By Sylvia Kalemera, Wilson Nkhata, Esther Cheyo & Jefferson Munyao
IKUWO Common bean business platform members in Sumbawanga, July 2023- Sylvia Kalemera
In the vibrant town of Sumbawanga, Rukwa region, southern highlands of Tanzania, there exists a remarkable company that is revolutionizing the agricultural sector. Established in 1995, IKUWO General Enterprises Limited has emerged as a transformative force, particularly in the general supply of agricultural inputs in the Rukwa and Katavi Region.
However, the company’s journey took an exciting turn when it delved into bean grain trading and discovered the challenges faced by farmers in accessing high-quality bean seeds, which hindered their crop yield and overall productivity. Driven by a determination to make a positive impact, IKUWO embarked on a mission to overhaul the bean value chain and bring about meaningful change for farmers and the entire region.
With a vision to enhance farmers’ productivity and yield, IKUWO adopted the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) model. This model focused on the production hub, distribution, and consumption of beans, aiming to provide a sustainable solution to the scarcity of high-quality bean seeds.
IKUWO procured foundation seeds from the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and engaged 40 Quality Declared Seed (QDS) producers to grow the seeds. This initiative successfully enabled most farmers to access improved bean varieties, resulting in higher yields and enhanced quality. This year, IKUWO aims to produce 56 metric tons of QDS for five commercialized bean varieties including Uyole Njano, Calima Uyole, Uyole 03, JESCA, and Uyole18. On seed distribution IKUWO works with 180 agro-dealers to distribute seed and other agri-inputs, of which the seed is packed in 5kg, 25kg and 100kg.
One of the IKUWO’s seed producer farmer observing the crop status in the field. – photo by John Msabaha
Beyond seed production, IKUWO is committed to empowering farmers in bean production through various means, such as face-to-face training, trainer of trainers’ programs, demonstration plots, and radio programs. This is the case of three such farmers who have benefitted immensely benefitted from IKUWO
Adimirabilis Ntwenya, 60 years and a bean seed producer in Kalambo district, Rukwa province in Tanzania, joined the QDS program in 2020 and has witnessed tremendous growth not only in her farm but also in bean value addition. Her call to action especially to young people is to venture into farming arguing there are enormous profits to reap
“I joined QDS in 2020 as a seed producer and have seen growth with beans. Previously I used to harvest around eight to ten bags but currently, I can harvest up to 25 bags per acre. I also employ 12 people who I also mentor in bean farming.”
Sitwenya also does value addition for bean products producing bean cakes and her intention is to flour and bean cookies in the future.
Adimirabili Sitwenya, displaying some of the value-added products she makes from beans – photo by Esther Cheyo
Erasto Malili, 58, is a farmer in Kakozi village, Songwe province, Tanzania, a seed producer and multiplier. Through IKUWO General Enterprises, Malili was able to get training and a direct market for his bean yield. “Through the training, I got from Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and IKUWO, I was able to identify the varieties that both consumers and traders like IKUWO wanted, right now I sell my seeds locally and internationally.” Malili posits that seed multiplication has good margins if you use certified seeds and employ modern farming methods. It is also important to understand the market needs in terms of which varieties to plant.
From the proceeds he gets from selling bean seeds, Malili bought a motorcycle, and household items and paid school fees for his children as a seed producer, he now sells seeds to farmers and companies who are in the bean value chain in Songwe province, Tanzania.
Malili notes, “Farmers should only use certified seeds which are high yielding, this will ensure that as a country we are food secure and able to have resilient livelihoods since we will be part of the larger bean value chain in Africa.”
Verada Lazaro Kalondwa is also a seed producer in Sumbang’a district, Rukwa province in Tanzania partnership with IKUWO has helped her become a trainer of trainers. She has managed to train farmers in the larger Sumbang’a district.
“I started seed multiplication after training by IKUWO in 2022, through the training I received, we have witnessed tremendous growth individually and as a farmer group. As the Secretary General of our group, I also do train farmers in our area on the importance of using certified seeds.” Verada notes that there is also a need to mechanize in order to increase the acreage under beans and increase bean production.
By June 2023, the company had conducted 80 farm demonstrations, highlighting different bean varieties with different management options. To amplify their impact, IKUWO launched a weekly radio program on bean production, which is broadcasted on their own radio station, Ndingala FM. This initiative has created a ripple effect of knowledge within the farming community, helping farmers adopt best practices and enhance bean yield quality to meet the demands of IKUWO’s bean grain market.
Additionally, IKUWO has formed partnerships with financial service providers like CRDB Bank to provide farmers with financial resources to optimize their farming activities. Furthermore, IKUWO has formed collaboration with NEXTBYTES, an online messaging provider who sends SMSs to farmers on climate information.
As a result, the farmers have observed productivity increase from 0.3t/acre to 0.8t/acre of bush beans. IKUWO has experienced significant growth in trade volume and market reach. With three warehouses serving as aggregation centers, the company’s trade volume has increased from 1,000 tons in 2017 to 5,000 tons in 2022 providing direct benefits to 12,000 farmers (40 groups) that are currently contracted with the company. Furthermore, with a substantial $5.4 million investment in the bean value chain, IKUWO now exports beans to neighboring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, Kenya, Burundi, and Uganda. The sale of 700 tons of beans in Zambia serves as a testament to the company’s successful penetration of regional markets.
The Managing Director of IKUWO General Enterprises Limited Sadrick Enock Malila praised the partnership with PABRA and TARI, noting that it ensured a seamless value chain from seed to table, as it has enhanced productivity among farmers.
“I am excited and grateful for the partnership between PABRA team and TARI with IKUWO-through the partnership, our farmers will be able to increase their productivity and production which will enable the company to offtake more.”
Left: Bean harvesting Right: Harvested bean grain prepared to be transported-John Msabaha
Despite their achievements, IKUWO still faces challenges in bean production due to climate variability and change, and farmer’s limited access to mechanized technologies. To mitigate some of the challenges faced in the value chain, the accelerate project, also spearheaded by PABRA will work with IKUWO to accelerate varietal adoption and increase turnover for increased bean production in Tanzania. Through innovative approaches, market linkages, and unwavering support for farmers, the company continues a path of remarkable growth and success which keeps them at the forefront of the industry’s evolution.
The ACCELERATE project will develop a model to speed-up new variety adoption of open pollinated (OPV) crop varieties such as beans by linking existing capacities of the formal and semi-formal seed sectors with sources of demand. The project aims to understand the best ways to engage traders with new variety opportunities, link them to sources of quality seed and leverage the demand-pull they can create through the seed value chain. This will be a four-year project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The project will utilize and strengthen the IKUWO business platform to reach farmers with information on new bean varieties to increase adoption.