Zinduka Women Group is located in South-West Mbeya Rural District, Mshewe ward, in Tanzania. It was registered in 2011 with the support from the Mbeya District Council, who provided initial trainings in agricultural production. The group comprises 30 members who are mentoring 20 other female youth (Zinduka Youth Group) with the purpose of grooming them to take on agriculture as a business. The group started engaging in several value chains including: maize, rice, sweet potatoes and horticultural crops for home consumption and commercial purposes. Beans were merely grown for home consumption and any sales were unplanned and unintentional.

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Market Oriented Beans Production

Through the Kilimo Trust Beans Program, Beans Enterprises and Structured Trade in the EAC (BEST-EAC), the group was introduced to market-oriented production, market-access and access to assets for productive use such as agro-inputs. In addition, the group was taken through training on cost-benefit analysis where the profit margins for beans and an alternative enterprise, maize, were compared. Beans were found to be more profitable than maize in their location. “We only used to get agricultural production trainings from the local government extension officers but did not have access to markets and linkages to suppliers of agro-inputs,” added Mama Witness Sikayanga, a founder member and chairlady of the group. For BEST-EAC, linking the group to beans markets has been a journey full of lessons; the first buyer that the group was linked to never turned up to buy the beans even after the farmers had bulked their initial consignment.

Despite the challenges, BEST-EAC team persisted in building market linkages and approached Raphael Group Ltd (RGL) who were ‘spot buying’ to guarantee markets for farmers. “Initially, we used to buy little volumes from the spot markets and middlemen. We never thought working with smallholder farmers based on pre-agreed supply contracts was profitable. Ever since Kilimo Trust (KT) linked us to the farmers, we have never looked back and our beans business has been growing tremendously since then,” says Lazaro Mwakipesile, RGL’s General Manager.

The Consortium Approach

The appreciation of beans as a profitable agri-business venture by both the lead firm (buyer) and the suppliers (farmers) led them to partner with Agriseed Technologies Ltd. for the supply of seed, OBO Investments Ltd/YARA Fertilisers for the supply of the necessary agro-inputs and training on their safe usage, Agriculture Research Institute (ARI) Uyole for the production of foundation seeds to allow seed companies to multiply certified seeds for the farmers, and NMB Bank for financial services provision. The buyer’s guaranteed output market acts as the ‘pull factor’ for the rest of the value chain actors to invest in the beans value chain. These partners have signed an MoU stipulating their individual roles. The partners are in the consortium for commercial reasons with each of them benefiting from either selling or buying of beans, as well as supplying of goods and/or services for a profit.  The consortium comprises of 12 farmer business organisations comprised of 984 farmers (618 males and 366 females). Zinduka Women Group is one of the farmer business organizations in this consortium. Each of the partners has separate agreements to govern their business transactions under the umbrella MoU; for instance, the buyer (RGL) signs beans’ supply contracts with the farmers every season.

BEST-EAC project’s roles in the consortium include; training of the farmers in business skills, good agricultural practices including production of quality declared seed (QDS), post-harvest handling, provision of market information and facilitating trade negotiations and dispute resolutions among partners.

Through this consortium, Zinduka Women Group has been able to produce over 20MT of beans that have been sold to RGL, and an additional 10MT quality declared seed (QDS) that has been sold to other farmers within the ward between March and July, 2016. All these are valued at about Tsh. 60 million (USD 28,000). Zinduka Women Group receives higher prices for their beans compared to other farmer business organisations because of their top quality beans. Mama Witness, the group chairlady, who has produced 2MT of beans this season (March – July) says that as a result of the guaranteed market and the trust they have developed in RGL as a buyer, they have acquired 130 acres of land where they plan to produce 70 MT of beans jointly as a group starting from November 2016, in addition to individual farms which average 2 acres per member.

Additional benefits from SHIBECO (consortium) to Zinduka Women Group and the Community

The close partnership between the farmers and the buyer, RGL, has seen them partner in the construction of a collection centre with over 200MT capacity to be used by the entire community in Mshewe Ward for beans and other crops. “It is estimated that the 200MT capacity facility will benefit about 2,000 households within Mshewe ward” said Mr. Daudi Mwalusamba, the District Extension Officer, Mbeya Rural. RGL hopes to connect the collection centre to the GSoko platform. The farmers within the community also benefit from QDS produced by the Group after they were trained by BEST-EAC on QDS production. This guarantees the other farmers access to clean beans seed.