Rice is the second most important food and commercial crop in Tanzania after maize; it is among the major sources of employment, income and food security for Tanzania farming households. Tanzania is the second largest producer of rice in Eastern Africa after Madagascar with production level of 818,000 MT (FAOSTAT, 2010). The Southern Highlands produces about 33% of the rice in country, mostly by smallholder farmers (Mwakalila, 2000; Kisandu, 2011). Mbeya region alone has about 135,215 ha under rice production, which is 8.5% of the total national area under rice production (NSCA, 2006). However, productivity of rice is still low (average yield is less than 2 MT per ha against the yield potential of between 4 to 6 MT per ha (Ngailo et al., 2011). The major factors contributing to the yield gap includes: a) low soil fertility due to excessive nutrient mining coupled with low use of fertilizers and monocropping b) poor agronomic practices and use of unimproved seeds, and c) poor access to output markets. This  proposed 3-year project attempts to address these constraints with special focus on improving farmers’ knowledge on integrated soil fertility management practices (ISFM), improving access to inputs supply, and linkage to output markets.

The project has three specific objectives as follows:

1.      To increase the awareness of ISFM technologies and use of improved rice varieties

2.      To improve farmers’ access to fertilizers and improved rice varieties

3.      To improve the marketing of rice by farmers

The project is targeting 20,000 farmers in Kyela and Mbarali Districts. The Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) Uyole is the lead-implementing agency for the project carry out training on ISFM including establishment of field demonstrations and field days in collaboration with respective district councils and other stakeholders. The Rice Center of Africa also work closely with the project to provide agronomic technical support, which include yield assessment. ISFM practices are promoted by the project which includes the use of Minjingu mazao as basal fertilizers.

The main objective of this project is:

To improve food security and incomes through increased rice productivity for small-scale rice farmers in Kyela and Mbarali Districts in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania

The project has three specific objectives as follows:

  1. Increase awareness of ISFM technologies and use of improved rice varieties through wide-scale demonstrations
  2. Improve access of farmers to fertilizers and  improved rice varieties and phosphorus-based fertilizers through linkages with credit facilities such as savings and credit organizations (SACCOs)
  3. Improve postharvest handling of rice and support farmers in marketing their produce

In Mbarali district, the project work with farmer groups that are working with Rural Urban Development Initiatives (RUDI), whereas in Kyela district, the project work with farmer groups under TechnoServe Sapphire.TechnoServe Sapphire and RUDI who are both supported by AGRA Market Access Program implement the marketing activities of training of farmers on post-harvest, produce aggregation, warehouse receipt system and creation of links with buyers are the major ones. Currently, there are over 150 farmer groups working in rice farming in both Mbarali and Kyela Districts. Some of farmer groups will be linked to existing registered Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOs) for accessing loans for procuring improved seeds and fertilisers. To strengthen the SACCOs, the project will invest resources as ‘revolving fund’ accessible to farmers at interest rates of between 8 to 10% per annum. The project plans to engage strategic rice buyers and processors to link farmers to reliable purchasers of the excess rice produce.

The main outputs and outcomes of the project over 3 years will include (a) improved household food security and incomes due to increased productivity of rice from 1.5 MT/ha to 5 MT/ha (b) increased use of fertilizers and ISFM knowledge and  (c) stronger links of farmers to markets