The second learning journey brought the participants to MUVIKIHO, an apex farmer’s association dealing with horticultural produce with an office located in Usa River, Meru district, Arusha region. Today, MUVIKIHO has a membership of 22 groups representing over 400 smallholder farmers. Their main aim is to strengthen the power of their member farmers in the market by providing a centralized focal point and coordinating collective marketing. The main crops produced by the primary groups are green beans and peas for export.
According to its Chairman, Jeremiah Ayo, an important game changer was when MUVIKIHO obtained its own independent Global GAP certificate in August 2016. Before that time, they sold exclusively to the export company which sponsored their Global GAP certificate. The company, as the owner of the certificate, dictated all the terms – price, volumes, schedules. Now they have their own independent certificate, meaning they are not tied to one buyer any more who had monopoly over their business. MUVIKHO can work with multiple exporters and they choose the one that offers the best prices and conditions.
Jeremiah noted that many other cooperatives had come to learn from their approach such as those from Manyara and Zanzibar. The impact has been clear in terms of not having to worry about basic needs, such as putting food on the table or paying for school fees, and they are looking forward to their children who have returned from University to take the business on.
However, success requires continued hard work and Jeremiah highlighted some of the challenges that they must face in the next year:
Making sure that the farmers continue to trust the management of MUVIKIHO, that no fraud occurs.
There is less demand for vegetables in both export and local markets, because the consumers’ purchasing power in those countries has declined and they therefore tend to stick to staple foods. There has also been a reduction in the number of exporters which narrows the competition down.
The exporters also continue to “play games”: they claim that the vegetables do not meet quality standards, and “negotiate” a price products in a lower quality scale. Or they use fraudulent weighing scales to “cheat” farmers.
GlobalGAP certification companies are based in Kenya. To pay the transport and other fees for the controllers remains very expensive
If Muvikiho wants to obtain a loan from a local bank to have enough working capital to buy farmers’ vegetables, or for investments, the interest rates remain very high, up to 3 percent/month.
Tax policy which appears to penalize the MUVIKIHO set up, i.e. double charging of tax for the same transaction. The farmer groups in the villages have to pay when selling their product to MUVIKIHO, and MUVIKIHO a second time.
They would like to see the business continue to expand, partly through the Arusha Safe Food Initiative where they may move to packing and selling their crops to the local market.
Rikolto and the Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA) has been working with MUVIKIHO for 4 years and this business model is now widely recognized as a successful approach. Rikolto and TAHA have now joined forces with TRIAS and World Vegetable Centre to work on a joint horticulture program which aims to replicate the MUVIKIHO model and also pilot new approaches for supporting farmer-entrepreneurs.