How can you help small-scale farmers move from “just getting by” into a more prosperous way of life? In Tanzania, World Renew is teaching farmers to add value to their own products through simple food processing.
“In Tanzania, approximately 80 percent of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihood. The sector produces one-quarter of the country’s income and 85 percent of its exports,” said Chris Enns, World Renew program consultant in Tanzania.
“The problem for most farmers is that they are only able to grow food for their own use or to sell at the local market. This means they earn very little for all the hard work they do.”
Transporting farm produce to larger markets is expensive and takes too long from most rural villages. By the time the produce arrives, it will have started to perish. That means most farmers only grow enough for their own needs or to sell a small surplus at nearby markets. Their profits are very slim. Food processing can change that.
In Kijuka village for example, World Renew’s partner, the Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA), is teaching a group of 82 men and women how to process cassava into flour that can be packaged and transported longer distances for greater profit.
Cassava is a starchy tuber that has been a staple crop in the Kijuka community for many years. Tanzanians grind cassava into flour and mix it with water to make ugali, a porridge-like meal that is eaten with beans, vegetables, or meat.
Drying the cassava and processing it into flour was a time-consuming and labor-intense process that used to take 10 days using traditional methods. “With SISA’s training and some processing machines the group bought collectively, those 10 days have been shortened to six hours!” said Enns.
Thanks to SISA training, the group—known as Mkombozi—harvests their cassava root by hand, peels it, and uses a processor powered by a diesel engine to grate the fleshy part into a paste.
The paste is then put into a press that uses a mechanical screw device to squeeze out excess fluid. Next, the paste is sun dried for two hours and hand sorted to remove any remaining bits of woody core. The remaining product is then run through a milling machine that turns it into high-quality flour that can be stored for up to one year.
With SISA’s help, the Mkombozi group has also obtained certification and labelled packaging to sell their flour in commercial markets, which further increases their profits.
“It used to be a very difficult and tiring job for us women to peel and dry the cassava. It took a lot of time and effort. Now it just takes us six hours from start to finish, and we are then free to do our other work or look after our children. The money we earn from selling the flour pays our children’s school fees,” said Mrs. Margaret Lung’wecha, a group member.
With less time needed to process the cassava, group members have more time to diversify their income with other crops such as corn or groundnuts, or by raising chickens. This has the added benefit of improving the family diet. The group also rents out their processing equipment to other farmers who are not part of their group. The fees they collect help pay for repairs and maintenance of the equipment.
Amos Mshina, chairperson of the Mkombozi group, gives God all the credit for the changes that cassava processing has brought to his village. He said, “Praise God for his provision of a good income from our farming and for his many blessings to the community.”