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Extension and training activities under the Special Programme for Food Security in the United Republic of Tanzania

A.N. Mero

Mr A.N. Mero, Field Management Officer, can be contacted at: FAO Representation, PO Box 2, Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania; e-mail:


The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania adopted the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) as a national programme to address the problems of chronic food shortages in the country. The SPFS's main objective is to increase production and productivity of the major staples rapidly, through participatory technology transfer using participatory farmer groups that involve women as well as men and rural youths. These groups help educate women farmers to identify their problems, needs and interests, and use group learning to gain acceptance for strategies that improve household food security and family incomes. Many farm operations - including marketing, obtaining access to input supplies and credit facilitation - require appropriate timing and coordination. Participatory extension is a focused and cost-effective approach that enhances the sustainability of the agricultural modernization process.1


Activités de vulgarisation et de formation dans le cadre du Programme spécial pour la sécurité alimentaire en République-Unie de Tanzanie

Le Gouvernement de la République-Unie de Tanzanie a adopté le Programme spécial pour la sécurité alimentaire (PSSA), qui a été réalisé au niveau national pour faire face aux problèmes de pénurie alimentaire chronique que connaît le pays. L'objectif principal du PSSA est d'accroître la production et la productivité des principales denrées alimentaires moyennant le transfert participatif de technologies par le biais de groupes d'agriculteurs composés de femmes ainsi que d'hommes et de jeunes ruraux. Il s'agit d'aider les agricultrices à identifier leurs problèmes, besoins et intérêts et de miser sur l'apprentissage de groupe pour faire accepter les stratégies permettant d'améliorer la sécurité alimentaire ainsi que les revenus des ménages. Nombre de travaux dans les exploitations agricoles demandent synchronisation et coopération, notamment au niveau de la commercialisation, de l'accès aux intrants et du crédit. La vulgarisation participative est également une approche ciblée et efficiente qui renforce la durabilité du processus de modernisation de l'agriculture.


Actividades de extensión y capacitación en el marco del Programa Especial para la Seguridad Alimentaria en Tanzanía

El Gobierno de Tanzanía adoptó el Programa Especial para la Seguridad Alimentaria (PESA) como programa nacional para abordar los problemas de la escasez crónica de alimentos en el país. El objetivo principal del PESA es la producción y la productividad de los principales productos alimenticios básicos, mediante una transferencia participativa de tecnología utilizando grupos participativos de agricultores en los que intervienen mujeres, además de hombres y jóvenes del medio rural. Estos grupos ayudan a instruir a las agricultoras para identificar sus problemas, necesidades e intereses y utilizan el aprendizaje colectivo para aumentar la aceptación de estrategias que permitan mejorar la seguridad alimentaria familiar y los ingresos de los hogares. Muchas operaciones agrícolas requieren sincronización y cooperación, entre ellas la comercialización, el acceso al suministro de insumos y los servicios de crédito. La extensión participativa es también un sistema con una orientación definida y rentable que aumenta la sostenibilidad del proceso de modernización de la agricultura.


The United Republic of Tanzania was one of the first low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) to be actively involved in implementation of the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), which was launched by FAO in 1994 to improve national food security in LIFDCs. The programme aims to achieve rapid increases in productivity and food production on an economically and environmentally sustainable basis. It emphasizes the use of tested technologies, grassroots participation and South-South cooperation.
The SPFS is designed in two phases. The pilot phase, normally intended to last three to five years, entails mobilizing and training farmers and local personnel in the introduction of small-scale water harvesting; intensification of sustainable plant production and diversification of production systems (including aquaculture, artisanal fisheries, small animal husbandry and tree cropping); diversification of production systems; and analysis of the constraints to food security. The expansion phase of the project contains three components: a food security and agricultural sector policy programme; a three-year agricultural investment programme; and the preparation of project feasibility studies.
The SPFS is a nationally owned programme, formulated and implemented by national experts with technical assistance from FAO and financial support from bilateral and multilateral donors, development banks and other financing institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector. In the United Republic of Tanzania, the SPFS is being implemented by the Government, with the assistance of FAO, within the overall framework of the National Comprehensive Food Security Programme. This has been adopted by the Government as a planning tool and blueprint for all food security-related initiatives and interventions in the country.

