Farmer Organizations Are Driving the Change: The Example of the Coffee Farmer Alliances of Tanzania

Written By:Uwe Kerkow
Date:10 May 2022
Theme:Social Situation

Farmer organizations support smallholder families

A farmer organization is meeting to discuss smallholder support

Together with more than ten partner organizations Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) conducted a seven-year rural development program in different parts of Tanzania (Arusha and Kilimanjaro in the North, Mbeya and Songwe in the South). Its objective was to improve the livelihoods of smallholder coffee farmer families. To achieve this goal, the “Coffee Farmer Alliances of Tanzania” (CFAT) program promoted the establishment and/or professionalization of close to 750 member-driven farmer organizations and more than 90 Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Societies (AMCOS) between 2013 and 2020 and through those supported 26.000 coffee farming households.

Strengthening Farmer Organizations to Support Smallholder Families

The programs’ principal undertaking consisted of forming and strengthening farmer organizations. This was motivated by the observation that democratic, member-driven farmer organizations can contribute crucially to improving rural coffee farmers’ livelihoods. Additionally AMCOS were supported as transparent and professional service providers.

Within this framework the following main interventions were combined:

  • Improving overall marketing performance of farmer organizations.
  • Enabling farmers to sustainably improve their coffee and food crop production, especially by improving farm management while enhancing crop quality at the same time.
  • Improving the overall marketing performance of farmers’ organizations through viable and efficient linkages to financial institutions, marketing agencies, exporters and international traders.
  • Supporting smallholder farmer families in improving their competitiveness and production and in making sustainable use of household and natural resources as well as in addressing the challenges associated with climate change and protecting biodiversity.
  • Promoting joint decision making of women and men in coffee growing households.
  • Supporting youth in achieving a viable economic future especially by gaining business skills and finding meaningful employment in an evolving and progressing agricultural sector.

Results Backed by an Independent Evaluation

After the CFAT program ended, the consulting group FCG Sweden did an independent evaluation. The results were presented and discussed during the Webinar “Strong Farmer Organizations, strong smallholder families”. “In our concluding report we emphasized, that the program was conducted in an efficient manner allowing transparent, timely and flexible decision making”, Eutropia Ngido, Program Evaluator for FCG Sweden in Tanzania, recounts “HRNS’ multitier financial controls and management system and the minute documentation of the CFAT program ensured clean audit results during the whole program period.”

FCG found that CFAT has been highly successful, with clear progress in establishing basic organizational and institutional infrastructure. The evaluation confirmed that this changed smallholder families' mindsets in respect to entrepreneurial farming and sustainable agriculture.

Three practical results stood out: Coffee production and quality increased as did the incomes of the coffee farming families while becoming more sustainable at the same time.
Eutropia Ngido, Program Evaluator for FCG Sweden in Tanzania

Morgan Mkonyi, Deputy Country Manager of HRNS Tanzania further delved into listing CFATs achievements:

  • The program effectively helped to establish operational farmer organizations as producers groups and/or marketing cooperatives.
  • The supported farmer organizations help to increase farmer families’ resources: They assist in reducing operating costs and improve accessibility to both markets and to productive inputs. And they serve as hubs of exchange and dissemination of knowledge thus becoming agents of change.
  • Additionally the farmer organizations now act as effective forums for training and support the adoption of new technology.
  • During this whole process the mindset of the participants on entrepreneurial farming has changed.
  • Youth now develop business plans and visions for their lives. Many young people now seize business opportunities and open small enterprises.
  • Crop diversification improves food security and resilience of farming households significantly.
  • The introduction of good agricultural practices, smart climate farming systems and conservation agriculture reduces environmental damage and increased resilience in times of crisis.
  • Resources are used more productively and efficiently.
  • So far coffee growing areas were increased through land use change and the green bean coffee volumes handled by CFAT participants grew more than sixfold.

