Inclusive & future-proof vegetable and fruit businesses in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands

Inclusive & future-proof vegetable and fruit businesses in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands

Building an inclusive and competitive fruit and vegetable sector in Tanzania that supports farmers and contributes to job creation and food and nutrition security.

By 2050, the population of Tanzania is projected to double, from almost 60 million inhabitants in 2020 to nearly 130 million in 2050. The growth is especially high in urban areas. The growing urban population will continue to depend on smallholder farmers, who currently contribute 75–80% of agricultural produce.

At the same time, smallholder fruit and vegetable farmers are facing multiple challenges in Tanzania. There is limited access to new technologies and farming techniques, the value chain does not benefit the smallholder farmers, and climate change leads to erratic rains, droughts and floods. These challenges lead to an overall low productivity and poor quality of produce in the sector.

However, there is a huge potential for growth. Agriculture is responsible for more than 25% of GDP, 85% of exports, and 80% of the workforce; and is therefore critical for economic growth and poverty reduction.

With its project “Building Inclusive and Competitive Horticulture Businesses in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands”, Rikolto wants to improve the performance of Tanzania’s fruit and vegetable sector, include smallholder farmers in it, and contribute to job creation and to food and nutrition security in five regions in Tanzania: Iringa, Njombe, Mbeya, Songwe, and Katavi.


A myriad of challenges exists in the fruit and vegetable sector in Tanzania. The following challenges are most commonly faced by smallholder farmers:

  • Farmers don’t have a strong market position because the farmers’ associations are weak or non-existent. Because of a lack of organisational, business and leadership skills, the organisations are unable to provide their members with the necessary services.
  • Farmers experience a lack of access to finance and other business development services. Only very few financial institutions finance the fruit and vegetable sector and they charge very high interest rates.
  • Because of the lack of finance, a lot of farmers are not able to make the necessary investments in technology. For irrigating the fields for instance, most farmers use an open canal system that scores very low in terms of efficient use of water (15%-25%), because they cannot invest in highly efficient systems such as sprinklers (80%) or drip kits (90%).
  • Trade is dominated by brokers and local traders with mostly opportunistic and unfair trading relationships. This leaves the smallholder farmers with a lack of market information regarding quality and quantity.
  • Due to the high costs of certification and the low level of technology, farmers are unable to adopt sustainable farming practices. This has led to a low productivity of most crops. In addition, environmental issues such as soil erosion and water loss remain important problems that are only exacerbated by climate change.
  • There is not that much diversity in the diet of the population, leading to a high prevalence of malnutrition amongst children. In the Njombe region for instance, 53.6% of children are experiencing stunting issues.
  • The use of pesticides affects the food safety and food quality. A study conducted by Rikolto in Arusha in 2019 showed that almost 50% of vegetables tested had pest residues and almost 75% of these residues were above the safety standard. This affects the food quality, leads to trade rejections, and lower prices for farmers.


To tackle these challenges, Rikolto’s strategy includes many different activities:

  • Address the different needs of the Farmer Business Organisations: Strengthen their management skills; Advise on good bookkeeping practices; Improve leadership to satisfy the needs of the members; And pilot innovative digital solutions to improve access to finance for farmers.
  • Support the financial inclusion and financial literacy of women and youth.
  • Support efforts to improve trading relationships between different actors in the value chain.
  • Assist in setting up self-regulating private-led certification schemes that provide a good alternative to expensive certificates.
  • Pilot and scale up district or regional commodity platforms where sustainable vegetable production can be promoted.
  • Support the establishment of commercial high nutritious traditional vegetable seed production.
  • Establish a network of community development officers that coach community leaders on the importance of high-nutrition diets and set up a public campaign on food safety that will reach 1 million people.
  • Establish women and youth peer groups in the farmer organisations to address nutrition issues.

This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of Rikolto and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the EU.

Smallholder farmers

This project includes 30,000 smallholder farmers in Tanzania's Southern Highlands:

  • 10,000 farmers in Iringa
  • 5,000 farmers in Njombe
  • 10,000 farmers in Mbeya/Songwe
  • 5,000 farmers in Katavi

Other actors in the value chain

This project will also benefit the businesses of:

  • 500 off-takers of fruit and vegetables
  • 5 exporters of horticulture produce

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Rikolto and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

What have we already done?

June 2020-2021

  • Rikolto is its people, so we (and our partners) recruited 11 people, started 3 new offices and engaged 4 new partners
  • Reached 829,644 (!) citizens with consumer sensitization messages about the importance of high-nutritious foods through 86 radio campaigns and 57 cook shows
  • Promoted climate smart agriculture techniques to 5,034 farmers, through establishment of 110 demonstration plots in 79 villages
  • 2,222 home gardens established, 4,000 kits with indigenous seeds for a home garden distributed to poor farmers to give them access to seeds of healthy, sustainable and nutritious corps
  • Started working with 22 farmer organisations and 49 cluster farmer groups
  • Train 31 experts on partnership brokerage and negotiation
  • In one year time, we achieved our 4-year ambition to engage in contract farming with minimum 8 big off-takers and buyers
  • We trained trainers! We conducted Training-of-Trainers for 134 local government authority officers and 187 local health workers on the importance of high-nutritious diets
  • We set up 2 multi-stakeholder platforms: One for Food Smart City Mbeya and one for the avocado value chain. They are working and do more than just talking: market infrastructure in 4 key markets in Mbeya will be tackled in a public-private partnership

What do we expect to achieve by 2024?

By the end of the project, four main results should be achieved:

  • Smallholder fruit and vegetable farmers have an increased access to sustainable Business Development Services, such as finance.
  • The profit margins for members of the farmers organisations and other value chain actors are increased through improved trading relationships and efficiency within the horticulture value chain.
  • Governance and coordination mechanisms within the fruit and vegetable sector are improved through strengthened horticulture platforms and member-based organisations.
  • The consumption of high nutritious diets has increased in the five Southern regions through women and youth participation in sustainable nutritional sensitive horticulture value chains.

Long-term expected results

The performance of Tanzania’s fruit and vegetable sector will be improved. There will be an increased competitiveness and profitability for smallholders and traders in the Iringa, Njombe, Mbeya, Songwe and Katavi Regions. This will contribute to job creation and food and nutrition security.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Rikolto and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Agrónomos sin Fronteras (ASF) Foundation

Agrónomos sin Fronteras (ASF) Foundation

Inades Formation Tanzania

Inades Formation Tanzania

MIICO Consortium

MIICO Consortium

Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA)

Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA)

The European Union

Belgian Directorate General for Development