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Harry Leech in Tanzania – Post 6

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 sixth of his many posts.

8th October 2010

Education is a crucial part of the work being done in Kyela, both in best agricultural practice and basic economics, but there is also need for some investment in infrastructure if local farmers are to capitalise on their newfound knowledge.

A state of the art drying unit

A number of lead FBG’s have been identified to receive some small investment capital from a ‘revolving fund’ to be used for infrastructure necessary for post-harvest handling. The group can then repay the loan with the increased returns from their subsequent harvests and once the money is repaid, it is loaned out again to another lead FBG. In this way a lot can be done with a small amount of capital from Irish Aid.

To improve post-harvest handling, some of the lead FBG’s have been targeted to set up drying units and fermentaries. Once they are operational farmers will be able to bring their cocoa to dry and ferment with their neighbour’s crops and then sell it on in bulk. The long term-plan is to have ‘put-downs’ or stores for the cocoa so that they can store their crops and sell it on later in the year when the price rises.

The interior of a drying unit

Like the difference between the price of wet and dry wheat or barley in Ireland, the price of properly fermented and dried cocoa is significantly higher than the price of green cocoa. Much of the post-harvest work is done by women and as in Ireland, women play a crucial and often under-recognised role in making sure that the family farm makes a profit.

One of our visits was to see a recently built fermenting and drying unit that was being run by Kyga FBG. The group secretary, Oscar Mwamundela, and another young farmer Ebra Mwakatage proudly showed me around the facility. While the two structures are very basic in design, they are based on a model of similar equipment used by farmers in Ghana where there is a much longer history of producing high quality cocoa in large volumes.

The interior of cocoa fermentry

Once harvested the cocoa needs to be fermented in the Central Cocoa Fermentary in three separate boxes, for 48 hours in each box. Prior to this the cocoa had been fermented in small batches by individual farmers. As there needs to be a critical mass of cocoa to get the temperature just right for fermenting, the cocoa couldn’t ferment properly and this is the first time that the coca will be properly handled in Kyela.

After this process is completed the cocoa is spread out on drying mats in the dryer for up to a week. The plastic sheeting that makes up the roof and side of the dryers intensifies the strength of the sun’s rays and increases the temperature in the dryers, meaning that the cocoa is dried thoroughly and fit to send to market. The design is simple but extremely effective in this environment.

Ebra Mwakatage and Oscar Mwamundela

The results have already been very promising. Just a few kilometres away in Tenende village, the Uwate FBG have had some success selling cocoa from their recent harvest directly to an American boutique chocolate manufacturer, Askinosie Chocolate. Ms Kyega, the friendly but formidable Chairperson of Uwate FBG, told me that with the help of TechnoServe they had sold seven tonnes of cocoa direct to the Askinosie, at a significant premium.

Ms Kyega said that she hoped that they would be able to sell directly to Askinosie at their next harvest, but also that they would get more buyers competing for their cocoa as they were now dedicated to increasing the quality and price of their cocoa. “The more buyers that we have competing for our product, the better price we will get and our community can develop more.” The economics lessons have clearly struck a chord with the local community, who can see tangible results for their work.

Ms Kyega and the Tenende water pump

Some of the money received from Askinosie has been invested in a water pump which currently serves not just Tenende, but also a number of surrounding villages. In Africa having a water pump means that local women save hours walking to and from the nearest river and young women are more likely to stay in education for longer if they do not have to spend a few hours each day transporting water. While this programme seems a very simple but well run project on the surface, its roots are deep and the lasting knock-on effects on local communities are innumerable.

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.