Hi there, my name is Donald Munisi I ventured into agriculture six years ago with a goal of turning our family farm (Lekitatu Farm) into a thriving agribusiness. Our crops of focus are grains (corn & rice), legumes (soy & and kidney beans) and vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers and okra “ladies fingers”) produced using furrow irrigation and seasonal rains.
However the returns have been disappointing due to two key factors (i) Reliance on seasonal rains means that yields are dependent on the amount of rainfall each season. (ii) A drop in the price of most grains and legumes also mean even if you get a good harvest, prices remain low due to seasonal oversupply and lack of alternative markets.
This pushed me to embark on a mission to find the best way to develop the farm into a sustainable and successful agribusiness. I conducted my research and ran number for different agriculture sub sector to find one that gave us the best chance of success. The horticulture subsector stood out as the area that can help transform Lekitatu farm into a viable business.
The goal is to build a thriving locally owned agribusiness and assist small holder farmers to acquire much needed knowledge and skills. These two things will help them gain the necessary tools to prosper regardless of the size of their land. This will be done by utilizing our own agronomists through training and farm visits at very little additional cost to Lekitatu Farm.
The horticulture industry in Tanzania
The horticulture industry in Tanzania is characterized by farmers who rely mainly on seasonal rains for their production. The main reason for producing during this period comes down to only one thing, the availability of water from rain. And since most farmers come from a grain and legumes growing background, they tend to apply the same quantity to counter low prices over quality which doesn’t translate as well to horticulture.
These factors contribute to overproduction which leads to oversupply once the rainy season harvest comes to market. Oversupply leads to low prices and in extreme instances a total price collapse which happens often when there’s a bumper harvest. So most farmers end up losing money or barely recoup their costs. Ironically once the rainy season harvest has been consumed, prices begin to recover due to a lack of out of season producers.
Very few farmers produce during the dry season when prices recover and hit their pick due to 3 main reasons;
- Lack of access to sufficient water for irrigation for most farmers who are dependent on rain for production. Even in areas where furrow irrigation is possible, the amount of water required to sustain crops increases dramatically making it hard to produce a good crop.
- The cost of dealing with pests is another reason why production is low during the dry season. As most surrounding areas dry out, furrow irrigated crops become a sanctuary for pests as the only source of greenery. And if an integrated pest management (IPM) program hasn’t been implemented, pest control becomes a near impossible and expensive undertaking.
- A Lack of a clear program/s for farm preparation, production and pest management especially during the dry season. Not having these programs in place prior to start of production leaves most farmers very ill prepared to tackle problems that will arise.
These problems include the following;
- Land that isn’t well prepared to coup with the dry season will have poor water retention. A crippling problem when efficient water use is essential to a success harvest.
- Not having a good pest management program in a period when pests are prevalent is another thing that cripples farmers. Simple things like clearing surrounding brush or planting a live barrier can mean the difference between success and failure especially during the dry season. E.g. By not controlling weeds and brushes surrounding the production area create a sanctuary for pests when you spray your crops. And once the pesticide fades, they move right back in.
- Using the wrong type of inputs can doom a farmer before they even put a single seed/seedling on the ground. For example during the dry season it’s important to use seeds that do well in dry conditions.
Lekitatu Farm’s Strategy for success
For the past 2 years plus I have done research, attended training and seminars, done trial production runs and marketing of over 30 different crops using furrow irrigation. During this period I was exposed to the entire horticulture value chain. From the lessons learned I was able to develop a strategy that will ensure Lekitatu Farm’s success.
For the past year I’ve implemented a trial run for part of the strategy using furrow irrigation with very promising results. Despite the shortcomings of furrow irrigation (uneven crops, crop loss due to flooding and drying cycles), I was able to establish the following; (a) A ready market for our produce despite being unable to guarantee consistent supply(b) Timely payment (one of the biggest complain for farmers) due to our product mix and continuous supply.(c) There is high demand for our production mix and continuous supply approach based on the market response we got. Despite our low volumes and inconsistent supply during the trial production run, we had to turn down new customers because of the limitations of furrow irrigation.
These results gave me confidence that I have found a market that Lekitatu Farm can serve and develop a business around. To take full advantage I’ve develop two strategies to implement hat will help the farm succeed.
The two strategies I’m going to implement for the farm to start the journey of building a successful locally owned agribusiness are as follows;
- Year round production of a specific combination of specialty produce (Beetroots, White onions, Cauliflower etc.) to supply the tourism industry, expatriate community and the extractive (mining, oil and gas) industries.
- Production of local staple fruits and vegetables with no favourable substitutes during periods of scarcity e.g. Watermelons, Cabbages and Carrots. This will serve as a secondary production strategy to provide some diversity, cash flow and support for the anchor strategy. This strategy will focus on crops that are locally mass consumed by targeting periods of scarcity for each crop.
