WHEN Agatha Titus Mkayula of Ibumila village of Iringa District in Iringa Region started growing soybeans in 2016, little did she know that she would earn good money and thus spend little time and other resources on growing maize which has for ages served this part of Tanzania as both food and cash crop.
Two years later Ms Mkayula turned to soybean farming seriously, expanding her farm from two hectares to three and this year she has planted soybean on 11 hectares and employed six youths to help her with the farm work.
According to her projections, she expects to harvest about 4,000 kilogrammes that would bring her more than 10m/-.
“I wouldn’t dream of getting that amount of money if planted maize on those hectares. Okay, I might have earned that amount of money but more than half of it would go for paying for inputs like seeds, fertilisers and pesticides,” she explains.
“It is different with soybean farming; the inputs required in one hectare hardly amount to 200,000/-,” she adds. Patrick Mbata who resides in Mgama village has two hectares of soybean.
He is among a group of farmers who started growing soybean last year and he is the lead farmer after having undergone training in soybean farming, thanks to the Growing is Learning project that is implemented by the Tanzania Grassroots Oriented Development (TAGRODE), a civil society organisation that is based in Iringa.
The organisation is implementing the project with communities in Mgama, Ihemi, Ibumila, Lyamgungwe, Sadani and Kaning’ombe villages all of which are in Iringa District.
The four year project started in 2017. Between 2013 and 2016 some farmers engaged in the production of soybean but they used traditional agricultural methods that did not consider seed quality, the use of fertiliser and other technicalities.
Production of soybean was market oriented while there were no efforts to meet the market demands.
However, the Growing is Learning Project has its focus on increasing food and nutrition security and raising household incomes particularly among the vulnerable rural small-scale women farmers.
“Our entry point is not raising money for families. Soybean farming is about nutrition security because Iringa Region is one of three Tanzania Mainland regions that suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Besides, less than 10 per cent of children aged between six and eight months receive timely introduction of complementary food,” says TAGRODE Executive Director, Zubery Mwachulla.
A report published in March 2017 by the Inter-Agency Regional Analysts Network titled Overcoming the Challenges of Under-nutrition in Tanzania through 2021 highlights three regions in which more than half of the children are chronically malnourished are Iringa (51.3% ), Njombe (51.5% ) and Kagera (51.9% ).
According to the report, Tanzania has one of the highest under-nutrition burdens in East and Southern Africa, threatening not only individual lives but the next generation’s economic advancement in education achievement, lost income and lost opportunities.
“Overall, more than 2.7 million children under five years in Tanzania are stunted,” the report says. With funding of 302,492,686/- from Australian AID through Care International, TAGRODE targets to reach a total of 17,000 beneficiaries in 15 villages of Iringa Rural District by the end of the four year project.
About 65 per cent of the beneficiaries will be women. The budget is for the financial years 2017/18 - 2018/2019. Care International in Tanzania monitors project implementation on behalf of Australian AID and currently the project is working in six villages with an estimated population of 19,375. “A total of 868 people from the six villages are directly involved in project implementation.
More farmers will be involved as we go on because of the success their counterparts are recording,” adds Mwachulla.
“Knowledge of nutritional value of soybean to both human and livestock and the improved soil fertility arising from soybean farming has turned around the mindset of most farmers about the importance of soybeans.
The low input requirement and availability of reliable external markets have also attracted villagers to engage in soybean farming,” reveals the Executive Director.
Patrick Mbata who is known in Mgama as a paraprofessional in soybean farming says TAGRODE trains farmers not only in soybean farming but also in entrepreneurship, gender equality, good governance and reducing gender violence in the village.
“The response towards soybean farming is very high and I am afraid soon many people will be growing more soybeans than tomatoes and maize.
These traditional crops require expensive inputs but the market is unreliable and the price is low. Sometimes farmers fail to pay money they borrowed to buy inputs for maize and tomato farming because the market price is very low,” he explains, adding that farmers have been trained in producing soybean flour so that they may use it in their daily menu.
The Mgama Ward Agricultural Officer Lucas Julius Sanga concedes that there is a new awakening among farmers regarding soybean farming following implementation of the Growing and Learning Project. For one thing the number of growing over the years and for another there is a clear shift from maize farming to soybean farming.
“During the 2016/17 farming season there were only 30 farmers in the ward but this year there are more than 100. It is likely that more people will turn to soybean farming in the near future,” explains Sanga.
He says that the move to integrate soybean in the village agricultural plan has further strengthened the campaign to raise production of the crop and attracted more farmers.
Last year Felister Madembwe of Lyamgungwe village harvested 800 kg from a one hectare farm. ”I have expanded my farm this year to two hectares and I expect to harvest about 2,000 kg.
The price will also range from 2,000/- to 2,500/- so I hope to get good money,” she explains. Ms Madembwe still works on her maize farm, “but next year I will expand my soybean farm and spend more time here than on the maize farm.
Maize farming requires huge investment but the returns are low.”