As the average age of coffee producers in Tanzania is about 55 years old, one of Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung’s (HRNS’s) priorities is to unleash the potential of youth within the coffee and agriculture sector. We use participatory training methods such as Youth Farmer Field Schools (YFFS) and Demonstration and Learning Plots to train young men and women on innovative and climate-smart farming practices for both coffee and seasonal food crops. Entrepreneurship and business development are also fully integrated into the training. Through this, we hope to narrow the generational gap in coffee production and empower rural youth to have the skills and resources to start farming as a business and improve their incomes and livelihoods.
Through our holistic youth interventions, we have seen an increase in the participation of Tanzanian youth in agriculture and an improvement in their productivity and incomes. Faibe who is an HRNS project participant residing in Mbozi district used to grow food crops primarily for sustenance and would only sell surpluses for minimal cash. Through her participation in one of the youth producer groups HRNS established, Faibe was able to secure a loan and invested in 1 acre of high-yielding, disease resistant and fast-maturing coffee seedlings.
The Kahawa Kwanza Youth Group which was established in March 2021 has a saving scheme that enables youth to take low-interest loans. Other perks that the producer organization offers to youth from Mbozi district include access to genuine agricultural inputs, training on good agricultural practices, information on proper post-harvest handling and bulk marketing for better crop prices.
Beyond the farm, we empower young farming households with gender sensitization training. Through this, Samson and his wife Judith who are also smallholder coffee farmers that are part of Kahawa Kwanza Youth Group have been enlightened to the benefits of joint household planning and decision-making. This support has enabled them to develop a joint vision that maps out the family’s agricultural income and how best to budget it for the good of the entire family – be it school fees, farm inputs, medical care, land etc. We believe that this overarching household perspective lays the foundation for the sustainability of the family business.
The Kahawa Kwanza Youth Group have played a significant role in disseminating climate change adaptation techniques and climate-smart technologies to their members through their farmer trainers. Like Faibe, Judith is a farmer trainer and supports smallholder families to adopt climate-smart practices on the farm level. Innovative and cost-effective adaptation methods like mulching using sugarcane off-cuts and alcohol-pest traps are developed and implemented. This enables farmers to affordably increase their coffee’s resilience to the effects of climate change.
Over time, Samson and Judith have become role models in their community and promote gender equality and the benefits of joint household planning and decision making as ‘Change Agents’. They were further trained to counsel and encourage other households to adopt the principles of gender equality by conducting household visits and by giving personal accounts about how the adoption of joint planning and decision-making has enhanced their family life and consequently their farming businesses.
Through their household vision, the couple have been able to save money to buy land to expand their coffee family business. They used to have only 1 acre to grow both coffee and beans but now they have 3 acres and have expanded their farming enterprises. They also bought a motorbike to transport their coffee harvests to the cooperative. The motorbike also facilitates the transport needs associated with their diversified farming enterprises. Today, the couple not only profitably farm coffee, sunflower, and groundnuts and do poultry and goat keeping as well. Their coffee proceeds have enabled all these investments including a small retail shop.
Through these interventions, HRNS Tanzania has seen an increase in the participation of Tanzanian youth in agriculture and in the improvement of their productivity and lives. Partnering with both public and private stakeholders within the coffee sector and/or youth and gender-focused NGOs will enable us to further address the serious problem of the generational gap in Tanzania’s coffee sector. Ultimately, this could also improve the country’s stagnant coffee productivity and scale its production.