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Scaling up improved legume technologies in Tanzania

January 25, 2019

Improving legume yields is a cost-effective and affordable way to improve food security and nutrition, livelihoods, and soil fertility. However, despite well-documented advantages of improved legume technologies, their adoption is slow. Some of the major hurdles were the lack of information reaching farmers and the absence of an effective national extension service and input supply system.

Among farmers’ needs are the timely availability of affordable high-quality seeds, fertilizers, and rhizobium inoculants for soybeans (a natural process that improves biological nitrogen fixation). A collaborative effort was undertaken to more effectively support farmers through shared knowledge and resources, policies and regulations, and strengthened capacity of national systems to improve their access to seeds, inputs, and markets.

Local cooperative farmers discuss soybean farming techniques and successes.

The more information sources that reach farming households, the more likely they are to adopt new technologies. In this project, farmers heard consistent messages about the benefits of improved legume technologies through information channels (e.g., print and interactive radio), traditional extension approaches (e.g., demonstration plots, training days), and information tailored for youth, the elderly, men and women farmers (e.g., comics, radio listening groups). This approach resulted in suppliers being more responsive to farmer needs as well as pragmatic policy reforms to cut input costs and facilitate faster registration of the seed varieties that farmers want. All of these measures have improved the uptake of the technologies and boosted market scale-up of new high yielding and disease-resistant seeds.

Multimedia approaches to reach more farmers

An estimated 655,662 farming family members were directly reached with information about improved legume technologies through multimedia campaigns, with a potential combined audience of up to 8 million. Radio campaigns proved to be the most effective at targeting large audiences. An interactive radio series (with polls and phone-ins) launched on four stations in two regions. These programs prompted tens of thousands of SMS and weekly poll interactions via mobile phones. Overall, six radio series alone reached an estimated 508,000 farming family members. Community radio listening groups, which were particularly effective at reaching women and youth, were created with space for listeners to question and discuss the information.

Tumsifu Lucas Sanga texts other farmers to discuss what she and Isaac Daniel Nkyani have observed in the soybean field.

A comic book called Shujaaz was developed and distributed nationwide to reach young people in bean farming families in target areas. By 2017 the comic was reaching 23% of all youth living in Tanzania. Extension support materials that promote good agronomic practices were also developed, with 11,000 copies printed and distributed to farmers, extension workers, agro-dealers, and other intermediaries. 

The multimedia campaigns resulted in an estimated 128,589 farming family members starting to use at least one of the improved legume technology practices (e.g., improved seeds, row spacing, fertilizing, weeding, and storage). Overall, 11.8 tons of soybean seed and 8 tons of common bean seeds were produced.

Improving access to markets and inputs

The Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA) significantly altered its business model by stocking seeds for both soybean and common bean varieties, and private sector seed producers are following suit. ASA developed a network that trained 75 agro-dealers on input business management.

A total of 1,682 farmers attended training days at 32 demonstration plots, with an estimated 20,000 more farmers influenced. The demonstration plots and field days encouraged women and young farmers to participate and enhanced the uptake of innovations.

Joyce Kayuni shares updates with other members of the farmers’ cooperative.

Two seed policy meetings were held that influenced seven key areas of policy change, including ones to register seed varieties more quickly, cut input costs, and expand community-based seed systems for new varieties.

What's next?

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is developing distribution channels for inoculant and seed in northern and southern Tanzania, while farmers continue to demonstrate interest in these inputs. More work is needed to ensure that farmers are organized and persistent in their approaches to marketing cash crops through relationships with trusted buyers. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority expressed an interest to use evidence from the project to explore how policy and regulation can further improve farmers’ access to information. The project team hopes to replicate the approach in other regions.

The Canadian International Food Security Research Fund is jointly funded by IDRC and Global Affairs Canada.

Learn more about this project and its outcomes.