Implementation of the SPFS pilot phase

Implementation of the SPFS pilot phase in the United Republic of Tanzania began in July 1995. The programme covers a total of 16 villages in the Morogoro and Kilombero districts of the Morogoro region, as well as a total of eight villages in the Kongwa and Dodoma districts of the Dodoma region. Its components comprise:

Use of the participatory extension approach within the SPFS

The participatory extension approach (PEA) adopted by the SPFS in the United Republic of Tanzania puts farmers at the centre of their own development as co-learners, and casts extension workers as facilitators. The SPFS strategy is based on the time-tested belief that farmers know best their own problems and needs. In accordance with this philosophy possible solutions can only be derived through the participatory collaboration of farmers as mature adult learners.
In order to facilitate farmers' active participation in the SPFS, they were organized into small homogeneous groups of 12 to 20 members, based on each farmer's individual economic needs and interests. These small groups are the main vehicles for the transfer of improved technologies. Some 78 participatory farmers' groups (PFGs), with a total of 1 116 members (692 men and 424 women), took part in the first three years of the pilot phase of programme implementation.

Women membership of the PFGs

Women take part in PFGs in two ways: through heterogeneous groups containing members of both sexes; and through all-female groups. The SPFS pilot phase accords equal opportunities to female and male farmers to participate in programme activities. This situation results from the realization that agricultural output in the rural areas is produced mainly by women.
The process of involving women in the SPFS entails the following:

While the SPFS gives equal opportunities to both men and women farmers, by the second and third years of pilot phase implementation, more focus was being directed towards the involvement of women in those activities that are perceived as their sole responsibility. A total of eight all-women interest groups were formed (Table).


Under the SPFS, training is given exclusively to the women members in the two groups. The training focuses on skills that are relevant to the women's income-generating activities and comprises the development of group or organizational skills, and the planning and implementation of income-generating activities including credit and financial management.
Women group members are also given technical information that relates to the various skills and knowledge needed for increasing production and productivity and includes improved packages for the production of food crops, vegetables, small livestock, fish farming and water management.



Group name

Number of members


Economic activities


Kumekucha Women Maize Farmers' Group



Maize, dairy goats, chicken and vegetable production


Maendeleo ya Kinamama Rice Farmers' Group



Rice production, dairy goats, chicken and vegetable production


Matokeo Women Farmers' Group


Manyika Turiani

Maize, dairy goats and chicken production


Tumaini Women Rice Farmers' Group



Rice farming


Mwanzo Mgumu Women Rice Farmers' Group



Rice and chicken production


Tujiendeleze Women Rice Farmers' Group



Rice and local chicken production


Umoja ni Nguvu Women Rice Farmers' Group



Rice production


Chapakazi Women Rice Farmers' Group



Rice and chicken production

Technology transfer

The SPFS uses the participatory women farmers' groups as vehicles for improved production technologies. The group selects one member to be a demonstration farmer who demonstrates technologies for crop intensification, diversification and water control under the guidance of extension workers as facilitators.
The extension workers are also supported by researchers. Based on an agreed programme, the other group members participate in the learning process and, if they are convinced of the technical and economic viability of the innovation, then try it out on their own farms (Figure).
Appropriate innovations are demonstrated through participatory selection of production technologies for the main staples and vegetables, livestock and fish farming, involving the women PFG members, researchers and extension workers. Farmer training and regular technical advice from village extension workers have imparted production innovations to women group members through theory and practice. Most of the innovations have been adopted by the women and they include high-yielding rice varieties such as Line 88, as well as Staha, Tanzania MaizeVariety No. 1 (TMV1) and Kilima composite seeds for maize, correct rates of fertilizer application and soil and water conservation.
Training and farm demonstrations among women's groups of a locally integrated package of improved maize and rice production have shown significant yield increases. For maize, the average yields in farm demonstrations for maize carried out by women's groups at Mvomero increased from 1.26 to 3.34 tonnes/ha, while average rice yields increased from 2.6 to 5.57 tonnes/ha.


In the United Republic of Tanzania, the main objective of the SPFS diversification component is to improve the incomes of small-scale farmers, including women, through increased production and sale of meat, milk, eggs and hides. Another paramount objective of diversification is to improve smallholders' health through increased intake of animal protein.
Demonstrations of improved chicken raising involved 424 women group members (from both mixed and all-women groups) and 27 village-level extension workers. A total of 3 384 chickens were vaccinated against the prevalent Newcastle disease (NCD). With the assistance of village extension workers, women farmers established a mechanism for the procurement of NCD vaccines and, through regular vaccination, the chickens' survival rate has improved from 2 to 98 percent.
Improved poultry houses, cockerels of better breeds and good management have also led to increased production and productivity. Egg production per bird has increased from 24 to an average of 45 eggs per year by maturity, and the period to slaughter weight has been reduced by half. The income generated through the sale of live chickens and eggs has enabled some female-headed families to pay children's school fees.
Under the SPFS, participatory demonstrations equip women group members with knowledge of and skills in improved goat management for milk and meat production. Such skills include construction of simple sheds/houses, supplementary feeding of the animals, and disease and internal parasite control. A total of 12 goats of improved breed were sold on credit to women's demonstration farms. Among group members, the adoption rate of improved goat management technologies is 80 percent. The remaining 20 percent of members are at different stages of constructing improved sheds/houses and acquiring local goats for upgrading.
The milk yield from first- and second-generation offspring of the improved breeds is 4 litres per day, compared with less than 1 litre per day for the local goats. The demonstration farmers and group members sell kids to other farmers at an average price of US$18.75 per kid, thus supplementing their household and family incomes.

