The agriculture sector is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy, contributing to 30 percent of the national gross domestic product and employing more than 67 percent of the population. But while agriculture may be the key to Tanzania’s sustainable economic development, it is the country’s growing youth population that holds Tanzania’s future in their hands.
With 77 percent of the population under the age of 35 and a median age of 17 years, Tanzania must find ways for the next generation of youth to be productive, engaged participants in the economy—and few industries are better poised to do this than agriculture.
In 2016, the agriculture sector grew by 3.2 percent and earned the country $1.7 billion. A significant part of this agricultural growth stemmed from smallholder farmers sharing increased farming knowledge through training and capacity-building efforts supported by Feed the Future. Despite this growth, there is still room to improve the competitiveness of the sector.
Feed the Future Tanzania Mboga na Matunda (“vegetables and fruits” in Swahili), a new horticulture project, is doing just that. The effort focuses on increasing the competitiveness and inclusiveness of the horticulture sector while improving Tanzanians’ nutrition. It also promotes the use of improved technologies and practices among smallholders, giving rise to better productivity and in turn, better household income and nutrition. Furthermore, this Feed the Future project disseminates nutrition messaging on the benefits of growing and consuming nutrient-rich horticultural products.
Creating significant, wide-ranging transformation in the horticulture sector requires reaching the largest possible number of people – especially Tanzania’s most vulnerable citizens. This means developing market-led solutions to help youth seize opportunities in horticulture, and ensuring that young women are empowered to participate in household decision-making over productive assets and inputs.
The project empowers Tanzanians to become entrepreneurs through training in entrepreneurship, on-farm production and postharvest handling as well as transportation, marketing and nutrition. To support these efforts, the activity uses close to 100 demonstration plots throughout regions in Tanzania. To date, 3,210 youth below the age of 35 years have benefited from the training—1,663 women and 1,547 men.
“I’ve learned a lot from the sessions and feel highly empowered to start my own farming business in the near future,” said Happiness Francis, a 27-year-old farmer. She’s just one of the many young people who feel confident enough to start their own entrepreneurial farming ventures after receiving training. And with further trainings, Feed the Future aims to empower many more youth like Francis to become a part of the country’s sustainable future.
With better access to new tools and technologies and a focus on tapping into the entrepreneurial potential of agriculture, these efforts are giving a boon to youth interested in the sector and equipping them with the tools to succeed.