform the Agri-food sector. Mr. Winstone Odhiambo, the Managing Director of Yara Tanzania speaks on the organisation’s role in advancing the government’s ‘Kilimo ni Biashara’ agenda as the nation marks three years of President Samia’s development record.

Question; As part of Yara International, there is a lot of expectations on your operations in Tanzania to play a bigger role in the agriculture sector transformation agenda. How is the recent signing of the MoU on agriculture between Tanzania and Norway significant to your work?

The year 2024 marks 60 years of bilateral relations between Tanzania and Norway. Yara Tanzania is a subsidiary of Yara International from Norway and as you may know this year also marks the 50th anniversary of collaboration  on advancement of agriculture between the two nations. At Yara Tanzania, we are fully committed to working with the government and other agriculture stakeholders in the transformation of the sector for sustainable and inclusive development, to attain food security in the wider region and importantly help all farmers to prosper from their sweat out in the fields. We welcome wholeheartedly the goodwill demonstrated by the two governments and will count on their support to move quickly.

Yara Tanzania is largely known locally for top quality fertilizer distribution. But we see the company pursue a wholesome approach to sustainable farming and in the agriculture sector development in general. Is this what entails your stated ambition of ‘Growing a Nature-Positive Food Future’?

Yara International adopted the ambition of ‘Growing a Nature-Positive Food Future’ as the guiding principle in delivering its purpose of responsibly feeding the world and protecting the planet. Therefore Yara Tanzania remains alive to the group’s mission of tackling challenges of hunger, soil degradation, climate change, and supply chain disruptions exemplified in recent years by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

What are the key elements of Yara’s ‘Growing a Nature-Positive Food Future’ ambition? 


Simply put, this ambition means giving back to the Earth more than we take. It is a clarion call to rally efforts in leading a food system transformation to restore our soils, cut emissions, and improve access to healthy food and fighting poverty. You will hear a lot about climate neutrality, regenerative agriculture and prosperity in most of what we do around the country. So, reducing emissions from agriculture and related activities, promoting sustainable farming practices and improving smallholder livelihoods through increased wealth is an agenda much wider than simply being a fertilizer manufacturer and distributor. Our business model has  moved from focusing on our traditional products to availing complete solutions to our clients and expand our influence through collaborative opportunities.  

Talking of giving complete solutions and expanding your reach through collaborations, you have recently launched Yara Knowledge Centres as one such platforms. How important are these centres?     

Yara Tanzania has taken significant interest in building the capacity of smallholder and commercial farmers through knowledge sharing at the various excellence learning centres established across the country, especially in rural areas where a majority of peasant growers are based. These centres act as avenues for farmers to access innovative solutions to address their production challenges and help achieve food sufficiency goals and rural economy transformation.

Farmers being trained at the Yara Knowledge Centre in Iringa during the official launch on March 06, 2024.

A Yara Knowledge Centre, is typically a site where farmers can walk in, learn practically at the demonstration plots with the support of Yara agronomists. The objective of these centres is to bridge the gap in extension support and reach more farmers easily while equipping them  with knowledge to increase their crop production, crop quality and achieve optimal returns from their farming ventures. It also helps farmers learn on climate adaptation and resilience through various innovative farming technologies.

Where are the Yara Knowledge Centres established in Tanzania, and can you briefly explain their success so far?

We have so far rolled out seven Yara Knowledge Centres around the country. Only two weeks ago Yara in collaboration with Seed Co. and Farm for The Future (FFF) launched one such centre in Iringa region, at the FFF site in Ilula, Kilolo District. Other centres are located in Mbeya, Morogoro, Kilimanjaro, Tabora, Manyara and Zanzibar. Yara Knowledge Centres are set amidst farming communities to act as key railroads for thousands of farmers to access viable solutions to their varied challenges by interacting with crop experts and adopting the curated learnings in their own farms. The rollout of the centres has brought positive change in the rural areas as beneficiary farmers continue to increase their yields and incomes.

Norwegian ambassador Toni Tinne (Second left) Yara International Strategic Marketing Director Lydia Liao(Left)  Kilolo DC Peres Magiri Yara MD Winstone Odhiambo Farm for The Future Chairman Eueland Osmond and Seed Co. Limited Southern Zone Manager Noel Shirima soon after unveiling the Yara Knowldge Centre in Iringa.

You have put a lot of emphasis on soil health as one of the overriding services at the Yara Knowledge Centre. Why is soil health important in your efforts to raise farmer’s productivity and for food security attainment?

Soil health is a key feature in our ‘Growing a Nature-Friendly Food Future.’ Millions of farmers continue to suffer low productivity due to soil degradation over the years. Yara believes that agronomic products and other solutions that nurture soil health is critical to raising productivity, the reason why during President Samia’s visit to Norway, the need to put in place mechanisms such as data collection to mitigate soil health challenges featured prominently. We aim through Yara knowledge centres to offer impeccable research and practical insights and crop nutrition solutions that will reverse soil degradation and enrich farm land with appropriate and suitable nutrients for a healthy crop development over different cycles.

What is the role of Yara’s MiCROP range of fertilizers in soil health enhancement?

Yara Tanzania introduced Microp fertilizer in 2019 to address diminishing yields due to poor soil health. Produced through Yara’s patented PROCOTE technology, MiCROP contains nutrients in a balanced combination to meet  specific crop requirements, giving it an edge in the market. It contains Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulphur, Magnesium, Boron and Zinc that are deficient in many agricultural zones across East Africa. It’s non acidifying nitrogen nitrate is essential for soil health.

The efficiency phosphorus form is available throughout crop growing cycle.

Among other benefits, Zinc helps  in availability of more nutrients, grain filling, grain quality and uniform crop growth.  Potassium help in crop growth and enhance    pest and disease resistance.

MiCROP  thus cuts above traditionally used fertilizer Diammonium phosphate (DAP) for planting, Urea, Calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) and Sulphate of Ammonia (SA) used for topdressing which causes an increase in soil acidity level.

Farmers using MiCROP as opposed to conventional fertilizers have averagely increased yields from 0.9 ton per acre to over 2 tons per acre.

Finally, explain the concept of partnership within the Yara Knowledge Centre establishment

As alluded to earlier, Yara finds merit in partnerships. Each of our knowledge centres has partnered with like-minded organisations, institutions, and private agri-business companies and to bring the value of a one-stop last mile service centre. Here farmers stand to gain from access to products and services that are key in the agri- production value chain, from inputs, seeds, crop management, digital solutions, finance, market offtakers and also crop insurance, among other services.

With this approach, Yara Knowledge Centres are adding impetus to the government’s desire to deliver all-round extension services and products such as in the ongoing subsidized fertilizer programme to reach the most needy of peasant growers in the rural areas to make farming a profitable venture that will help create jobs for young people, fight poverty and establish prosperous communities.