Our farm in Kigoma Western Tanzania has extremely limited modern, large-scale farming. Our project in Kigoma, known as Kilele Farms, has the potential to serve as a model for how the Tanzanian economy can be transformed through significant, long-term investment in agriculture, and allow farmers to produce both food and income to rise above subsistence levels. This vision is consistent with Tanzania’s Kilimo Kwanza or “Agriculture First” initiative.
Our farm is comprised of approximately 10,500 hectares in Lugufu, plus another 3,250 hectares nearby, north of Basanza village. The land has been uninhabited for some time and is surrounded by villages of smallholders. Due to a lack of modern agricultural inputs, tools and techniques, most of these villagers are able to farm only a few hectares and their yields are low. As a result, most of them have no extra food to sell.
Even if yields were higher, the surrounding region lacks the basic agricultural infrastructure to help these farmers escape from an endless cycle of subsistence living. There are very limited nearby markets and minimal modern storage facilities, thus much of the grain rots before it can be consumed. The farmers and the Tanzanian government have limited wherewithal to create markets and storage.
We plan to grow white maize and soy for domestic consumption and use some of the grain, together with the crops of local farmers, to produce animal feed and cooking oil. We will use this feed to raise chickens. These chickens and the eggs they produce can help fight protein deficiency in the region. The cooking oil can offer an alternative to expensive foreign imports.
White maize is a staple food for Tanzanians and the country’s most widely produced cereal. Even though crop yields are extremely low, Tanzania is sometimes a surplus producer of maize and exports to neighboring countries like Kenya and the D.R.C. However, distribution and storage challenges hamper trade and food security, and often compel Tanzania to import grain as well. AgriSol plans to plant 30 to 40 percent of our land with high-yield, high-quality maize (white and yellow). We plan to produce only white maize in the initial years in order to maximize our impact on food security in Tanzania.
One of the most widely produced and traded global crops, soybeans are a feedstock of animal feed and edible oil. They are an excellent rotational crop for maize as they naturally produce nitrogen that replenishes the soil. Global soybean production needs to rise with higher demand for proteins due to population growth and improved diets. Soybeans in East Africa are approximately 20 percent more expensive than on global exchanges. East Africa has very limited soybean production and crushing capacity and produces less than 1 percent of global output. AgriSol plans to allocate 50 to 60 percent of its planted land to soy. According to our projections, by year 10 we could be producing as much as 2.5 times Africa’s current total soybean production.
Feed represents approximately 70 percent of the total cost of raising animals for meat. Globally, the preferred ingredients for compounded animal feed are maize and soybean meal. Availability of commercial balanced animal feed is unreliable, limited and expensive in Tanzania and neighboring countries. Low quality of feedstocks, seasonal availability of raw materials, competition with food for ingredients and lack of credit have constrained the development of a Tanzanian animal feed industry. AgriSol will have a feed blending operation on-site for its livestock operations as well as to sell to other meat producers.
Edible oils (palm and soy) represent the second largest imported agricultural commodity into Tanzania, representing 55 percent of the country’s demand. Tanzania’s neighbors, including Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia, are all major importers of edible oil. AgriSol plans to eventually crush 100 percent of the soybeans it produces into soymeal and soy oil.
USAID estimates that poultry production in East Africa needs to rise by 200 percent between 2010 and 2020 to meet local demand. Traditional chickens can take up to one year to reach slaughter weight versus less than eight weeks for modern breeds. The supply of day old chicks of modern breeds and commercial feed is unreliable in Tanzania and neighbor countries. Higher-end markets such as hotels and restaurant chains import poultry despite higher costs due to unreliable local supply. AgriSol plans to start a modern egg laying operation after its first year of successful crop cultivation, followed by poultry meat in the following year.
Despite ranking third in Africa in terms of cattle population, Tanzanian beef producers lack a reliable supply. There is also a substantial demand for meat products from Tanzania in the D.R.C. and other regional countries. After a few years of operation, AgriSol will explore a cattle finishing operation utilizing its captive crops, although we estimate that costs of livestock production will be higher than in the United States.
Tanzanian farmers lose up to 40 percent of their harvested crops due to poor storage facilities. In order to avoid even greater losses, they are often forced to sell immediately after harvest (typically at the low price of the season), rather than opportunistically at globally competitive prices. Lack of storage also prevents smallholders from organizing themselves into larger groups that can negotiate collectively with buyers and, on a national level, makes Tanzania more vulnerable to food insecurity, especially during droughts.
AgriSol plans to add up to 30,000 MT of modern grain storage with fumigation, weighing and drying capabilities within the first four years of our farm operations. This storage will be compartmentalized for different crops and value-added products. As part of our outgrower and other programs, AgriSol also plans to provide smallholders with access to these facilities and, if needed, work with the Tanzanian government on increasing its strategic national grain reserve.