Transforming Young Vegetable Farmers into Entrepreneurs
Vegetable hubs bring young farmers together to learn, solve and save, laying the groundwork for success.
It takes knowledge, connections to markets, boundless energy and more to succeed as a producer of fresh vegetables.
Farmers like Rayson Eliahu have struggled to run a viable horticulture business for years. The 35-year-old Tanzanian cabbage farmer and father of two said that over time he came to understand that his biggest challenge was not in selling what he grew, but in learning what would sell based on both the time of year and consumer demand.
“I have struggled for years to have a reliable market,” Eliahu said. “I am now assured of the market for my produce, I have no worries of where I can sell my snow peas, and I have a good and close relationship with my customers.”
Feed the Future, through Catholic Relief Services, helped create a youth vegetable business hub and partnered with the World Vegetable Center to pilot it in the Arumeru District in Tanzania, where Eliahu lives. Vegetable business hubs focus on three components: training youth on improved vegetable production practices, connecting young farmer groups to markets to increase household incomes, and strengthening the cohesion within and between the farmer groups.
The innovative model combines education and group governance through saving and internal lending communities and collective marketing of vegetables to increase farmer incomes.
Eliahu is one of the farmers who experienced the tremendous benefits and potential of the vegetable business hubs. After attending training sessions at the Arumeru youth vegetable business hub, Eliahu decided to form a farmer group called Bavega.
In the Arumeru District, youth vegetable business hubs such as Bavega engage unemployed youth to work together as a group in various aspects of vegetable production and marketing. Through these hubs, local youth learn improved methods for growing high-quality vegetable crops such as French beans, snow peas or tomato seeds. Hub groups can also often negotiate for better prices on inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers, and equipment. The group members also contribute monthly savings for the group to borrow funds for vegetable production and are linked to financial institutions such as Equity bank where they open saving accounts
It all comes together when the hub connects the farmer groups to high-value markets. In 2018, Bavega signed a contract with Serengeti Fresh — a producer, processor, and exporter of fresh vegetables — to produce snow peas and links the business to a lucrative vegetable market.
Through hub training activities, members learn how to meet their customers’ benchmarks for quality. They quickly learn that growing what the market demands is the best route for improving their incomes and livelihoods.
Eliahu used to make only around US$88 in net profit on one acre of land because of falling cabbage prices and little savings. The year the Bavega contract was signed, Eliahu made a net profit of nearly US$1,287.
Through training in production, marketing and finance, and with continued advice from customers on production and quality assurance, Bavega’s young entrepreneurs will continue to make stable incomes from planting and selling vegetables..
Vegetable business hubs developed by WorldVeg and Catholic Relief Services through Feed the Future, bring young farmers together in a community setting for training in the hub. Their skills and confidence grow as they learn new vegetable production and postharvest methods, find ways to solve problems together and learn collective saving methods to enable group investments. This lays the groundwork for future commercial collaborations.
Catholic Relief Services is a humanitarian aid organization, which helps the poor and vulnerable overseas by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty and nurturing peaceful and just societies. For more information visit www.crs.org.