Transforming Tanzanian agriculture: CFAES faculty train Extension instructors on agribusiness and entrepreneurship

Tanzanian farmers in a hoop greenhouse

Food security, poverty alleviation, low agricultural productivity, and youth underemployment in Tanzania can be addressed by encouraging its farmers to become more business and market oriented.

Although the agricultural sector is Tanzania’s most important sector – 77% of its population depends on agriculture as their main form of livelihood – the country’s agricultural productivity growth is stagnant. This disconnect is of significant concern, considering that the nation’s current population of 48 million is expected to double by 2050 and 65% of the population is under the age of 35.

 “A key to promoting agricultural growth is to transform Tanzanian agriculture from semi-subsistence to a more market-oriented agriculture by linking producers to improved technologies and markets, including value-added links to processors and other higher end market opportunities,” says Mark Erbaugh, Director of the Office of International Programs in Agriculture and Principal Investigator of the project entitled “Improving Rural Outreach Capacity in Tanzania: A Pilot Curriculum Reform Initiative to Increase Relevance of Trainer Training”.

This notion was recently echoed by Geoffrey Kirenga, Chief Executive Officer of Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SACGOT), a multi-stakeholder partnership aimed at rapidly developing the agricultural potential of Tanzania’s southern region.

“The emphasis needs to be on increasing smallholder agricultural output and changing Tanzania’s smallholder agriculture from subsistence to commercial farming,” stated Kirenga during his recent testimony to Tanzania’s Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water (Tanzania Daily News, 2017, p. 2).

To contribute to this transformation, agricultural extension workers working on the frontlines must to be able to advise farmers not only on technical production, but also on how they can manage their farms as a business to be more efficient and profitable.

This was the focus of a three day workshop delivered at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania to instructors of extension agents from Tanzania Ministry of Agriculture Technical Institutes (MATIs) and Livestock Training Institutes (LITAs), by Erbaugh, Dave Hahn, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE), and Barry Ward, Assistant Professor and the Leader of Production Business Management in Ohio State University Extension.

The workshop, entitled “Farming as a Business” was designed to enhance the instructional capacity of MATI/LITA instructors by providing course content on agricultural value chains, agribusiness and farm management, and entrepreneurship.

These three areas were earlier identified as priority areas in which extension agents require enhanced training by farmers, agribusiness employers, and Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries (MALF) officials during a 2016 skills-gap assessment of frontline extension workers (FEWs).

Specific topics covered in the workshop included farm record keeping, balance sheets, partial budgeting, business and market plan development, an overview of agricultural value chains in Tanzania provided by Mr. Allen Mhidze from the Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO), and entrepreneurship that highlighted linkages with the value chain.

Since the training of FEWs occurs at Ministry of Agriculture Training Institutes (MATI) and Livestock Training Institutes (LITAs), the workshop specifically targeted instructors at these institutions by using a training-of-trainers approach to enhance their instructional capacity on these important topics. Attending the workshop were 22 of these instructors from five MATIs, two LITAs, and the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO).  Also in attendance were lecturers from SUA’s Department of Agricultural Extension and Community Development (DAECD).  One of the workshop participants stated that the workshop was quite valuable for MATI instructors and she wished this type of training could be brought to extension workers in the field.

The workshop was organized in collaboration with Dr. Jeremia Makindara (Ohio State University, ’06, MS, Agricultural Economics), Head of Department of Business Management in SUA’s School of Agricultural Economics and Business Studies.

The effort was an outgrowth of the USAID-supported Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI) administered by The Ohio State University through the International Programs in Agriculture Office, and received additional support through a 2016 Impact Grant from Ohio State’s Office of Outreach and Engagement