In October 2013, the Clinton Development Initiative began commercial farm operations and a smallholder outreach program near Iringa, located in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). The journey to Iringa involves a plane ride from Dar es Salaam in a very small 13-seat plane that takes you an hour and a half into the Southern Highlands where Iringa is located.
Even in the dry season the landscape and weather is beautiful. When I arrived in Iringa, Michael Fredericksen, a Massachusetts native and 27-year resident of Tanzania, met me at the airport. Michael is the Director of Community Outreach in Tanzania and oversees the operations of our Anchor Farm Project, Dabaga, located approximately thirty minutes away from Iringa town. Michael has an inspiring passion for his work - creating a successful commercial farm and an effective and impactful smallholder farmer outreach program. We shared stories about our Peace Corps experiences; mine in the village of Yongo, outside of Kaolack, Senegal as an agroforestry extension agent five years ago, and his near Iringa, twenty-seven years ago, as an agriculture and aquaculture extension agent.
Over the next four days, Michael showed me around the farm and spoke about how amazing it has been to be involved in a project of this magnitude that will help meet the needs of Tanzania’s emerging agricultural sector. This will be accomplished in two ways. The first is on the commercial level through multiplying high-quality, higher-yielding, maize, soya, and sunflower seed, and exploring into value added processing. The second is on the smallholder level, connecting farmers to market opportunities, loans, climate smart agronomic training, and high-quality seeds and improved inputs for their fields.
Since October 2013, Michael and his team have worked tirelessly to empower the smallholder farmers in and around the Iringa region and beyond with the information and connectivity that they needed to reap the benefits and maximize the potential of their agricultural systems. In just over a year, Michael and his team have recruited and trained more than 1,000 smallholder farmers in the area in improved agronomic practices for soya, sunflower, and maize cultivation.
I am excited and proud to be part of a team that is working with local governments, the private sector, and NGOs to help revitalize the agricultural sector and empower smallholder farmers in Tanzania and beyond!