On 18 September, eight Ambassadors, from the European Union (EU), Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden concluded their four-day visit to development projects funded by the EU and by its Member States in the Southern Highlands. They met with local authorities, Members of Parliament from the regions, representatives from the civil society including academia, NGOs, religious leaders, private sector and members of the press and project implementation partners to witness first-hand the positive impact that projects are having on local communities.
Highlights of the trip included engaging with Mbeya, Songwe and Njombe Regional Commissioners as well as the District Commissioner of Kilolo in Iringa, meeting the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament and other members of Parliament and visiting coffee, tea and horticulture farms and establishments directly linked to the AGRI-CONNECT Programme.
In particular, the delegation was guided on a “journey” through coffee and tea production, processing and marketing as well as specific actions on horticulture –tomato, onions, avocado- and nutrition –home gardens. AGRI-CONNECT is implemented in these regions by a consortia of NGOs lead respectively by IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative (Boresha Chai, tea project), Vi Agroforestry (CODE-P, coffee project), Solidaridad East and Central Africa (PACE, coffee project); Helvetas (Kibowavi, Horticulture project), RIKOLTO (Make It Grow! Horticulture project), and by Solidaridad (To Certification and Beyond & Voluntary Sustainability Standards project), a project that funded by another EU programme called MARKUP which assists small and medium-sized enterprises in the EAC region.
The EU flagship programme AGRI-CONNECT aims at supporting 150,000 smallholders in rural communities in the Southern Highlands and Zanzibar, by improving the quality and quantity of their production and facilitating the access to markets.
The Ambassadors also met with other development projects and stakeholders. Among them Italian supported Comunità Solidali nel Mondo, CUAMM Tosamaganga Hospital, Comunità di Sant’ Egidio, Africa Chiama and CEFA. Press Clubs supported by Sweden and the Eat Fresh projects funded by the Netherlands, also featured in the visit. As well as a visit to the Mbozi station of the Coffee Research Institute (TACRI) the Mbozi Coffee Curing Company (MCCCo), Kibena Tea Estate and its factory and various horticulture projects among which the tomato seed production plant of Green Valley Agro TZ Ltd in Ilula (Iringa) funded by the Netherlands.
The delegation also visited two touristic sites of the Southern Highlands. In the Songwe, region they visited the meteorite site at the Kimondo Museum in Mbozi and in Iringa they visited the Isimila Stone Age site.
Under the EU Green Deal strategy these projects support the objectives of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, and the Farm to Fork - and Biodiversity Strategy. In Tanzania, the Agriculture Sector Development Programme (ASDP II) and the Zanzibar Strategy for Agricultural Development are the policy frameworks which implement the agenda for transformed agriculture.
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Agriculture remains the mainstay of the Tanzanian economy, employing almost 66% of the population. The sector contributes roughly 30% of the country's GDP and 20% of export earnings. The European Union has allocated for the period 2014-2020 a total amount of EUR 140 million to support the agriculture sector. The objective is: i) to generate agricultural wealth, through linking farmers to markets and value chains; and ii) to improve food and nutrition security, through improved access, availability, and use of food. This is in line with priorities under national and sector development plans and will also strengthen EU-Tanzania cooperation.