Just until recently 63 year old Emmanuel Mushi of Boro village in Kibosho Moshi believed that passion fruit wasn’t worth wasting time to produce leave alone making some cash on even by selling through the surrounding local market. This is due to the notion that the tree climbing vine was considered a wild fruit as the seeds would just be dropped on trees by scavenging birds which would later grow and bare fruits continuously with no agronomic efforts.
This changed in 2013 when VECO East Africa, visited Boro village and introduced the export and local market potential behind passion fruit production to vegetable producers in the area. VECO challenged these tomato, cucumber and green pepper producers whose vision was not beyond markets in their vicinity to exploit global market offers. In order to ensure volume and quality consistence Boro farmers through VECO support mobilized producer groups from Singa and Mbokomu and collectively formed Kibo Horti Farm Association with 30 members who have recently grown to 96 producer members.
“When I heard that there was a ready market for passion, I took it up immediately and engaged only half an acre due to my capital.” Says Mr Florence, a 39 year old passion producer. Florence who is a member of Kibo Hort Association had for many earned his living as a petty trader in Moshi town and sometimes as a miner in the tanzanite mining. With mining activity which was sometimes brutal, Florence explains that it was very unreliable and most of the time difficult to make ends meet.
With an investment capital of less than TZS 500,000 shillings in half an acre as he used poles from his farm, local binding wire and very little agronomic supervision Mr Florence made more than 3.5 million through selling in Moshi and Arusha local markets. He adds that the prices were favorable as he harvested in the months of October to March. “I used the cash that I earned from this sale to upgrade my living standards.”
Florence story is very similar to most of his colleagues who are now members of Kibo Hort Association. “Policarp Mushi is another good example, after engaging in passion fruit production he made up to 3TZS. Policarp has managed to renovate his house and pay school fees for his 2 children in secondary schools. After realizing the first production cycle’s success Policarp has invested in production expansion from half an acre to a one acre. “Testifies Mr. Eliud Dotto, VECO’s program facilitator in Moshi.
In a nutshell, passion farming within Kibo members is highly promising despite some few challenges. Through various interventions by VECO, the association was able to record a sale of TZS 20,946,000 out of 6,982 kilograms during January /May 2016 which is considered a low season.
“VECO is like the backbone of Kibo passion production” explains Mr. Temba the Association’s member. When they mobilized us we were only 18 members. They introduced the crop, provided us with the seed and agronomic support throughout the process. They later assisted in market standards certification (Global GAP) and linked us with Serengeti Fresh and Frigoken export markets” says Temba. Just recently the group established a serving and lending system of VICOBA and some members have started enjoying the services. He adds that, since the local market demands are swelling and wanting as the prices range between 1500 and 2500 per unsorted kilo compared to TZS 2000 for a sorted kilo in an export market, the group is reluctant to fully focus on export for now.
VECO East Africa realized the exponential potential of Kilimanjaro region specifically on all year round climatic conditions which favor fruits and vegetables production as well as its strategic position to major export exit points, and initiated a pilot project for production of passion fruit, French beans and peas in 2013. This engagement comprised of a variety of services from farmers mobilization, exposure visits, capacity building on production, marketing and financial services, market linkage and market access facilities among others.
VECO took up the role of facilitating these farmers to bridge market accessibility gaps that are caused by lack of market standards due to poor quality, insufficient production, access to quality inputs and credit facilities and other related issues and as a result these farmer groups will gain more bargaining powers in the export market and even access these markets directly as they are currently selling through exporter agents.
In order to control soil borne diseases and ensure quality production, a seedling nursery was established by VECO where the Kibo passion grower members can obtain high standard seedlings at a relatively low price. In addition to that, just recently the project constructed a collection centre which will facilitate coordinated collective harvest, pre sorting and grading to reduce the amount of rejects and advocate for buyer transparency with exporters.
During these initiatives VECO continuously advocates for inclusive modern market (IMM) approach, a model that fully engages multi dimensional stakeholders (such as farmers, markets-both local and international, input suppliers, financial service providers etc) in the process in a win- win situation where each player takes up responsibilities. It is through this approach that one of the export markets has engaged some resources in the construction of the grading shade for collective marketing to Kibo producers. In addition to that, these markets, through VECO East Africa, are continuously building producer capacities on production and standards.
However, during the project implantation some challenges were faced. The main challenge has been the weather where there were cases of extreme drought and times too much rain and cold. This significantly slowed down the fruits maturity. Other significant reported challenges were related with access to finance as the crop is capital intensive, mistrust between buyers and producers (payment delays), pest and disease like termites which were a nuisance in destroying wooden poles which were used for trellising and traditional irrigation methods.
Moshi District through the DAICO office which has been working in partnership with VECO on passion fruit farming project commends the initiative and state that it has tremendously contributed in changing livelihoods of many farmers.
Stressing on the crop income contribution to these farmers, Mr. Chikira Peter Mcharo, the Moshi DC DAICO confirms that the government has budgeted TZS 10 million for the year 2016/2017 to boost passion fruit farming in Moshi DC. “We have evidently noted positive changes in people’s lives through this initiative. Therefore the 10 million will assist in disseminating passion growing knowledge through farmers field days and on-farms trainings to the nearby villages have not yet been convinced that passion fruit farming can change their lives” Says Mr. Mcharo.
Mr. Mcharo praises the efforts from other VECO development partners such as TAHA in promoting the high value vegetables and fruits farming in the district. He urges these partners to continue engaging the PPP as a way to reach more beneficiaries in changing lives.
Kibo Hort has plans to double its membership for assured passion fruit volumes as they are aiming at servicing both local and International markets. With the newly constructed collection centre, more services will be accommodated and eventually it will be upgraded into a fully fledged pack house.