Joram Kazingo is a cassava farmer from Mvugwe village in Kigoma, Northwest Tanzania. Mvugwe is one of the 62 villages in Kasulu District with a population of about 15,745 people. About 4,000 women and 3,000 young people are engaged in agriculture and trade, ranging from cultivating and selling cassava, maize, beans, rice, banana and fruits.
With about 21,000 tonnes produced annually in the Nyamidaho ward, including Mvugwe village, cassava is particularly important to farmers. However, smallholders from Mvugwe, like Kazingo, are stuck in a poverty cycle borne of consistent post-harvest losses and weak market linkages. Kazingo notes how all his hard work growing the crop would be wasted a few weeks after harvest since he couldn’t sell his product fast enough, and the district lacked adequate storage facilities. He explained: “In the past we had poorly managed basic storage units that didn’t meet our needs as cassava farmers. When you stored your cassava there were no assurances that its quality would be preserved. In fact, your cassava would rot or become pest-ridden when you tried to sell it. Sometimes I would lose even half of my stock and would sell the remaining half at a loss just to get rid of it.” To address these serious post-harvest losses alongside other issues such as low productivity, access to finance and markets, the Kasulu District Council partnered with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to construct a crop aggregation center in Mvugwe village to aggregate cassava, maize and beans from small-scale farmers in the district.
The Mvugwe aggregation center is a one-stop shop for buyers and sellers/farmers. Currently in its initial phase, the project offers farmers like Kazingo: modern storage facilities with a capacity of 640 metric tonnes, cassava drying services (using a renewable solar dryer), cassava cleaning facilities, a loading/unloading bay for trucks, an open auction area, and a centralized revenue collection office for the Kasulu District Council. Jubilantly, Kazingo said: “With this aggregation center, Mvugwe has now become the land of opportunity and hope. People from other villages now flock to Mvugwe, and business is booming.”
By funding the project’s first phase, UNCDF brought the aggregation center to life in partnership with the Kasulu District Council. With UNCDF’s guidance and support, the district council worked with Mvugwe village authorities and community members to construct and manage the center. Villagers contributed 15 acres of their own land towards the project, with Mvugwe youth also serving as site laborers during construction: a true demonstration of mobilizing community action.
Kigoma is the poorest region in Tanzania (Data: 2012 census) and financial markets are extremely underdeveloped. Of the more than 50 commercial banks in the country, only 4 have operations in Kigoma. Additionally, the commercial banks in Kigoma do not have appropriate credit products for infrastructure projects like Mvugwe Aggregation Center, with their capacity capped at assisting smallholder farmers with short-term working capital financing for the farming season. UNCDF’s technical support and innovative financing approach provided the US$ 150,000 needed to fund the first phase and lay the foundation for the completion of the Aggregation Center.
Faidaya Misango, the District Agricultural Officer who spearheaded the project on behalf of the local government notes: “Without UNCDF, the project wouldn’t have happened. Our goal was to provide farmers with excellent storage to curb post-harvest losses, to connect farmers from villages in our district to commercial-scale markets, and to move to value-addition of our agricultural produce. With the vast sums of money required to bring this to life, we thought this may not happen in our lifetime – but thanks to UNCDF – our vision is now a reality.” By unlocking public and private resources for the construction of the Mvugwe Crop Aggregation Center, UNCDF made what seemed unattainable a possibility in one of the least developed countries (LDCs) of the world.
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