This post is by Fadhili Kasubiri, Michael Kilango, Agnes Ndunguru, Mary Ndimbo, Kessy Radegunda, Sylvia Kalemera, Patricia Onyango, Noel Templer, Teshale Mamo, Eileen Nchanji and Jean Claude Rubyogo.

In 2010, a Zinduka women’s group based in the Mshewe village in the Mbeya region of the southern highlands of Tanzania was established. The mission of the women was to support one another through agricultural production and sales of their agricultural goods, to become economically empowered and to serve as a shining example in their community. The group chose the common bean as the main crop because of its potential to uplift livelihoods by providing quick income. Before establishment of this group, production for beans was very low (300 kilograms per hectare) as result of inadequate knowledge of good agronomic practices and poor seed technology, among other reasons.

This observation is summarized by Miss Witness, the group chairperson, who said, “After analyzing several crops, as a group, we decided to grow beans as the most promising crop for business even though we grow other crops such as maize, soybean, tomato, rosella and papaya.”

Zinduka Women Modernizing Agriculture

The Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) Uyole research institute worked with this group as a bridge to reach other farmers through evaluation and promotion of new technologies. The initiative turned out to be a learning platform to a majority of value chain actors. In the process, the group realized the existing challenge of seed accessibility, especially quality seed of improved common bean varieties. Zinduka, which means “turn around,” decided to turn a gap into an opportunity and they ventured into seed production. They approached the TARI Uyole to advise them on where to access quality seeds of improved varieties and train them on better bean farming methods and production of quality seed to sell to other neighboring farmers.

“TARI Uyole taught us where to access good quality seed, as well how to grow and store them. We set up bean demonstration plots and invited other farmers from the community to learn how to grow beans in a straight line. This included following proper spacing, general management of the crop and postharvest handling of the seed and grain,” said Ms. Andusamile, one of the group members.

Women in seed multiplication farm
Zinduka women’s group in a seed multiplication farm.

She shared that they have witnessed a significant change, such as planting beans in rows with appropriate plant density and using quality seed of improved varieties by farmers around them. The yield has increased significantly from 300 kilograms to 1,750 kilograms per hectare after adoption of improved varieties and complementary practices. The farmers are keen to follow the lessons on bean growing, and now they experience bumper harvests every year!

Neighbors take notice

Anne Mwakalinga, a smallholder farmer in the Mshewe village (who is not a member of the group), shared that farmers in the village and within the ward have improved their farming practices on bean production, including use of improved varieties, good agricultural practices and planting in rows following the influence of the Zinduka group.

The bumper yields and attractive bean crop in the field brought more neighboring farmers to the group’s fields to learn various bean management techniques, including production, bean business and management of group dynamics, a key factor to the success of the group and its solid cohesion.

The Zinduka group recognizes the importance of understanding the market in the seed production venture. It grows the market-demanded variety of beans that most grain producers and traders need. These include yellows, sugar bean, red mottled and red kidney beans, which are demanded across Tanzania, Zambia and the Malawi bean corridor. The varieties they grow are Uyole Njano, Calima Uyole, Uyole 96 and Uyole 03. Seed production by the group has been growing since they started as a group.

Five-year seed production among Zinduka women
Bean seed production, 2015-2020, for the Zinduka women’s group.

Previously, the group’s main seed buyers were farmers around the village and within the ward. In 2018, the women got an opportunity to work with various value chain actors, such as seed companies, grain off-takers and TARI, who have also approached the group for partnership. Zinduka women are partnering with TARI Uyole to produce early generation seed during the off season, using their irrigation scheme. The group collaborates with seed companies, such as agricultural product seed companies, to grow seeds. Four off-takers, Raphael Group Limited, Rogimwa Agro-Company Ltd.Khebhandza Marketing Company Ltd. and Senjele Agricultural Marketing Cooperatives (AMCOs), are also linked with the group to supply seed to their grain producers by purchasing or linking the farmers directly to the Zinduka group. Also, various partners (e.g., Caritas and the Mbeya Rural District Council) are collaborating with the group to supply seed to grain producers. The women also serve as an example and motivate the community farmers around modernizing farming.

Through the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), TARI Uyole is working with the group to test a solar bubble dryer to reduce postharvest losses. According to the group members, bean maturity time always coincided with the heavy rain season, sometimes resulting in the rotting of seed and grain. In the past, it has been a challenge to dry beans on a rainy day.

“After harvest, our beans were rotting, but since we obtained this solar bubble dryer, it has been of great help. We have also provided service to the surrounding communities through renting it out,” said Ms. Andusamile.

A group of women standing by the donated solar bubble dryer.
Donation of solar bubble dryer to Zinduka women group from TARI Uyole and PABRA.

In 2021, TARI Uyole and PABRA partners introduced a multicrop thresher to the group to test its efficiency in threshing multiple crops, reducing drudgery, threshing time and quality of the grain. The achievements made by the group has attracted several other development partners. For instance, the Mennonite Economic Development Associates and USAID have come in to provide business training or linkages to other service providers.

TARI Uyole center director (in suit) while handling the multicrop threshers to the Zinduka women's group.
TARI Uyole center director (in suit) handing the multicrop threshers to the Zinduka women’s group.

The transformation within the group and around the community has been remarkable. Members of the group have already realized the benefits of hard work and the use of improved technologies and practices. The productivity per unit area has increased from 300 kilograms per hectare in 2013 to 1,750 kilograms per hectare in 2019. In 2020, using the returns from the bean business, the group bought a 15-acre farm and dedicated it to the production of quality declared seed, an internationally recognized level of seed quality.

Eight members have built permanent houses and connected to electric power and water. They pay school fees for their children and build stores for their produce. The Zinduka women’s group, in collaboration with the Mbeya Rural District Council, has also facilitated the formation and capacity building on good agricultural practices of two other groups in their villages — a youth group (four girls and five boys) and an adult group (six women and eight men). Girls in the youth group are also helping the Zinduka group to operate the multicrop thresher. Zinduka is set to become the leading common bean seed producer in southern Tanzania. The women want to open several seed shops around Mbeya. To realize this dream, they are already working on registering a full seed company.

This partnership was made possible through the contribution of various PABRA funders, among them the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationGlobal Affairs CanadaSwiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and USAID, and the government of Tanzania.