National Torch Event visits Kilimanjaro's Passion Fruit Farmers

National Torch Event visits Kilimanjaro's Passion Fruit Farmers

in News

The Uhuru (Freedom) Torch is one of Tanzania’s national icons. It was first lit on top of Mount Kilimanjaro following independence in 1961. The Uhuru Torch wants to "bring hope where there is despair, love in the midst of hatred and respect where there is none." Each year, the torch is moved across different regions in Tanzania to celebrate exceptional achievements and inspire further development. The huge brass lamp has visited and endorsed several successful development projects throughout the years. The passing of torch is a symbol of acknowledgement specifically for those projects with great potential for changing people’s lives.

On the 22nd September 2015, Mwenge (as the Uhuru Torch is locally referred to) was lit in Moshi district and visited passion fruits project. Senior government officials from regional and district level accompanied the torch on a visit to VECO East Africa’s Passion Fruit Projects. One of the visited plots was that of Polycarp Mushi, a farmer who is an active member of KIBO Horticulture Farmers Association. Polycarp briefed the guests of honour on the set up of the project and how VECO East Africa has contributed to it by facilitating the mobilization of farmer groups, by providing trainings, and by the establishment of nurseries and farmers field schools (FFS).

VECO East Africa also provides for trainings specifically on how to grow passion fruit. Some of these trainings take place on demo plots, where farmers receive hands-on experience in preparing the land, controlling pests and diseases, managing the soil and harvesting. “It is only since the start of our collaboration with VECO East Africa, that we have started with growing passion fruit. So it is a completely new crop to us. At first we were a bit apprehensive, but now we see the results and are looking forward to a bright future. Passion fruit is a highly valued crop that provides us with a new alternative to traditional fruits and vegetables and other cash crops.” says Polycarp.

The potential for the future is great. This will allow farmers to pay school fees, upgrade their housing and will significantly raise our living standards.

Polycarp Mushi Farmer and member of KIBO Horticulture Farmers Association

So far the passion fruit project has provided good incomes to the farmers, by selling to the local markets. Together with VECO East Africa, KIBO Horticulture Farmers Association is now looking into accessing export markets as well. “The potential for the future is great. This will allow farmers to pay school fees, upgrade their housing and will significantly raise our living standards.” Polycarp adds. Of course there are also many challenges involved with growing passion fruit and it is a capital intensive crop requiring a lot of investments.

The chief guest of the National Torch Event, Mr. Juma Khatibu Chum, National Torch Leader and local politician, has showed a lot of interest in the project and has advised the accompanied government officials to provide additional technical support and soft loans through the government revolving fund. He also encouraged and insisted on the mobilization of more farmers, with special attention to youth and women. Mr. Chum is advising the youth, instead of moving to urban areas to look for (low income) jobs, to use this project as an example and start passion fruits businesses themselves.

VECO East Africa is proud to have received this special acknowledgement and hopes that the Uhuru Torch will keep inspiring future development in Tanzania.