Improving incomes through agro networking
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HAVE you ever thought about profitable lemon grass, cassava and mushroom farming? Can poultry contribute to the country’s GDP? Do urban centres have potential for farming? Adam Ngamange of Living Green (Mtandao wa Kijani Kibichi) answers these and other questions in an interview with Staff Writer MARYCELINA MASHA.

Excerpts:

Question: What exactly is the Living Green Network and what does it do?

Answer: The Living Green Network is a research company, conducting its business in agriculture marketing networks, animal husbandry and the environment. We also have stake in the welfare of farmers, livestock and poultry keepers, grouping them in order to equip them with skills, education, technology and networking for better markets.

So far we have projects in agriculture, including cassava, lemon grass, pawpaw and mushroom. We also have expertise in poultry, rabbits, maggot and cockroach keeping.

Our main objective is to sensitize and change society’s attitude and prepare people, especially those living in urban areas, to contribute to the country’s economy through animal husbandry and agriculture.

Q: What are the conditions for membership? A: Any person who intends to conduct business in agriculture, poultry, value addition, education and rearing technology, is an eligible member.

Membership is open to individuals, institutions, corporations or groups. We do not have conditions to be met, except that one needs to visit our office for enrolment. So far we have 6,000 members in and outside the country, scattered in 11 zones, including Dar es Salaam, Njombe, Mbeya, Coast, Morogoro and Pemba.

Others are in Zanzibar, Iringa, Songea, Arusha, Moshi, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Comoro and South Africa. Q: Which agricultural and business institutions have you teamed up with?

A: We work with many research and trade institutions, depending on the needs of our members. I can only mention several, and these include SIDO, TANTRADE, Tanzania Women Bank, Sokoine University Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUDECO), Zanzibar State Trading Corporation, Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute, Silvia Food and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries

Q: What progress have you made so far?

Answer: Our company is the first to nurture Living Green Network which we believe is doing a great deal in agriculture and poultry farming. Our capital is human entrepreneurship.

The greatest success to date is the lemon grass farming and lemon grass oil extraction. We now have a factory for oil extraction and farming is in full swing in Tanga, Mkuranga, Morogoro and Kibiti.

Also, we have made headway in finding an alternative to soybean and sardine for animal feed production. Now manufacturers can use maggots and cockroaches which have high protein content.

Another significant breakthrough is that we have been able to link up with like-minded farmers in the projects we launched -- especially mushroom, cas sava, pawpaw, rabbit keeping, and organic poultry.

Many youths have responded positively to our ini tiatives and are taking part in exhibitions, including Saba Saba and Mkulima Market.

Q: Not so many poultry keepers would wish to get involved in maggot and cockroach production. What else is good news for them?

A: We have an ambitious project in the poultry industry, stemming from our research in Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Mbeya. This is set to revolutionise the entire business in terms of operations and profit.

Basically, people raise chickens but are not making super profits due to high operational costs. They start a project with no market survey. Only 20 per cent of their resources go to market hunting. This is wrong. The search for a market should consume the lion’s share of capital.

Also, poultry keeping is not a well organised business. As a result, large consumers have opted for importation of chickens. But now we have a solution. For immense profit, we will link up the producers with the markets to ensure that demand matches production.

We have a formula of 1-5-25 whereby producers will be placed in groups of five and 25. We intend to form a family of 600 poultry keepers. In this way, we can be reached easily by service providers, including veterinary officers, insurance, bankers and even tax collectors.

Through this scheme, we have been able to hire large chicken barns which can accommodate up to 30,000 chicks each. That is equivalent to supporting 30 to 60 poultry keepers.

Q: What does the project seek to achieve?

A: The objective is to revive large-scale poultry keeping and make it a major contribution to the GDP. In South Africa this has been possible.

We need to reach out to as many entrepreneurs as possible, especially those living in Dar es Salaam. With support from the Ministry of Agriculture and SUA agricultural experts, through SUDECO and buyers like PILS, insurance companies and financial institutions, I’m confident that we can make it. Q: Are you targeting large poultry keepers then?

A: No. We want to start with small keepers. In fact we are interested in the beginners as long as they have interest in this business. The reason for putting them in groups is that these will be more or less ‘demonstration farms’ where every stakeholder can easily reach them. This will also be a good employment opportunity for the youth.

Q: How about training?

A: Training is a must and this goes into the whole package of the poultry project. From barn construction, supervision, disease management and selling, we also offer value addition training.

Q: How do the beneficiaries access capital, this being the toughest hurdle to most potential entrepreneurs?

A: It is true that capital is the biggest challenge. Research shows that we need to be empowered 80 per cent if we must be successful in a business. In our 1-5-25 plan, we will hire the barns for mother units. We will persuade stakeholders to have trust in the poultry keepers’ family.

Also, we would like to persuade Billionaire Bill Gates see our efforts and invest, when he visits Tanzania sometime this year. The keepers must, however, be able to raise 30 per cent of the entire project to convince the Tanzania Women Bank to issue them with loans.

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