Combatting malnutrition amongst rural poor in Northern Tanzania

Stunting, or low height for age, occurs in 32 percent of Tanzanian children under age five. About 30 percent of Tanzanian women of reproductive age are anaemic and 32 percent are overweight or obese. Tanzania has set nutrition targets to tackle the triple burden of malnutrition - undernutrition, overweight or obesity, and micronutrient deficiency - and is striving to reduce stunting to 28 percent by 2021 and 15 percent by 2025. Stunting amongst young children affects development of the brain, and therefore development of human capital. Given Tanzania's booming youth population, improved nutrition is crucial to Tanzania's future prosperity.

The purpose of the project was to increase availability of vegetables through increased production at farm level while at the same time increase consumption of vegetables at rural consumer level through increased nutrition awareness. The resulting dietary diversity and increased micronutrient intake amongst the target group improves their general health condition.

The project area includes Arusha, Tanga, Kilimanjaro, and Manyara regions in Northern Tanzania. The type of vegetables that were targeted were the more commercial varieties from Rijk Zwaan such as tomato, sweet peppers, cabbage, and Eggplant as well as the more traditional, green leafy vegetables such as nightshades, Chinese cabbage, kale, amaranths, pumpkin leaves, etc. 

Broad partnership

The project partners represent different angles of the vegetable production sector. The private Dutch company Rijk Zwaan Seeds through their local partner Afrisem is marketing certified seeds, and offers training to farmers, together with TAHA, in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for the farmers to increase production; the NMB/Rabobank Foundation makes loans available for farmer investment next to training of farmer groups in financial literacy, and business development; the World Vegetable Centre and Wageningen University (Food and Bio-based Research) focus on vegetable processing and reducing post-harvest losses; GAIN and Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation are instrumental in formulating nutrition messages.

Value chain approach from plant to plate

The project chose for a value chain approach and aimed to maximise the performance of the vegetable value chain in the project area through creating pull (increased production) and push factors (increased awareness of the need to eat vegetables). The project activities were structured along those lines:

  • Introduction of certified hybrid seeds through Rijk Zwaan on 100 demo plots, and 2000 trained farmers through trained extension staff and master farmers on how to improve production, work with drip irrigation systems and improved soils, fertilisation methods and disease control.
  • Increased access to finance and extension services, as well as agri-business training and support to 3000 farmers organised in farmer groups, through the NMB/Rabobank Foundation.
  • Capacity building of a selected number of vegetable processors in food processing, food safety and packaging, including relevant standards and regulations.
  • Investments in reducing post-harvest losses by providing access to solar drying facilities to 500 vegetable farmers with a dual purpose: value addition by selling nutritious dried vegetables in the off-season; and post-harvest loss reduction.
  • Building awareness amongst consumers around the need to regularly consume (nutritious) vegetables in order to "pull" the demand for vegetables. This was done in a variety of ways:
    • Broadcasting messages by radio in 2019 such as: "Vegetable intake is essential to health. Groups with specific nutrition needs in the community such as pregnant, children and the elderly are encouraged to eat a variety of vegetables in order to improve your health".
    • 11 local NGOs were contracted to reinforce these messages during cooking workshops, establishment of school gardens and community meetings

Dietary diversity and micro-nutrient intake improved

We were responsible for the M&E of this project, part of which were end-of-project assessments by two WUR students. Lucy Cosenza found a strong correlation between the participation of project beneficiaries in all project components with a higher dietary diversity status. Lusungu Mwilongo reported an increase in the availability and affordability of fresh vegetables among the rural people, as well as increased consumption.