THE European Union (EU) funded flagship programme, AGRI-CONNECT has started paying dividends in the horticultural industry in Zanzibar, latest data indicate.
Dubbed, “Make it Grow!” Horticulture for Sustainable Economic Growth in Zanzibar, the project has been implemented in partnership with Tanzania’s horticultural industry drivers namely Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), TRIAS and AHA under the four years European Union (EU) funded flagship programme, AGRI-CONNECT.
New programme statistics from the implementers, show that massive training on good agricultural practices and uptake of modern technologies have registered a massive impact in the form of horticultural crops productivity and swelling income for growers in Zanzibar in just two years period of its execution.
The progamme enjoys an unwavering support from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, Natural Resources and Livestock, recording a 100 per cent yield rise and substantial income stream in just two years of its implementation, thus offering a ray of hope to thousands of women and youths engaging in horticulture in Zanzibar.
In real terms, the four years programme being implemented in partnership of TAHA, TRIAS and AHA, has seen tomato productivity increased to two metric tonnes in an acre per season, up from one metric tonne, multiplying the income for growers.
“We can’t thank the EU funded AGRI-CONNECT programme enough. In just two years we are counting blessings as we have seen remarkable rise in productivity and income” said one of beneficiary farmers, Ms Zainab Shaame.
Ms Zainab, a small-scale farmer from Pemba and thousands others in Zanzibar, had been struggling to make a sustainable living from her tomato cultivation for years, but in vain.
They faced numerous challenges, including poor market access, limited knowledge of modern farming techniques and appropriate post-harvest handling practices.
However, their lives took a positive turn when they joined TAHA and became beneficiary farmers under EU financed AGRI-CONNECT programme.
TAHA, the executor of the programme in Zanzibar provided them with training on modern techniques such as raising beds, irrigation management, pest and disease control, and efficient fertiliser application.
In addition to training, TAHA facilitated access to high-quality tomato seeds and provided guidance on crop management throughout the farming cycle.
They also learned proper post-harvest handling techniques; something enabled their tomatoes reach the market in optimal condition.
TAHA’s Chief Executive Officer, Ms Jacqueline Mkindi, said that her organisation has since been cooperating with various local and internal players in taking the Zanzibar horticultural industry to the next level.
As a result, increased production of horticultural crops has reduced net import of fruits, vegetables, tubers and spices from 80 per cent to only 26 per cent at the moment.
Through the AGRI-CONNECT Programme, TAHA also managed to link 8,000 horticultural farmers to market opportunities in and outside the country through market information systems and contract farming.
TAHA has constructed horticultural crops collection centres as well as water wells for both irrigation and domestic consumption at Mpapa and Muwanda areas.
Over 10,000 other farmers have been trained in good horticultural practices, with 500 of them linked to financial services and 2.5bn/- worth loans have been extended to them.
President Dr Hussein Mwinyi commended the development partners namely EU, FFD and TRIAS Belgium, saying their support will leave behind a significant footprint into Zanzibar horticulture industry.