Maswa District Council (DC) is among the six districts of the Simiyu region, the second poorest region in Tanzania with a population of 377,292 people (51 percent of which are women). Approximately, 57 percent of children under five (6-59 months) and 53.7 percent of pregnant women aged 19-49 years have anaemic symptoms.
In 2019, Maswa DC established a processing plant for orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) to reduce malnutrition within the community. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A and can help boost the immune system. Through its Local Finance Initiative (LFI), UNCDF supported Maswa DC with a US$ 100,000 seed capital grant to cover the cost of connecting the factory to the national grid electricity, procuring high-capacity solar drying machines and working capital to operationalize the business.
To ensure the project’s sustainability, UNCDF also worked with the local government to establish a company, which allows for shareholding of both Maswa DC and the local community. Using working capital provided by UNCDF, Maswa DC purchased 23.88 MT of raw OFSP from local smallholder farmers. This intervention has provided a reliable market and a source of income to 58 individual local farmers (18 of which are women), three primary schools, one secondary school and one farmer group with 12 members (8 of which are women).
Through the project, farmers can now sell their produce to the factory, enabling them to get money to support their families and meet their basic needs. Flora Nungu, a mother of three, says, “Before this project, we didn’t have a stable market for our products, but since the coming of this factory, we are confident about the market.” She adds, “my children are now in boarding school and I am able to pay for their accommodation and other school needs.”
This enabled access to reliable, safe and affordable and reliable solar energy to power the factory with an installed capacity of processing 10 MT of raw potatoes into flour per day. The purchase of solar drying machines enables the factory to hold 3 MT of sliced potatoes at once. The solar food dryer improves food security by allowing more extended food storage after drying and reducing post-harvest losses.
The project has generated direct and indirect employment to the local community of Maswa. During construction of the solar drying stations, the plant employed 14 local people (three of which are women), contracted 14 casual laborers (6 of which are women) in processing the raw materials in the factory and two professional workers, who are both women.
Furthermore, this initiative has stimulated non-farming activities and increased income through indirect jobs that include 12 people (three of which are women) as food vendors (mama lishe) and cargo handlers. About 33.3 percent of the under-five population have malnutrition, and 5 percent are underweight. Simiyu and the closer regions were affected by malnutrition and anaemia. Maswa’s market segment includes children (from one year and above), people living with HIV/AIDs, pregnant and lactating mothers, diabetic people, elders among other vulnerable groups.
One of the marketing strategies of Maswa DC is to display and sell the potato flour in health facilities (dispensaries, health centers and hospitals) around the region. Furthermore, since it is a new product, the Council uses its forums to create awareness to the community on the benefits and use of the flour as it contains all nutrients required for a balanced diet.
Apart from its primary investment, through the Maswa project, the government was able to finance different special groups (i.e., women, people living with disabilities and elderly people) to open a small baking factory that consumes the raw material from the industry. “Before the Maswa project, I used to do small labor work in different farms, with the project, now I have a full-time job which provides me with sufficient income to meet my day-to-day needs,” shares Michael Nzwili, a worker at the factory. This factory’s presence will contribute largely to the lives of people in the Simiyu region. As one of the few potential projects under a Special Purpose Vehicle operated by the District Council, the Maswa OFSP factory will help the local government to increase own source revenue which is key for local development.
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