Family Farming Knowledge Platform


Tanzania is relatively a large country in East Africa, with a total land area of 86,610,000 hectares (ha). In 2016, population is at 50,142,938 (male:  24,412,293; female: 25730,645). It is basically self-sufficient in main staple crops, though it still faces shortfalls in some years due to globally weather variability. About 50 percent of all farm households keep livestock, making a large number of farm families being crops cum livestock producers. Of the total land mass, 44 million ha (49.7%) are classified as arable, but the area actually operated for agricultural production is less than 35 % of the total arable land (15 million ha). The area suitable for irrigation is estimated to be about 29.4 million ha, but about 0.4 million ha are under irrigation. Between 85 % -90 % of the land under cultivation is used by smallholder farmers (14 million ha), who primarily use the land for subsistence farming.


In Tanzanian context, average farm size for small scale farmers is 0.9 to 3 ha. There are about 3.7 million smallholdings farmed by approximately19 million people. However, proportionally few farmers have more land of up to 20 ha, particularly in low potential areas which are relatively less densely populated.  On the other hand, about 1.5 million ha  are used for medium and large-scale commercial farming  (1,006 farms with an average of 1,107 ha).  In Tanzanian context, family farming equates to ‘small-scale farming’ or ‘smallholder faming. These units are however diverse across some important variables. Using our own criteria and drawing upon the World Agriculture Watch (WAW), these units can be categorized into different groups as follows:



Landholding size (ha)

-Those owning 3 ha or less (≤3)

- Those owning more than 3 ha

Land access

-Those with land enough to cater for the needs of the family.

 -Those who do not own farmland or own little of it which does not suffice family needs.

-Those with excess farmland

Farming system


-Those who deal with crops only

 -Those who deal with crops and livestock.

 -Those who deal with livestock only (pastoralists)

Market orientation

-Those producing for subsistence level.

-Those producing enough crops to meet family needs and excess   for market.

-Those producing mostly for commercial purposes (consume less than 50 % of what they produce).

Source of labour

-Mostly family members only.

-Those using family members and some hired labour.

-Those using hired labour.


-Those carrying out all decisions regarding farm activities.

-Those where operational decisions varies but influenced by external partners.

Farm family leadership

-Male-headed farm families.

-Female-headed farm families.

Land ownership rights

-Those with title deed.

 -Those whose ownership is by customary laws.

- Inherited land ownership.

Primary land preparation tools

-Those using traditional tools e.g. hand hoes.

 -Those using animal-drawn implements.

 -Those using farm machinery

Income streams

-Those depending only on on-farm activities

 -Those depending on both on-farm and off-farm activities


Over 75 % of Tanzanians live in rural areas where agriculture and agriculture-related activities are crucial to their livelihood. For example, in 2015 the agricultural sector contributed 29% of the GDP (more than any other sector) and 20% of the total value of Tanzania’s exports in 2014. Furthermore, the sector contributes between 70-90 % of total own source revenues for local government authorities annually. Although rural development requires a multisectoral approach, the figures testify the fact that contribution of family farming in that regard is essential.  Furthermore the sale of food and cash crops account for about 70% of rural incomes. Also family farms provide 65 percent of inputs to the industrial sector.

Approximately 80 % of total arable land is used by smallholder farmers for production of agricultural and livestock products.  Although productivity of individual farms is low, aggregated production makes the country meet total national food requirements in some years with favorable weather patterns. For example smallholder farmers contribute over 75% of total agricultural outputs in Tanzania, producing mainly for home consumption and sell for the excess produce.

Economic Factors Affecting Family Farming

  • Inadequate support services, namely research, training and extension services.
  • Undercapitalization and limited financial services for uptake of innovations.
  • Limited capacity to counter pre and post harvest losses.
  • Poor transport infrastructure, notably feeder road network.
  • Farm families’ not having enough knowledge on value addition.
  • Environmental degradation and erosion of natural resource base.

Public policies developed and institutions created with regard to strengthening family farming

  • Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank – 2015
  • Agricultural Input Subsidy Program-2008
  • Kilimo Kwanza-2009
  • Livestock policy- 2006
  • Agricultural marketing policy-2008
  • Agricultural Sector Development Strategy- 2001
  • Agricultural Sector Development Programme- 2005.


This text is kindly provided by the authorities of this country

Family farming lex

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