A telecentre in Iringa area of Tanzania is connecting tomato farmers in the area with Kenyan buyers while assisting the farmers access real time information on market prices in Nairobi and Mombasa as well as in Zambia.
The telecentre, according to the head of the telecentre, is meant to provide information sharing among the tomato value chain actors including farmers, dealers, brokers and transporters. “Although we have not yet fully implemented the project, tomato farmers are now getting markets in regions such as in Tanga, Dar es Salaam, Mbeya and across the boarders in Nairobi, Mombasa Kenya and in Zambia,” he said.
He said the telecentre was also established to help tomato farmers establish effective communication networks with regards to tomato production and marketing in the villages.“The telecentre helps farmers to have wide knowledge on tomato farming and fetch good prices for their crop. Many farmers used to get very low prices just because they did not know who to contact to get the right information on markets,” he noted.
But the telecentre goes beyond marketing to pointing the farmers to the right inputs especially seeds. “Availability of better tomato seeds was a very big problem, but now the telecentre helps us to get better seeds that are free of diseases, enabling us to increase our production,” said Israel Magumbika a farmer using the telecenter.
Magumbika also said that last season, tomato farmers suffered much due to lack of market for their crop, forcing some of the farmers who did not secure market to damp more than 30 tonnes of tomato. “We suffered a lot in the previous tomato season because farmers obtained big tomato harvests but could not find market for the crop. We believe that through the telecentre we will not suffer again because we are contacting the market directly with brokers,” he said.
He urged the government to build a tomato factory in the region as the current processing factory does not have the capacity to keep all the harvested tomatoes. And according to Dr Dorothy Gimbi a lecturer at Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture, one of the major problems in the tomato value chain is disproportionate power middle men have over other actors in controlling market information, rendering some farmers uninformed.
“Many tomato farmers have complained about the middlemen’s control over the market and their interest in profit making. But with tomato value chain project, everything is transparent, hence farmers cannot be cheated on prices terms,” she said.
The don went on to say that lack of timely agricultural information is one of the constraints to small scale agricultural production and farmers clearly showed that tomato production was better suited for economically well-off farmers, who have enough capital to finance the purchase of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, herbicides, seeds, fungicides and pesticides.