Tanzania: Farmers Benefit From New Zantel Service
Lack of timely information on how to access markets, get better seeds and improve their farming methods are among the serious challenges holding back smallholder farmers in Tanzania.
According to Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives, Tanzania has only 35% of its required extension officers. This has limited the growth of the agricultural sector in the country.
Mobile telecom network, Zantel, has now partnered with the agriculture ministry and Sibesonke to launch Z-Kilimo, a move designed to help smallholders get access to vital information regarding agriculture issues.
Farmers, will be able to access this service by dialing *149*50#.
Dr Mshindo Msolla , acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry said last week, they have a plan to have extension officers for every village, but presently more than 7,000 villages do not have these experts.
"For the time being, only 35% of villages have extension officers. By 2015 each village is supposed to have extension officers in line with government target," he said.
Dr Uwe Schwarz, the CEO of Sibesonke Limited, who are providing the technology, said: "The overall target is to substantially increase farming productivity and food security in the financially sustainable way."
In Tanzania, there are over 12,000 villages and the district councils have recruited only 7,974 extension officers. According to Dr Msolla, Tanzania has a shortage of 7,108 extension officers.
Elaborating on Z-Kilimo, Zantel's Chief Human Resources Officer, Francis Kiaga said, Z-Kilimo is the special mobile service application for farmers, enabling them to access timely and relevant information regarding modern farming methods from their mobile phones.
This is an SMS-based application, utilizing mobile phone capability and ubiquity to provide farmers in Tanzania access to comprehensive farming methods, Kiaga added.
"Through this scheme, farmers even those in rural areas, can now easily gain access to vital information on how to properly manage their activities thus improve their productivity and accordingly, enhance the agricultural sector," Kiaga said.
He added that Tanzanian farmers will now have access to first hand information pertaining agricultural crops thus help them to run their operations more productively.