Smallholder cocoa farmers in the southern highlands of Tanzania have adopted an ambitious programme that is expected to raise incomes by 60 per cent, through improved farming techniques.
The programme, commonly known as Q1 2009, has kicked off in Kyela District, a marginalised rural set up in the Mbeya region.
Project owners, TechnoServe-Tanzania said farmers will be trained in good agricultural practices, including post-harvest processing and marketing, as well as be linked directly to buyers abroad.
TechnoServe’s country director, Hillary Miller-Wise told The EastAfrican that the two-year programme will raise the profile of Tanzanian cocoa in the world market by promoting it among American and European chocolate manufacturers.
In Mbeya, cocoa is the number one source of income for families.
“Increased incomes translates to improved food security and quality of life including ability to send children to school,” said Ms Miller-Wise.
TechnoServe expects farmers who are not directly participating in the programme to learn from their neighbours and emulate them.
Tanzania exports about 6,500 metric tonnes of cocoa each year.
In recent years, improved quality and the distinctive flavours have attracted speciality niche buyers, who produce single origin chocolates for wholesale or retail.
This new demand, driven partly by an increase in global demand, creates a tremendous opportunity for smallholder farmers in Tanzania to dramatically increase their incomes.
In order to capitalise on this market opportunity, more Tanzanian farmers need to improve quality and productivity and develop their reputation as a reliable supplier of fine flavour cocoa.
The farmers-focused programme comprises three core components: strengthening the capacity of farmers, especially women; increasing market access and incentives for quality; and capturing and disseminating knowledge on the lessons learnt.
The cornerstone of the Q1 2009 will be to target the high-value speciality markets for high quality organic, single-origin and/or Fair Trade certified cocoa by building on Tanzania’s distinctive flavour profile and its organic production system.
Through this strategy, farmers will realise higher prices for quality and compliance with international voluntary standards, and additional revenue through increased yields.
Other benefits of the programme include the formation of 70 farmer business groups; 5,000 farmers producing cocoa using good agricultural practices (GAP) and increased quality measured by improved fermentation and reduced pest damage.
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