Tumaini Women Rice Farmers' Group


South-South expert assisting Maendeleo ya Kinamama Rice Farmers' Group with chicken production


Water control

Women farmers are also actively involved in exploiting the available irrigation potential of the SPFS areas in the United Republic of Tanzania. This includes gravitational water supplies, as in the case of the Mkindo Irrigation Project, and rainwater harvesting in Bahi/Chipanga and Kilombero Valley through rice bund construction. Demonstrations combining improved water control, management and agronomic practices have shown that women farmers could easily double or even triple rice yields from 2.5 to 7.5 tonnes/ha.
Women farmers within the SPFS are also equipped with the skills and knowledge to exploit underground water using simple vegetable production technologies. Two treadle pumps for demonstration shallow wells were sold to two women's groups - Kumekucha Women Maize Farmers' Group in Mvomero village and Maendeleo ya Kinamama Rice Farmers' Group in Hembeti village (both in the Morogoro district). Group members are producing vegetables for both family use and sale to other village members, and the money generated from such sales is deposited in the respective group accounts to finance group activities.

Constraints analysis

Women farmers in the SPFS areas face the following constraints which limit their adoption of available recommended production technologies:

Lack of credit

To help solve the problems posed by lack of credit, women PFG members have been organized into savings and credit associations which are legally registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs. The members have also mobilized savings from the sale of produce and small livestock and have deposited these in their respective group accounts. The average level of savings per group ranges from T Sh 350 000 (US$437.5) to T Sh 630 000 (US$788.0). All the associations have been linked to the private suppliers of different farm inputs (such as G&G, UKUTU West in Morogoro, and Luhombero in Ifakara-Kilombero districts) for the supply of inputs on credit and on a cash basis.
The SPFS has enabled the women group members to address the problems caused by delays in the supply of improved seed (especially for composite maize and rice) by equipping them with appropriate seed production technologies. The programme has also demonstrated seed treatment skills that use simple seed dressers which are locally available in the country.

Kumekucha Women Maize Farmers' Group, dairy goat production


A women farmers' group installing a concrete pedal pump


Inefficient input supplies

The women group members have been able to meet their own demand for common seed, and have sold surplus seed to other farmers within their localities.

Post-harvest losses

In the SPFS villages, about 70 to 80 percent of the grain produced is stored by farm families in household stores. Post-harvest losses caused by various factors are estimated at 2 to 10 percent, but they can be as high as 30 percent. In an attempt to minimize losses, women PFG members have been equipped with improved post-harvest technologies and skills, including the safe handling of pesticides. Such initiatives have enabled farmers to store their produce for a much longer period while they wait for producer prices to improve. In most of the SPFS areas, producer prices are low at harvesting time but tend to rise considerably during the cropping year. For example, maize sells at T Sh 3 600 per 100 kg (US$4.5) when harvested but, at mid-year, the price reaches T Sh 12 000 per 100 kg (US$15.0).

Farm power for hire

The PFGs have also developed good links with private tractor owners who provide them with services for timely farm operations. Groups pay in advance for the services, which are rendered to all group members.

Securing participation

If resource-poor farmers are to take part in the development process, extension workers and facilitators need to secure their participation. The experience of the SPFS has shown the following:

Materials, technical advice and credit must be available to facilitate farmers' continued participation in the SPFS. The savings and credit associations established have been able to supply most of the PFG group members' needs in this regard.

Future plans

The SPFS in the United Republic of Tanzania will continue to give equal opportunities to both female and male farmers to participate in the programme. However, more focus will be directed towards the involvement of women, especially in those activities that are perceived as their sole responsibility.
Women-only training in processing and preserving fruits and vegetables for domestic use and sale is planned. In addition to crop intensification, diversification and water control, cottage industries and labour-saving technologies for land preparation, weeding and post-harvesting will also be introduced.
In the future, the following needs will be taken into consideration when involving women in the SPFS:

1 The pilot activities are now due to be extended to all regions of the United Republic of Tanzania, including Zanzibar.


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