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Young farmers spark behavior changes in their communities

VINESA graduates will need cooperation from the business community to succeed in putting their new farming skills to work.

On 26 March 2015, farmers, institutions and communities in Arumeru District, Tanzania gathered at the Horticultural Research and Training Institute (HORTI) Tengeru to celebrate the graduation of the second group of farmers and mark the admission of the third group of trainees for the project “Improving Income and Nutrition in Eastern and Southern Africa by Enhancing Vegetable-based Farming and Food Systems in Peri-urban Corridors” (VINESA). The project is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

The newest group of VINESA graduates with their mentors.

The newest group of VINESA graduates with their mentors.

AVRDC –The World Vegetable Center coordinates VINESA activities in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, and HORTI-Tengeru spearheads VINESA’s activities in Tanzania.

Besides honoring the hard work of the second group and introducing the third group to what lies ahead, the ceremony provided a platform to lobby for technical, business and financial support for the graduates, to help them engage in high value vegetable markets.

Representatives from government, private, non-government and farmer organizations attended the event, which was officiated by Hasna Mwilima, Arumeru’s District Commissioner, who also presented certificates to the graduates. Thomas Dubois, AVRDC Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said: “Stakeholders should seriously promote consumption of more vegetables in their communities, and thus help these young farmers have more money in their pockets.”

In Tanzania, VINESA has trained a total 45 young male and female farmers and hopes to train another 75 farmers by 31 December 2017. Training covers a variety of topics, ranging from identifying viable vegetable markets; maximizing value and minimizing wastes; and selecting the right partners and relationships. After graduation, trainees are obligated to train 10-12 peer farmers from their community on how to produce, market and consume nutritious, safe and profitable vegetables.

“Post-training support is a major challenge facing the young graduates,” said Agatha Aloyce, VINESA’s Tanzania coordinator. A call was sent out to service providers and communities to support the young graduates if they are to benefit from their training in VINESA’s Best Practice Hubs in a sustainable way.

The young graduates performed skits, songs and dances in which they encouraged their communities to eat more vegetables for better health, and to engage in vegetable market opportunities to earn more income. Graduates and guests also were treated to mouth-watering vegetable recipes prepared by AVRDC staff. An emphasis was made on the need to prepare good-looking, tempting vegetable dishes if Maasai men are to be motivated to stop looking down upon vegetables as a “poor man’s food.”

Various stakeholders promised their support to the trainees, especially by increasing access to affordable credit and land for joint vegetable farming. It is only through concerted efforts from service providers that smallholder farmers will be able to exploit opportunities to improve employment, income and livelihoods in their communities.