- This will be the farm’s anchor production strategy as it provides the best conditions for building a strong sustainable business. By produce a select mostly scarce high demand crops year round I am able to achieve the following (a) Better prices for our produce year round even during periods of oversupply (b) Prompt payment after delivery which a major problem for most farmers (c) By not relying on one crop I am able to research and incorporate new crops and crop combination to grow the business.
- This strategy will also help the farm start doing value addition without putting too much pressure on resources. Some areas where value addition can be implemented are in the production of mixed salads, dried herbs and spices among others.
Year round production of a specific combination of specialty produce (Beetroots, White
- The goal will be to time the harvest for each crop to when demand is high and supply is low with no favourable substitutes. E.g. harvesting watermelons during hot weather months especially when pineapples are out of season.
- This ensures I get the best prices for my crops because of the supply and demand imbalances.
How I plan to implement the two pronged strategy for Lekitatu farm
To successfully implement these two strategies I will have to implement the following programs and technologies.
- Implementing an integrated Crop Management (ICM) program will help to achieve the following; (i) An eco friendly soil management program to deal with weeds while maintaining soil quality. (ii) Implement an efficient crop nutrition, fertilization and water usage and management program. (iii) Implement a holistic pest management program with a high emphasis on prevention.
- Creation of a seedling production area to ensure I get seedlings of the highest quality. This will help ensure the production of a strong and healthy crop that is more resilient to pest and diseases.
- A drip irrigation system will be the central component of the farm’s irrigation infrastructure. The irrigation precision of a drip irrigation system will help us use less water smarter. It will also help us conserve our water reserves especially during the dry season.
- An upgrade of the farm’s storage and processing facility will help us safely store agro inputs and produce. The upgrades will help us ensure agro are stored safely and at optimum conditions. The upgrades will also include a processing area that meets good handling practices (GHP) standards to ensure the quality of produce is maintained.
Simply put a drip irrigation system is the most vital component for the project’s success.
How You Can Help
To successfully deliver on this strategy I will have to incorporate all the above mentioned technologies, improvements and procedures. I already have the initial capital I will need to see the farm through the initial production stage. I also have the integrated crop management (ICM) program ready to start training staff and implementation.
What I need help with is in the acquisition, installation and improvement of key infrastructure on the farm. These will include (i) Drip irrigation infrastructure (ii) Seedling production facility and (iii) Upgrading the storage and processing facility. The total additional funding I’m looking to raise for these three items is $ 21,000 to ensure the farm’s success.
This amount combined with funds I already have will be enough to fully implement the two strategies successfully.
How will the community benefit?
The community will benefit from this project directly and indirectly in the following ways. Direct benefits will include permanent and part time employment opportunities, training and on farm demonstrations from our agronomist for small holder farmers and the purchase of goods and services from the community e.g. provision of meals for our staff will mainly utilize locally sourced products and labour.
Indirectly the community will benefit among other things through infrastructure projects which the farm will support in corporation with our local government e.g. roads, ensuring supply of clean drinking water etc. As a farm located within an irrigation scheme I will also work towards the protection of our water source which provides over 500 small farmers and 3,000 households with clean water for irrigation and domestic use.
Additionally a profit sharing program will be implemented to benefit all employees’ part & full time and the community. 10% of profit will be divided 50/50 between employees and the community. Employees will get a bonus at the end of the year which will be allocated according to salary, wages and hours worked.
For the community the funds will be used mainly to teach the community how to fish (building and developing useful skill). This will include paying for education, training, and seed capital for small business with a focus on youth and women.
MEET YOUR FARMER
Donald Munisi is the second of 4 brothers who own Lekitatu farm located in Lekitatu, Usa River in Arusha Tanzania East Africa. After living in England for over 7 year, Donald returned back home in mid 2007. He settled in Dar es salaam and worked as a freelancer online marketing expert working on different projects both locally and abroad for 6 years. In September 2013 he relocated to the family farm in Arusha to develop it into a viable business.
After moving to the farm he worked tirelessly for the next 5 plus years to find a way to turn the farm into a successful agribusiness. This was possible with the support from his brothers, agronomists, produce supplier, Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), experience gained through training and trial production runs.
He is now working together with his brothers to raise the necessary funds needed for the project to take off. With his brothers support he was able to clear and prepare the farm for production. This included rehabilitating farm access roads, clearing rocks and developing a furrow irrigation infrastructure. He has also been able to raise funds for the initial preproduction and production stages.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you in advance for your support in helping me make this project a success. Please fill free to ask any questions via email at [email protected] or visit Lekitatu Farm’s Facebook page here.
I will also be posting updates of the farm progress on the facebook page. So please follow the page especially if you’ve made a donation to see how your funds are put to work.