For the first time, thousands of smallholder farmers in Tanzania are producing and selling high-quality avocados to large markets throughout Europe. This would not be possible without the help of two fast-growing local private sector companies: Africado in West Kilimanjaro and Rungwe Avocado Company in Mbeya Region. Both companies, established within the past five years, have been supported by Feed the Future through the Tanzania Agriculture Productivity Program.
Feed the Future first started working with Africado in 2010 to strengthen extension services and initiate a planting program for smallholder farmers. In 2013, as quantities of avocados for export increased, the program expanded into postharvest handling, procurement and logistics activities. Meanwhile, Africado made a large investment in a new packhouse that allowed them to export directly to European markets rather than sell to a Kenya-based export company.
For Lameck Vehankira, a farmer in Kilimanjaro Region, the increased demand has convinced him to start transitioning from banana and coffee plants to more avocado trees. “Avocados have given me extra income from the sales of the fruit to Africado, and this provides food for the family,” says Vehankira, who has harvested 200 kilograms from his small plot during the past two years.
Since 2009, Africado has expanded to 2,400 outgrowers, with a total of 110,000 trees. Fruit exports are expected to reach more than 2,000 tons by 2019.
Rungwe Avocado Company established its 100-hectare farm in the Southern Highlands in 2009; within two years it had a network of 2,000 smallholder farmers. In 2012, Feed the Future began working to improve access to planting materials and technical services, including postharvest and logistics support to ensure the delivery of high-quality produce. In 2014, Rungwe exported 200 tons from more than 3,000 smallholder farmers – a significant increase from the 12 tons shipped in 2012.
One of Rungwe’s outgrowers, John Mwaipopo, harvested 30 kilograms from the first tree he planted. In the past year, he has expanded to 200 trees on two acres of land.
Along the way, Rungwe Avocado Company and Africado have established good agricultural practices and responsible governance structures through programs such as GlobalGAP, which certifies the quality of products in the agriculture, aquaculture and livestock sectors. Today, only 26 farmers have this certification, but by the end of 2015, 400 local farmers in Kilimanjaro are expected to be reached by efforts to certify them to export avocados.
Thanks to Feed the Future, commercial avocado production in Tanzania has surged in recent years and is establishing an international reputation while increasing incomes for thousands of smallholder farmers. It is still early, but the future is bright.