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Farmers themselves can defend their interests : Networks of farmers' groups in Tanzania

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By EKOI, Ashu Epemi, HEPELWA, Andrew (July 2003)

For farmers to be able to continue and tackle their problems, they are to first of all defend their rights and interests. Farmers ought to come together in order that they have one mouth-piece, which will permit them to be heard and have representation of farmers' interests in confronting their own problems. This can be done through participatory communication, lobby for financial and material assistance, advocate for farmers' reforms on agriculture in the legislative, communal and regional assemblies. Also, the farmers should rally amongst themselves so that they will benefit on organisational strengthening, in providing agronomic services, market strategies, and solve problems funding which individual farmers can never solve because of abject poverty.

 

The organisation that sought to bring farmers into one network is called MVIWATA ( Network of Farmers' Groups in Tanzania) . MVIWATA was founded in 1993 by 22 innovative farmers from Morogoro, Iringa, Kilimanjaro Tanga, Mbeya andDodoma regions, with the aim of farmer-farmer exchange forums. The Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro guided the idea and succeeded in registering the organisation in 1995. Their philosophy was based on rural development of farmer group levels, local initiatives and membership forums. The organisation is a non- strong hierarchical level which is individual members, local farmers, local networks and the national network.

 

The target group of MVIWATA is operating a 75 sustainable target networks with over 3000 individual card-holder members. The network size varies from 5-15 affiliated groups. Each group has an average of 15-200 members. The number of beneficiaries has increased in recent years from 10000-25000. MVIWATA has as strategy to strengthen local groups and networks through self-reliance attitude, provision of participatory training skills to the members of the networks, execution of sustainable income-generating projects owned by farmer members mainly on marketing and rural banking projects. Therefore, to realise its mission, the following activities were implemented:

· Organisation of agricultural farmers' exchange visits within and outside Tanzania to enable the farmers acquire new farming technologies like simple irrigation equipments so that increased production can be realised.

· Organisation of national and regional workshops for specific topics in agriculture, livestock and social problems like fertilisation, verterination, HIV/Aids and malaria prevention.

· Organisation of training for Board members, leaders of the local Networks and local Network members and Economic Groups so that the leaders should know how to keep their farming records.

· Information gathering,, Documentation , Publication of a quarterly Newsletter (PAMBAZUKO) and dissemination of farmers' experiences and activities through videos, booklets and articles by the farmers and for the farmers.

MVIWATA has had to overcome most of its problems due to the better organisation and follow-ups and has registered many achievements in the Network such as

· Registered and unregistered groups of farmers together with their Networks work on specific and sometimes on similar activities such as village banks, marketing promotions, road construction and income-generating activities like vegetables, food processing, and dairy projects for cows and goats. These activities have gone a long way to improve on the earnings of the farmers who are now sending their children to school, constructing better houses with water and electricity, opening of small retail stores, creation of gardens around houses and also an improved healthy society especially in the rural areas. The rate of rural exodus is also reduced.

· Specifically, MVIWATA has so far organised farmers' exchange visits to 16 regions in Tanzania and internationally, about 50 farmers have been involved in several countries. The result is that ideas and knowledge is acquired back home from such visits and forums like the World Peasant Meeting from 6th-11th May 2002 in Cameroon.

Comments

MVIWATA has as vision a strong farmers' organisation that will guarantee small-scale Farmers' participation and representation in socio-economic and political decision-making process through potential knowledge in initiating, implementing, monitoring and evaluating their own economic and social ventures.

Notes

This fils was written during the World Peasant Meeting from 6th-11th May in Cameroon.