The sun has barely peaked over the far off horizon, but Juliana Magulu is already awake and making tea before heading out to feed the chickens. There's no rain this time of the year in Ukomora, a village tucked in the rolling countryside of Njombe region, some 700 kilometres south-west of Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
High altitudes and cool temperatures create a morning dew on the trees and shrubs around her house. On the surface it looks like any other dry season Juliana has experienced in her 57 years living and working on farms, but this year's maize harvest is different for her and for 23,000 other farmers throughout Tanzania.
"I couldn't believe it. This was the largest harvest I've ever had," says Juliana.
A New Beginning
Juliana, a mother of five, is a participant in the Patient Procurement Platform, a new initiative that started in 2015 that provides agricultural services through a consortium to help smallholder farmers increase the quality and quantity of their yields. Under the initiative, farmers such as Juliana can now access services such as credit, high quality inputs, extension services and post-harvest technologies while gaining reliable access to more profitable markets such as commercial maize processors.
"Before this year, planting was always a difficult time," says Juliana. "Most years we didn't have enough money for both food and fertilizers, causing us to have to make hard decisions."
Due to a combination of annual rainfall patterns, lack of access to credit and lack of guaranteed markets, smallholder farmers in Tanzania often struggle to find the means to invest in high quality inputs. For many this often spells disaster but not this year for Juliana.
"Food is the most important thing that we can really struggle with, but thanks to the Platform, this year I don't have to worry about it," says Juliana.
Creating access to loans
Through the Platform smallholder farmers have access to loans, which they can use to buy quality inputs. As part of the Platform, Juliana paid a down payment of US$ 45, which provided her access to hybrid seeds, fertilizer, and herbicide that she otherwise would not have been able to afford. In addition, Juliana and other Platform farmers received extension services, which advised best times for planting and adding inputs.
"The key is to ensure that we are able to assist farmers throughout the planting season and beyond," said Ananth Raj, WFP Platform Coordinator in Tanzania. "We are able to achieve this by building a broad coalition of partners. It's the consistent access to low cost, high quality services that will unlock the real potential of smallholders."
Reaping Big Rewards
WFP and seven private sector buyers across Tanzania pledged to purchase up to 22,000MT of maize from Platform farmers giving them access to predictable demand. Subsequently, the demand was leveraged throughout the season and the farmers were empowered to negotiate fair prices at harvest. In her first season with the Platform, Juliana increased her maize yield by 50 percent. After harvest, Juliana then aggregated her maize with other farmers in the group which enabled them access to cheaper transportation rates.
In the 2016-17 planting season, the Platform aims to double its current reach to 50,000 farmers with plans to then scale up to 75,000 farmers by 2018 while also increasing farmers' profits by 150 percent per hectare. The plan is to add additional services, including insurance products, access to mobile-based information and training content as well as post-harvest shelling and drying. Although it is still early, the initiative has already had a large impact on the lives of the participating farmers and news of the Platform is spreading in the villages.
"It didn't take much," Juliana said, "After seeing how big my harvest was, all my neighbours and friends began asking me what I did differently and then how they could join the Platform."
*WFP supports smallholder farmers to transition from subsistence farming to market-oriented agriculture, and contributes to the achievement of systemic, demand-led market change. Through the Patient Procurement Platform consortium, work is being carried out in a concerted effort with seven other global members: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa; Bayer Crop Science AG; Grow Africa; International Finance Corporation; Syngenta Crop Protection AG; Rabobank; and Yara International ASA. The Platform is currently active in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia.
**The Platform would like to thank the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) for setting precedence through its multi-year commitment to the Platform's rollout and The Rockefeller Foundation, for supporting post-harvest handling and loss activities.
Source: World Food Programme