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Family-centered campaign uniting public & private sectors

Our colleagues at N2Africa and IITA asked if we could present the Maharage Bingwa campaign explaining how the public and private sectors work together.  This is what the ASHC team came up with …

This bean growing season farmers in Northern Tanzania are hearing and seeing the term Maharage Bingwa (champion beans). Work by the Legume Alliance, is developing materials that target different members of the smallholder farming families. Traditionally information has been shared in a single medium and usually targeting, intentionally or inadvertently, the men or household heads. The Maharage Bingwa campaign will be different.

Whilst common beans are a staple crop – many farmers are finding them harder to grow and are considering no longer growing them . Farmers are challenged by a changing and uncertain climate and an increased pest and disease burden. They are struggling to find places to buy the improved seeds and fertilizer blends they want, and suffering huge post-harvest losses. Public research is developing a tool kit of solutions including inputs – but the private sector finds it hard to predict and develop markets. Bean seed is often saved year after year by farmers and a business case for using fertilizer on beans has not, so far, convinced farmers to invest.

If farmers abandon common beans the soil improvement from biological nitrogen fixation will also be lost – and this can be the equivalent of 2 bags of urea a hectare.


CABI commissioned the KIT – Royal Tropical Institute to carry out an information needs assessment. The farmers in Tanzania reported the sources of information they rely on currently (in order of importance) as:

  • Family and neighbours
  • The annual Nane Nane agricultural fair in August
  • Product labels
  • Public extension, research institutes
  • Private extension (mostly by agro-input companies).

The farmers, clearly, rely on both public and private sources of information.

In a pilot exercise in 2014, some of the FIPS (Farm Inputs Promotions) Africa village-based advisors handed out comics to young people with a story developed by ASHC that contained a plot line about planting maize. The agronomic information was all correct – the advisors reported that the houses where the young people and families read the comic were much more likely to get the planting distances right. The young people were a conduit for information that, in some cases, resulted in changed purchasing behaviour from the self employed village-based advisors.

There are a number of legume initiatives in Tanzania and communications projects funded to support agriculture innovation. The Legume Alliance is attempting to pull these initiatives together. The first step has been for national and international stakeholders involved in N2Africa to agree to a research-backed technology brief from which all of the materials will be made. Partners then interpret the technology and nuance messages for their audiences – in some cases it is about style and tone (Shujaaz talking to young people); in others it is about an emphasis of the message (such as the upcoming radio program looking at nutritional aspects of beans).


Input markets

At the heart of this project is an understanding that public and private sectors have a role in getting the information out and linking input demand and supply. iLogix is piloting a system that, if viable, will become an information brokerage service sourcing and selling sales leads to farm input suppliers especially improved seed and fertilizer. Input suppliers will include public and private sector companies producing and delivering inputs as well as local seed businesses producing high quality seed of improved varieties.

Further fund raising is being undertaken to add in a second crop – soya bean, to extend the reach of the campaign to new areas and to place collaborations between the public and private sector partners to establish effective and flourishing input markets. With the inclusion of soya bean this will include new rhizobia products that have just been approved by the regulatory body in Tanzania.

The Legume Alliance is coordinated by CABI as part of the Africa Soil Health Consortium, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Technical advisors are the Selian Agricultural Research Institute; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture; N2Africa and Wageningen University. Other partners include Farm Radio International and Shujaaz Tanzania African Fertilizer Agribusiness Partnership, MEA Fertilizers, and the Agricultural Seed Agency, Tanzania.