Harry Leech is currently in Tanzania producing a project for the Simon Cumbers Media Fund on the support Ireland gives to Tanzania farmers. This is the first of his many posts.
17th September 2010
I arrived in Dar es Salaam late last night to start research for an article on a project that Irish Aid is supporting in Southern Tanzania. My flight left Dublin at 6am I flew from Dublin to Schiphol, Schiphol to Nairobi and Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, arriving at a little after 11pm local time. A long journey and a full days travelling, but I’m glad to be here and not to have to overnight anywhere along the way.
The story that I’m in Tanzania to cover is an interesting one, or at least I think so. In partnership with an NGO called Technoserve, Irish Aid is helping 4,000 smallholder cocoa farmers in the Kyela and Rungwe districts of South-Western Tanzania to boost their incomes through increasing cocoa yield and improving cocoa quality. A high-value specialty market for quality organic certified cocoa has been targeted for their produce.
Quite often when people think of foreign aid for the developing world, they have a picture in their head of food and provisions being given out during emergency situations, whether as a result of natural disasters, war or famine. More often than not in the rush to get to the next big story, that’s the only aspect of the issue that the media will bother to cover.
While this is certainly a critical side of donor aid and one that saves lives, it’s only a small part of the overall story. Much of the aid that is given to countries in the developing world is non-emergency funding to support training and education, in order to help people to lift themselves out of poverty and to build national infrastructure where there is very little (not dissimilar to the funds Ireland’s roads have received from the EU.)
Tanzania is poor by European and World standards; the UN ranked the country 159th in the word for development in 2008 and the average life expectancy is just 51 years of age. But statistics don’t always tell the full story and in many ways Tanzania is a remarkable African success story with much potential for growth.
Tanzania as a state was created in 1964 through the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and the new country has been one of the most stable African states over the last forty-odd years. There are about 130 tribal groups in the country and religious beliefs are pretty evenly spread between Christian, Muslims and traditional African faiths. This diversity hasn’t brought discord however and Tanzanians are as proud of their nationality as they are of their tribal background or religious beliefs.
Tanzania is the only country in the world (at least that I know of) where one third of the total land-mass is dedicated to national parks and safari Tourism is a real growth area for the local economy. But while tourism is becoming increasingly important and industry is gradually building its capacity, agriculture is by far Tanzania’s biggest industry: A phenomenal 80% of the country’s work force is involved in agriculture. Smallholder farmers are the largest and poorest section of Tanzanian society. Logically then if you want to help Tanzania, you need to focus on the farmers.
Tanzania exports about 6,500 metric tonnes of cocoa each year. While this is tiny when compared to countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where export of Cocoa is measured in the millions of tonnes, it’s a market which has real potential for development in Tanzania. In recent years, improved quality and the distinctive flavours have attracted specialty niche buyers who produce single origin chocolates for wholesale or retail.
This new demand, driven partly by price increases in global markets, creates a tremendous opportunity for smallholder farmers in Tanzania to dramatically increase their incomes. In order to capitalise on this market opportunity however, more Tanzanian farmers need to improve quality and productivity and develop their reputation as a reliable supplier of fine flavour cocoa.
The farmer-focused programme that Irish Aid supports comprises three core components: strengthening the capacity of farmers, especially women; increasing market access and incentives for quality; and passing on the knowledge of the lessons learnt to the public sector.
At least that’s the theory. Over the next week and a half I want to find out the real stories behind the projects, see how it’s working and talk to the farmers and advisers on the ground to see how they find it. I have today and tomorrow in Dar es Salaam to get myself ready, arrange my bus to Kyela in the South-West of the country, to get a local phone number and internet connection to make communication easier and to get adjusted to my surroundings.
Please Note: The views and opinions expressed in blogs under the Simon Cumbers Media Fund are those of the journalist and / or their interviewees. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Irish Government.