Empowering smallholder farmers in Tanzania to increase productivity and promote food security.
Despite low rice yield levels in Tanzania, the country is the leading producer in Eastern and Southern Africa. Given that this business is dominated by smallholder farmers and that the country is endowed with extensive landscapes suitable for rice production coupled with a high domestic and foreign potential market, there is an urgent need to enhance the yield as a key to promote food security from household to national and international levels. This paper seeks to demonstrate the importance of empowering smallholder farmers as a strategy for identifying and applying improved rice husbandry technologies in a holistic and integrated manner by employing a Farmer Field School (FFS) approach.
The study was conducted in two sample villages, namely Kipera Njiapanda in the Morogoro region and Bwawani Visegese in the Pwani region, where culturally and ecologically rice is grown. The FFS approach was applied with the involvement of smallholders and local authorities to develop innovative ways to increase yield and promote food security. Data and information on current rice farming practices were collected using FFS participants and qualitatively analyzed at each rice production stage.
Findings revealed that farmers’ socioeconomic conditions varied, thus reflecting differences in farm size, crop husbandry and associated yield as well as in non-market production along with consumption and/or market exchange. The FFS approach demonstrated that community participatory processes have the capacity to create conducive conditions for empowering smallholders to identify their rice production problems and opportunities related to access to technical and financial support in the realm of seedbed preparation and irrigation, including pest and disease control and crop marketing.
The FFS approach is a robust tool for the identification of problems/challenges as well as pertinent opportunities to increase rice yield and promote food security. The paper calls for support from development partners in managing the rice production systems at all stages in the production cycle given the current potential of both the smallholder farmers and the arable land to increase rice yield, reduce poverty and promote food security at household, national and international levels.