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PPP - shortcut to progress

Without anywhere to store their grain until prices improve, farmers often get low prices (Katrine Plesner/TAP)
Without anywhere to store their grain until prices improve, farmers often get low prices
Katrine Plesner/TAP

The sight of half-built mansions, shopping centres and other dream projects standing wasted and idle, with little hope for completion, is all too common in the cities and towns of Africa. Less visible, perhaps, but just as tragic, are the dilapidated warehouses that stand empty, while farmers living nearby get low prices for their grain because they have nowhere to store it until prices improve. But this tragedy of wasted resources is also an opportunity, one that is now being exploited in Tanzania, by the Tanzania Agriculture Partnership (TAP).

Hendry Mziray is passionate about restoring and using wasted resources. As a private businessman he runs a company, HomeVeg, which links smallscale farmers to reliable markets. But he is also the TAP coordinator for Meru district in northern Tanzania, and during his frequent visits to smallholder farms and villages he looks for chances to turn waste into opportunity.

Putting warehouses to use

Tanzania Agricultural Partnership

TAP began in 2004 as a dialogue between the Tanzanian government and the fertiliser company, Yara International, to increase fertiliser usage in the country. Analysis soon revealed that fertiliser use was just one of many bottlenecks in the agricultural value chain, and new partners were invited from public and private sectors to enable action on many fronts.

Creating and exploiting synergies and partnerships is central to the TAP approach. Some components are funded by donors. Others are implemented by international NGOs or projects with their own plans and funds. TAP coordinates these activities so that they build on each other instead of repeating and overlapping.

Warehouse repair is just one budget line agreed by TAP funder, Norad, as part of a wider programme to improve key links in Tanzania's agricultural production and marketing chain. Through visits to all the warehouses in the district, Mziray identified nine that had fallen out of use. All needed repairs, but one stood out as having greater potential: a warehouse in King'ori village needed fewer repairs than the others, was owned by the community and was located in a maize growing area, a crop suitable for storage. But most encouraging was the spirit of the villagers. "This community was different," Mziray says. "People were ready for somebody to 'start' them. They were ready to move."

By the time of harvest in 2009, the warehouse was storing half of its capacity (FERT)
By the time of harvest in 2009, the warehouse was storing half of its capacity
FERT

In renovating the King'ori warehouse, Mziray quickly found a willing public sector partner in the District Agriculture and Livestock Development Officer (DALDO). "When Mziray introduced us to the idea of renovating King'ori warehouse it eased our pain," says Dr. Amani Sanga, Acting DALDO of Meru. "We had scheduled for renovation of a warehouse in another village, but for different reasons it was delayed. It was possible for us to transfer the money to renovation of King'ori's warehouse instead. Renovating King'ori warehouse through a public-private partnership (PPP) was an opportunity to us. We had a chance to show that we can deliver." DALDO topped up the budget Mziray received from TAP and the villagers contributed with sand, wood and labour.

Loans from stored grain

By the time of harvest in 2009, the warehouse was ready and was soon storing half of its capacity, holding 71 tons of maize. In the meantime, Mziray had set up another partnership with FERT, a French NGO working to strengthen Tanzania's network of Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOS). One main objective of FERT is to train SACCOS in running warehouse receipt systems and thereby offer loans on stored grain. Within a month of their initial meeting with Mziray, FERT had trained King'ori's SACCOS leaders on warehouse management and helped to establish a revolving fund. "It was a good opportunity and it was easy," says FERT's Marina Abboud. "The community was already sensitised and Mziray had all the contacts."

Finding the right buyer for the stored grain, however, has been challenging, with an influx of newly harvested grain from other regions causing a drop in prices before the King'ori farmers managed to sell their grain. Obtaining market price information and being able to interpret it correctly, to sell when prices reach their peak, is also difficult, especially if prices fail to reach the levels of previous years. FERT is currently working with the King'ori farmers to apply for a contract with the World Food Programme's Purchase for Progress initiative, which buys grain from farmers within the developing world to supply its feeding programmes.

The King'ori farmers have applied for a contract with the WFP's Purchase for Progress initiative (FERT)
The King'ori farmers have applied for a contract with the WFP's Purchase for Progress initiative
FERT

Despite this setback, however, the renovation of the warehouse is widely praised, with the stakeholders ascribing its success to the partnership approach, and the transparency seen throughout the process. Budgets from different partners were disclosed at the beginning and roles were clear. But accepting the PPP approach has demanded trust and positive thinking, as witnessed by Dr Sanga. "When we first heard about public-private partnership, we saw it as a threat. Most of us thought that these people came to rob us of our jobs. This time public sector has learnt. People are becoming aware of the advantages of public-private partnership. It simply makes us move faster."

TAP has now completed warehouse renovation in 13 districts, including Meru, and has EC funds to repair a second warehouse in each district. Twelve other districts have also been added to the project and, by the end of the 2010 cropping season, the partnership aims to have completed 38 warehouse renovations in total. For Mziray, the next step is to identify another suitable warehouse for renovation under TAP. "My ambition is to make things move - to make our small farmers benefit," he says.

With contributions from: Katrine Plesner

Date published: May 2010

 

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