Farm Management of Smallholder Coffee Farms
Hi. I am Webster Miyanda, the Field Operations Manager for HRNS in Mbeya and Songwe Region in the southwest part of Tanzania. HRNS is active here since 2006. Coffee is a relevant crop in the area. Tanzania is home to 450,000 smallholder coffee farmers.
Today, I want to take you on a tour to the farm of 28 years old Emmanuel Wilson and his 26 years old wife Jenifa.
Why I visit Emmanuel’s farm? It shows, how the HRNS Farm Management approach empowers a farmer family to prosper. I am visioning that every farm in the region develops like the one from Emmanuel. And personally I like the place.
It’s a hilly area with some indigenous tree species around with very rich loamy and cray soils. The farm is in proximity to an annual stream. Population density around the farm is low. That makes it a calm place for those who love nature and the sound of birds. But it is not only coffee growing here. The area sustains a wide variety of crops such as maize and beans.
Until 2013, the family’s situation wasn’t good. Being unemployed, Emmanuel could not afford supporting his aging parents and siblings. He literally had no other source of income apart from the poor-looking coffee farm at that time.
Finding a perspective in a HRNS Producer Organization
Emmanuel and his wife were encouraged by other young farmers from the neighboring Nkuyu Producer Organization (PO) to join the HRNS Tanzania country program in 2013. His farm is close to a HRNS supported PO demonstration plot. He could easily observe what happened and saw the positive results. In addition, access to extension services offered by the project is another big benefit for him. Emmanuel decided to join the PO which has been established with support of the HRNS Organizational Development (OD) approach.
Over the years, Emmanuel learned good agricultural practices through participating in a HRNS supported Farmer Field School. That included agronomy and quality improvements trainings like field rejuvenation, weed control, pest and disease control through the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. Soil management methods such as live soil cover, dry mulching, shade management and rainwater harvesting are some of the practices he acquired after joining the program. Conservation farming practices were promoted to enhance environmentally sound production of food crops as a means of diversification. The first harvest after he joined was impressive and motivated him to work extra hard.
He became so enthusiastic that he offered to facilitate several FFS trainings in his PO and encouraged more youths to join.
Becoming a entrepreneurial and productive farmer
Today his coffee trees are producing higher yields at better quality and his farm produces maize, beans and vegetables for home consumption and sales. Income has increased and food security improved. This gave his family food security, which never existed before joining the program. Before he joined the PO, Emmanuel used to harvest around 1.7 bags of green coffee on his 1.25 acre plot that contains 525 producing coffee trees. Since joining the program his quality management has lead to an increase of 11 bags of green coffee for the 2017/18 season.
Emmanuel and Jenifas Farm
Facts about the Farm
0.5 ha coffee (525 trees intercropped with bananas)
0.7 ha maize and beans
Harvest time: July to September with 10 additional workers
Paid around 4,000 Tanzania Shillings per day.
Local minimum wage: 3,080 Tanzania Shillings.
- Live soil crop cover and Dry mulching for soil protection, soil texture improvements due to increase in the number of micro-organisms and nutrient enhancements
- Rain water harvesting (basins) for moisture improvements
- Recommended Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) including main pruning, de-suckering and sucker selection, scouting for pest & diseases, use of both inorganic and organic fertilizers, etc. to enhance yield increase and quality improvements
- Linkages to technical trainings
- Linkages to input like fertilizer and financial providers
- Linkages to quality improvement supporting organisations such as the Small Industrial Development Organisation (SIDO) which makes local coffee pulping machines
The farm and climate change
Challenges for the farm:
- unpredictable weather patterns heavy rains
- prolonged droughts
- Scarce water
- Increasing time poverty
- cover crops
- shade trees
- water saving domestic and field use methods
With the knowledge from HRNS business trainings the family gained on entrepreneurial skills. They could reduce the production costs and plan necessary investments better. HRNS interlinked their Producer Organization with financial and input service providers. A diversified farming system approach with coffee and food crops resulted for the family in stabilized cash-flows and stronger entrepreneurial thinking. They see themselves as farmers who are delivering a valued product through the PO to the Izumbwe One Agriculture Marketing Cooperative Society (AMCOS).
Investments in livestock is another result. In the middle of the coffee plantation they built a kraal for the one dairy cow they bought after joining the PO. Effects on daily life are visual: Emmanuel and Jenifa have constructed a domestic rain water harvesting structure, renovated his parents house, and even managed to expand their farm by buying an additional acre of land.
Progressing as a farmer community
Coffee farming families in the region are interacting a lot. HRNS is facilitating producer exchange and study tours. That is when they are exchanging about best practices and learnings. They have the common goal to make their farms profitable and support each other. Also Emmanuel is regularly meeting his friends and neighbors. His farm is open to visitors.
Leaving Emmanuel’s farm I ask, what the family is expecting for the future. He wants to dedicate his efforts on educating his child and siblings on agriculture, too. Emmanuel plans to get his own motorbike after this coffee marketing season. And he already has land where he wants to build a modern house which will be connected to power.
Want to see it on your own? If you are nearby Mbeya let me know, we can visit the family together.