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FAO, Tanzania Government train youth to increase rice production

12 April 2018, Accra— Realizing the potential of rice production as a major source of employment and income generation in the agricultural sector, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Tanzania have teamed up to implement the Partnership for Sustainable Rice System Development project to boost rice production.

The project is being implemented with support from Venezuela, under a South-South Co-operation arrangement.

Rice production is among the major sources of employment and income for many farming households. Itis increasingly becoming important to the Tanzanian economy yet youth unemployment remains a major concern for the government. Nonetheless, there is abundant scientific evidence that agriculture is capable of creating jobs for the youth, as well as providing a boost to the economy.
 
“With these in mind, the Ministry of Agriculture recognized the importance of the rice project in relation to youth employment”, said Mr Peter Anaadumba, South-South Cooperation Coordinator at FAO Regional Office for Africa.  

This led to the creation of a knowledge-sharing program for 104 youth comprising of 53 males and 51 females, together with 15 extension officers and irrigation technicians in Morogoro region of Tanzania.  The objective of the program was to enable the youth to share experiences and success stories after training at Mkindocentre which led to the establishment of demonstration plots in Kilombero, Kilosa and Mvomero districts.

 “Today, young farmers have started demonstrating great achievements following the high yield of rice per hectare which was attributed to the use of best practices such as use of improved variety and other improved agronomic practices”, Anaadumba stated.

According to the South South Co-ordinator, some young farmers have managed to double rice production from 18 bags per acre they used to harvest before the training program, to between 36 and 38 bags per acre after training, which has improved the lives of the youth engaged on the project.

Evidence of Program Impact: Success story of a best farmer

Godfrey Joseph Pascal is from Kilosa District, one of the three districts in Morogoro Region where the training program is being implemented.

Prior to the training, Godfrey had never received any formal studies in agriculture and was only emulating his parents by engaging in traditional subsistence agriculture.

“I was very glad after I was selected for the training. I know there were many youth in my district who were also craving for the opportunity,” he says.

According to Godfrey, the training at Mkindo Farmers Training Institute in Mvomero District was a revelation that introduced him to modern methods of farming with the aim of increasing productivity.

Besides being trained in life and entrepreneurship skills, Godfrey was also introduced to the ‘System of Rice Intensification (SRI)’—a farming methodology that is proven to increase rice yields with less water, small farming area, and limited inputs.

Determined to apply the new skills and good agriculture practices he had acquired in the training, Godfrey returned to his home to transform his 1.5-acre farm.

“I learnt how to select the best seeds, do proper spacing and timely weeding and use of fertilizer for maximum results,” he says with confidence.

He indicated his previous yields were in the range of 8 and 20 bags of unprocessed rice. However, after the improved knowledge he gained from the program, he was able to get 52 bags, each weighing 120 kilograms. He received a total of 5,200,000 Tanzanian Shillings (USD 2,500) after selling the produce. The difference was huge and shocked almost everyone who had a farm around him, including his relatives.

“They couldn't believe that it was as a result of the training. They associated it with witchcraft. Some of the neighbours were my own relatives. They accused me of stealing rice from their farms at night and bringing it into my farm through witchcraft”, Godfrey says as he recalls the experience he went through.

The neighbours forcefully took him to a witchdoctor to cleanse him of bad spirits that they believed assisted him to ‘steal’ other people’s rice. They even shaved off his hair.

The district authorities intervened and ensured the safety of Godfrey. “We had to go and meet with his relatives and neighbours, who we were sure were acting out of ignorance,” says the Kilosa District Agri-culture, Irrigation and Cooperative Officer (DAICO), Ms. Tatu Kachenje.

“We convinced them to try SRI on their farms too. Slowly some started to change. Now over 80 per cent of farmers in the Ilonga village where Godfrey hails from, practice SRI. He has become a key change agent of his community,” says Ms. Kachenje.

Kilosa District Authorities were impressed by Godfrey’s efforts and facilitated his participation in the Morogoro regional NaneNane (Farmers’ Day) exhibitions held on August 8, 2017. He won the 2017 Best Farmer Award for Kilosa District and the entire Morogoro Region, and was consequently presented with an award of 1.5 million Tanzanian Shillings and a ten-acre piece of land.

He used the money he got from his first bumper harvest and the award to buy more land to expand his farm and build a new house. “I’ve managed to pay for my children’s school fees and also bought a health insurance cover for my family. I’ve also built a new house that is now rented by a tenant, while another house is in the final stage of construction”, he says with a wide smile on his face.

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