Kilimo Kwanza 101

Kilimo Kwanza 101

A field report from the Nane Nane farmer’s fair in Dodoma.

The annual farmers fair in Dodoma  brings together all stakeholders of the agriculture industry in Tanzania,  government ministries, agencies, district representatives, private companies and ngos in a week long indoor/outdoor fair at the Nzuguni grounds. The event has been happening for the last three years and I believe is supposed to continue for some more years.

So whats this event all about and why did I (a tech person) who knows very little about farming end up at a Farmers fair. I actually found out about the event by accident about a week before the fair was supposed to start from a client of our company Bongo Live. Bongo Live decided to make the last minute trek to Dodoma for a number of reasons:

  • We really wanted to learn what this Kilimo Kwanza initiative was all about and get a sense of what was happening on the ground
  • We wanted to pitch Bongo Live’s SMS services to enable Government entities, NGO’s and companies to communicate easily with farmers
  • Identify what issues were faced by the agricultural sector and how technology could help solve some of them

The fair itself is huge, spread about an area of approximately 2km x 2km. Dodoma is very dry and dusty which didn’t make it the outdoor exhibition easy, but the space is necessary because some exhibitors(Seed growers, government entities etc) go to the extent of creating mini farms with various crops grown and livestock on display. Aside the ministry of agriculture, the government also takes the opportunity of the fair to showcase the work of other ministries relevant to farmers such as Health, Finance as well as the work of local districts. With this event the government is definitely trying to play its part to help farmers scale up, get them access to financing and mechanization tools as well as encourage agencies and companies to work together where there is overlap.

One thing that was definitely missing was a central repository of information about the event (i.e a website). It seemed like you almost had to know someone or be in Dodoma before hand to get a booth. A lot of young innovative companies could have showcased their products or services if they knew how to participate. For participants it was also difficult t figure out where to go as there was no map or directory of participants.

Some interesting things we learned:

  • Farmers are hungry for information and knowledge, we need to figure out how to get them relevant information in Swahili.
  • This might seem dumb but, not all farmers are poor. There is a whole range of purchasing powers among farmers.
  • Up to 75% of the seeds used in Tanzania are imported. This is shocking for a country who’s primary industry is agriculture. Opportunity here!!
  • There are plenty of issues with government programs and subsidies, for instance the voucher system that subsidizes farming inputs is plagued by theft and corruption. Room for technology to track and monitor.

Agriculture as we know has a huge potential for growth in Tanzania and along with it there is a need/potential for supporting industries to establish themselves. These industries could be farming inputs, agro-processing,  logistics, infrastructure (water, energy, roads) and off course technology.

Cross Listed at Bongo Live.

Taha is a technology enthusiast with a particular passion for mobile services. He loves following major technology/business trends in developing countries, especially his native Tanzania, and believes Africa is the new uncharted frontier. His entrepreneurial adventures have focused on CampuSMS – a texting service for college campuses. Taha is currently employed as a technology consultant with Capgemini in Los Angeles, California. He is also an avid traveler and photographer.