HealthNews

Initiative brings horticultural crops on Tanzanians’ table

Southerners in the East African country are surrounded by abundant vegetables and fruits, yet never ate them

SATURDAY February 18, 2023

Mbeya Region in the Tanzania’s Southern Highlands Zone though abounds with vegetables and fruits, residents of the region rarely consumed them. PHOTO | PHOTOCUP

By Deus Bugaywa

The Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania

Nick named green region for its climate rich in rainfall and greenish vegetation cover throughout the year, Mbeya might have been taking this condition for granted, prompting Kibowavi Project to make the Southern Highlands region and its neighbouring Songwe and Katavi eat green.

Supervised by Helvetas Swiss Inter-cooperation, Kibowavi, a Swahili acronym for empowering women and youth in horticultural crops production and marketing, aspires to contribute towards inclusive economic growth, promote private sector development and job creation in the sub-sector in a bid to enhance food security and nutrition in the Tanzania’s Southern Highlands Zone.

The project implemented under Agri-Connect, an European Union (EU) funded programme, has so far attained one of the great milestones by establishing an on-farm value addition facilities through construction of  two food processing plants, storage and park houses, nine solar driers, two storage gear for onions and cardamom, and four marketing amenities in Mbeya and Mpanda.

These facilities have brought dramatic changes in dietary behaviours within the project  areas, with its multiplying effects being felt as far as from the nation’s commercial city of Dar es Salaam to the Great Lakes’ commercial hub of Mwanza, the tourist gateway of Arusha and to the  Dodoma Capital.

Improving nutritional outcomes requires consideration not only on the way the food is produced, but also on how it is processed, distributed, marketed and consumed. This is the exact role the Mbeya Food Processing Park is playing.

The emphasis is on supporting small-scale food processors to gradually shift to medium and ultimately to large-scale processors. The shift away from small-scale processing, prioritise the use of environmental-friendly technologies, development of basic industry and harnessing competitiveness.

An expert (Left) trains a farmer on good agricultural practices. PHOTOS | DEUS BUGAYWA

Ms Pendo Mwamboneke, the Director of Uwamsho Group Products, is one of the beneficiaries of the park house: “After joining the park house, I can now produce and package an amaranth green seeds flour, amaranth grain flour and a range of nutritious products which are organically farmed, processed and packed to maintain its nutritious value, it has a lot of health benefits, I sell it all over the country,” says Ms Mwamboneke.

She adds that the presence of the park house coupled with training they received is changing people’s eating habits, as many are longing for eating green.

The DMK Africa Company director, Mr Dominick Nyimbi, whose company produces a variety of tea spices, says the park house had afforded them an ability to produce healthy food products, thus making an optimal utilisation of a green range of products found in the Tanzania’s Southern Highlands Zone.

“Green is life, we’re popularly known as a green region, but in actual sense, we were not getting any healthy gain from this greenness. With this park house in place, we can now say for sure that Mbeya is a green region in which people eat green because crops here are received from organically cultivated farms, cleaned and processed through vigilant eyes of experts to ensure final products don’t lose their nutritious value,” explains Mr Nyimbi.

According to experts, eating green means eating whole, nutritious and minimally-processed foods that are healthy for human and the environment. It involves the ways the food is grown, harvested, stored or seasoned and processed.

“We took eating for granted, paying little attention to the nutrition aspects of what we ate,” Ms Bertha Mwaipopo, the CEO of Lintu Products and General Supply.

Rapid urbanisation has paved way for fast foods, thus changing the lifestyle that has shifted dietary patterns and the food systems in terms of availability, affordability and desirability health-wise, and as a result, less healthy foods are most favoured, especially among the youth and children, leading to rampant malnutrition and stunting.

Income growth alone cannot solve the malnutrition challenge and may, in fact, create overweight and obesity. The challenge from the nutrition perspective is how to sustainably improve the quality of diets, as well as other health-nutrition related habits, across different populations and age groups.

Ms Bertha Mwaipopo, the CEO of Lintu Products and General Supply, says the park house has not only uplifted her from a small food vendor to a person she is today, but also has helped her change her eating habit of her family and those surrounding her.

“We took eating for granted, paying little attention to nutrition aspects of what we ate, the concern was on one to be full. As a result of the training on nutrition-sensitive agriculture and benefits associated with eating green, we are now changing for better,” she observes.

In order to make the park house accomplish its intended mission, the Kibowavi project is building the capacity of 21,334 farmers to apply good agricultural practices, climate smart agriculture and post-harvest management, surpassing the target of training 15,000 framers.

A park house and training in processing vegetables and fruits are changing people’s eating habits in Mbeya Region, Tanzania, as many are now resorting to greenish foods.

While 78 farmers were trained in organic farming, exceeding the 50 farmers targeted, 132 out of 150 targeted entrepreneurs were trained in processing standards. Nutrition-sensitive practices, in turn, attracted 280 farmers, exceeding the 250 target and 16,478 farmers were capacitated on access to finance, group management and business management skills, going beyond the 15,000 target.

The Kibowavi Project in collaboration with the government and other interventions has brought about significant changes in the region, especially in improved nutrition, as the food diversification and change of habits has led to reduction of stunting amongst children.

According to Tanzania Health Demographic Survey 2022/2023, Mbeya has reduced stunting from 37.7 per cent to 31.5 per cent, Songwe from 37.7 per cent to 31 per cent, while Katavi managed to lessen stunting from 38.8 per cent to 32.2 per cent.

“The health demographic survey results are encouraging, our efforts through Kibowavi Project together with initiatives of the government and other actors helped to bring down stunting in our project areas,” says Mr Felix Bachmann, the Helvetas Country Director.

The Helvetas Programme Director, Mr Daniel Kalimbiya, says the project has also brought social behaviour change, as men are involved in domestic chores, communication, stimulating children’s brains and beefing up households’ peace.

Farmers are trained in seedlings production using trays

“There has been significant increase in income and employment, as about 523 people have been employed through improved production and supported facilities,” says Mr Kalimbiya.

The five-million-euro project dating back to 2020 will be accomplished in early 2024Ω

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