Members of the Twaweza group live in the mountain village of Mundu on the outskirts of Morogoro, Tanzania. But despite their isolated location, they have managed to become a strong agricultural trading network.
The Twaweza group, made up of 25 youth, is one of the 80 Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) groups in the country who are involved in a variety of agricultural activities.
“We grow and sell so many things,” explains one group member and mother of two, Amina Alizara: “Tomatoes, spinach, Chinese cabbage, maize, plantain, beans, carrots and various fruits.” Each individual member grows one to two crop types. Amina’s specialty is bean and fruit farming: “I grow jack-fruits and avocados while my husband, who is also a group member, specialises in tomato farming.”
A ready local market
Amina and her group have built an efficient trading network selling their own cash crops as well as other produce like rice and plantain procured in bulk from the nearby town. Their own village of Mundu is in a Tanzanian military base in Morogoro which has proven to be a ready market for their produce. Amina supplements her sales by purchasing plantain bananas in bulk at 30,000 TZS (13 USD) and selling them in batches at 10,000 TZS (4 USD) per batch, “I usually come home with about 60,000 TZS (26 USD), and make a profit of 30,000 TZS (13 USD) per day,” she says. Amina also sells her beans and fruits at the local market and military base, making a profit of about 50,000 TZS (22 USD) per month.
By taking up similar agri-business activities, the 11 female group members have managed to increase their household incomes. Research by OYE shows that women are more interested and excel in agri-business activities that are less labour intensive than agricultural activities generally associated with masculinity. The same research shows that women are keen to take up such agri-business activities because they allow them to boost their household incomes with ease.
Youth Savings and Lending Association model
Indeed, Amina attests to the improved living standard she's now enjoying thanks to the agri-business activities she's been pursuing. Due to the knowledge she has gained through the OYE programme, she now contributes 20,000 TZS to her group’s savings account. Twaweza, like the other 80 youth groups, have successfully taken up OYE’s Youth Savings and Lending Association model, which has proven to be an efficient and youth friendly model across 10 regions of the country.
The group’s 25 members have contributed a minimum of 5,000 TZS (2 USD) per month since the group’s inception in April 2016. “We currently have a total of 1 million TZS in savings and use it to lend money to group members” says group leader and plantain farmer Issa Azimara. Amina recently took advantage of the group's loaning services to borrow 150,000 TZS which she used to finish building her house and pay for a solar panel installation.
"We were farmers before, but not like this"
Twaweza members were no strangers to the world of horticulture before joining OYE's agricultural initiative. But there was one big difference: “We just farmed in the usual way, we used whatever pesticide or fertiliser we could find,” recalls Amina, adding: “Now we grow our crops organically and are very careful with what we put into our soil.”
By using organic farming techniques, the group has reduced their costs and are now able to produce crops with greater ease than before. Lower production costs means larger profits for the group. Group leader Issa is happy with the results: “It pays to be more business-minded. Our log books are up to date and we are strict about measuring how much profit has actually been made.”
"Our future is in fish farming"
Determined to increase their profits, the group has decided to venture into fish farming. “We’ve been working on this since last year and hope to put in the hatchlings after the rainy season,” explains Amina. "We plan on starting with 50 fish and expanding from there." The group has already built a fish pond and anticipate a ready market in the mountain villages surrounding Mundi. “We will be the only fish sellers in this whole area. We already have a verbal agreement to supply individuals from the army as well,” chimes in Issa, who is confident about the project’s success.
Twaweza means "We can" in Kiswahili and the group is positive that they indeed can take on new projects and expand the collective’s agri-business.
With the OYE project, we aim to sustainably increase youth employment and incomes. Wo do so by:
- Providing disadvantaged youth in rural areas with life skills and relevant technical training (push factor).
- Linking youth to market opportunities for employment and enterprise development (match factor).
- Selecting opportunities in growth sectors that have concrete potential for employment creation (pull factor).
We work with youth organisations, vocational training centers, local government, and business associations to identify young people who are out-of-school and unemployed and then coordinate with training providers to carefully screen and select disadvantaged young people to participate.