Tanzania: Small-scale farmers in Serengeti District are earning an average of Tsh60 million- every month from fruits and vegetables that have a ready market in the neighbouring hotels.
Operating under Grumeti Horticultural Marketing and Cooperative Society (Ghomacos) that has a deal with the luxurious lodges operated by Singita Grumeti Reserves, the farmers have seen their lives change overnight
The lodges – Sasakwa, Farufaru and Sabroa that attract high end clients from mainly overseas, are owned Paul Tudor Jones, an American tycoon who has invested in tourism and conservation sectors in the western Serengeti over the past few years.
. “Personally I earn an average of Tsh 600,000 per month from fruits and vegetables that I sell to Grumeti lodges”, said Dickson Maginga (62), one of the smallholders.
Ghomacos was formed a few years ago with the support of the US investor and it has 64 members at the moment. “I am now able to feed my family as well pay school fees for my children as compared to the past days”, Maginga, a father of eight, added.
Some of the products produced by the villagers are cabbages, tomatoes, carrots, onions and water melon. “We also supply eggs, meat and rice to the lodges and our monthly average income for all members is Tsh 60 million”, Maginga, who is also the secretary of GHOMACOS, said.
Mrs Frida Mollel, the acting community outreach programme manager with Grumeti Fund, said there is still a room to produce more and sell part of their products to several other tourist lodges located in the world famous Serengeti National Park.
“They produce very little because we are almost buying everything when there are other lodges that need fruits and vegetables in Serengeti”, Mrs Mollel said. Grumeti Fund has hired an extension expert from Serengeti District Council to supervise the villagers produce vegetables and fruits that meet the quality needed by the lodges.
“The extension officer is always staying with the farmers and we are paying him. We want the villagers to have good harvest and quality”, she said. But the villagers cited bad weather caused by dry spells as one of the challenges hampering their efforts to boost production.
“We need dams so that we can start practising irrigation farming during dry periods”, Maginga said. He also mentioned high prices of farm inputs such as fertilizers and pesticide as another additional pressing issues facing them.
Majority of the villagers had in the past relied on poaching to earn their living. The American investor is also supporting them so that they can realize the importance of conservation and stop killing wild animals in its areas of operation.