Empowering Marginalized Groups

CFAT also played an important role in empowering marginalized and disadvantaged groups like women and youth: It connected them to goods, service providers and markets. Household were sensitized with respect to gender roles and entrepreneurial development of youth. Elderly members of supported households were able to benefit from the CFAT program equitably. “This became possible because food crop production rose as did cash-incomes which contributed significantly to sustainable household development,” Mkony explaines. “As a result the share of households living below the World Banks’ poverty line already declined in the program areas as did the percentage of households facing seasonal hunger,” he underlines. “The successful poverty alleviation contributes to the overall social cohesion and integrations of the farmers’ communities.”

Successful Gender Household Approach

The evaluation emphasized the HRNS Gender Household Approach as being a particularly successful component of CFAT. In essence, this method is a participatory household-based decision making training program. Through seminars HRNS sensitized couples about the uneven distribution of resources and tasks within their households and farms. Couples learn to plan and develop the household activities together. Later participants of these seminars became gender change agents themselves. They act as role models in their communities and disseminate their new knowledge among their peers. The program achieved crucial elements of gender equity like women owning and managing resources and investments. Conversely the Gender Household Approach supported the attainments of all other interventions. E.g. the share of women who acquired leadership functions within the farmers’ groups increased meaningfully.

The Story of Tobias and Luti

The example of Tobias and Luti provides a compelling case for the success of the Gender Household Approach: Tobias and Luti live in a very remote area in Mbozi district in the South of Tanzania. The couple owns about four acres of land with 2.500 coffee trees. They were almost financially illiterate and they had marital problems due to a lack of communication with each other. An uneven distribution of household and business tasks and poor farm management further exacerbated their problems.

Things changed when Tobias joined the “Kahawa ni Mali” farmers’ group in 2013 and both took part in the Gender Household Approach in 2016: The relations between Tobias and Luti improved as they developed a joint household vision and started to jointly decide on matters. Hence they divided resources and responsibilities concerning the household and coffee farm more evenly between them. This included financial possessions which increased financial transparency especially for Luti. “I’m helping Luti in everything because this relieves stress for her,” Tobias emphasizes. “Now the community envies her,” he adds. Saving increased and the couple started to build a new brick walled house. Nowadays Tobias and Luti share their experience and their “secret” to success with the other coffee farmers in the “Kahawa ni Mali” grouping.

Combining the professionalization of farming families with strengthening farmers organizations and their capacity building is key to achieving sustainable change.
Marco Kruse, HRNS

Strengthening Localization in the Project Area

Working with field officers who stayed in the farmers’ communities proved to be a particularly efficient practice. Compared to extension officers residing in the project headquarters it was cost saving too. What is more: “These experts are still there and will continue to share their knowledge and expertise with their communities”, Kruse emphasizes. “The established structures too will persist as platforms to sustain the connections and linkages between farmers as well as between farmer and other actors like input and service providers or customers,” Kruse conveys confidently. “The coffee farming families will benefit far beyond the scope of our direct intervention.” An important steps towards improved localization of project interventions.

“However, achieving meaningful and sustainable change takes time and requires long term programmatic thinking,” Kruse concludes. “It requires all partners and stakeholders to join forces and pursue a shared vision.” At the same time, regional, geographical, economic, educational and cultural particularities have to be taken into account.

The successes of the CFAT program even under difficult conditions demonstrate the significance of strong and member-driven farmer organizations and the developmental chances they contain. Therefore HRNS will continue to further strengthen the role of farmer organizations in coffee production and the value chain. HRNS will support their voice within the sector, e.g. in exchange with government authorities in the future. Working with youth as drivers of positive change within their communities carries high potential too. HRNS will continue to emphasize working with the growing young population in the program regions. HRNS will strive to further develop Gender analysis into an integral part of project designs.

Screenshot CFAT Results Overview

Download the CFAT Result factsheet, summarizing all relevant outcomes and analysis.

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Watch the Webinar "Strong Farmer Organizations, Strong Smallholder Families" below: