In June 2010, McKinsey Global Initiative published a report alled “Lions on the Move” which examined in detail the progress and potential of African economies. It was this report and its title that stuck in my mind throughout a recent visit to a small farming village called Kambi ya Simba – “the Camp of the Lion” in the local language of Swahili – which lies several hundred kilometres from Arusha town in northern Tanzania.
But unlike its heyday, when prides of lions roamed these gentle sloping hills that surround the village, today there is a new species of lion in Kambi ya Simba – the proverbial economic lions that shape the thesis of the McKinsey report.
The McKinsey researchers identify four groups of industries that will drive the exponential economic growth of Africa’s revenues and on that list is agriculture.
Agriculture plays an important role in the economy of Tanzania, contributing significantly to the country’s GDP, accounting for 60 percent of export earnings and employing 84 percent of the rural population.
In 2012, Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL), a subsidiary of SABMiller, signed contracts with a total of 291 farmers to grow barley, of which 178 are smallholder farmers who work on 10 hectares or less.
The inhabitants of Kambi ya Simba village were among those with whom we entered into partnership. It is a growing village with a population of 6 644 inhabitants. The newest member of the village is a little girl born on 23 June, the day my wife and I and the TB Extension Officer, Mohamed Matingas last paid a visit.
The co-operative’s barley field is approximately five kilometres away from the village and, at nearly 1800 meters above sea level, it borders on the forest surrounding the infamous Ngorongoro crater.
During the visit, the chairman of the farmers’ cooperative explained that every year the council makes a recommendation on what crop to grow, to be endorsed by the village members and through consensus. These days, there is no need for a debate – the success of past years mean that the village will again grow barley.
While standing in the middle of the recently harvested fields, Chairman Damian Anatoli, predicts a good return for the cooperative while keeping a close eye on the forest from where elephants and buffaloes frequently come down to graze on their barley.
The previous year’s returns from the barley harvest have been so good that the village has invested the profits into the social development of their village. In 2011 with the money they earned, they started building a health centre as the previous one had become too small for the growing population of the village. They have also have started building a new maternity ward.
The impact and success of the partnership between the community of Kambi ya Simba and TBL is obvious when I speak to villagers.
Anjela Malle, a farmer from Kambi ya Simba’s co-operative turns to me while twiddling a broken stem of barley in her hands and says “You know my two eldest children are in secondary school now because of the money we collected as the group. This is a good thing because there is no way I would have done this without the funds that I get from the barley.”
TBL expects to source 9,000 tons of barley from Tanzania this year. It hopes to increase this to 14,000 tons in the near-future, rising to 30,000 tons in the longer-term. