LEG4DEV Mission to the Songwe Region of Southwestern Tanzania

A joint team of PPS-WUR, CIMMYT and TARI-Uyole researchers*, trained extension workers and lead-farmers in the use of the Farmer-MBA (Management-Based-Advisory) mobile phone application, in Songwe region of Tanzania. Farmer-MBA provides field-specific agronomic advice for maize and leguminous crops like common beans, groundnuts and soya.

Dr Jens Anderson (WUR) and Paswel Marenya of CIMMYT visit a market in Songwe, Tanzania

1-15 October 2022 – Dr. Jens Andersson, Dr Renske Hijbeek (WUR), Dr. Paswel Marenya (CIMMYT-Nairobi), and the two WUR-PhD researchers,  Mukoma Kilakila and Thomas Delaune, visited  the Songwe region of southwestern Tanzania. They explored local legume markets, to assess the popularity of specific legume varieties, the availability and prices of improved legume seeds, fertilisers and maize varieties. This information was incorporated into this year’s version of the Farmer-MBA mobile phone application, which provides investment-based, field-specific advisory to maize and legume growers.

While women traders, who dominate legume grain markets, usually sell many different varieties of common beans legume, and several varieties of groundnuts and soya varieties, certified legume seed is extremely hard to come by. The vast majority of agro-dealers does not stock improved seeds of leguminous crops as commercial seed companies hardly sell seeds of leguminous crops in Tanzania. This was confirmed by these companies’ representatives on a local agricultural fair in the centre of the region. 

Improved legume seeds are chiefly supplied through the public sector, that is TARI-Uyole, and a network of smallholder farmers producing quality declared seeds (QDS). Yet, demand for improved seeds far exceeds supply. This market impression corroborates last season’s findings of the Farmer-MBA application; most legume growers use harvested grains as seed.

Next to providing advice on fertiliser use and nutrient management, the Farmer-MBA application also fills an important knowledge gap, as it generates a wealth of data on smallholder farmers’ legume cultivation practices. This data is used to develop new advice algorithms for the Farmer-MBA application, and thus expands and improves advisory to smallholder maize-legume growers in the region.

Participants in the Farmer-MBA training workshops comprised of government extension workers and lead-farmers from three districts (Momba, Mbozi and Ileje). All participants were equipped with mobile devices and will be providing field-specific agronomic advice to smallholder maize-legume farmers, before the start of the upcoming 2022-23 agricultural season. By including both extension workers and lead farmers, Leg4Dev aims to assess the potential of different scaling pathways for field-specific agronomic advice provision to maize-legume growers.

LEG4DEV is funded through the EU Commission’s DeSIRA Initiative

J.A. Andersson (October 2022)

* PPS-WUR refers to the plant production systems group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands; CIMMYT is the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, and TARI-Uyole is the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute in Uyole, in the country’s Southern Highlands.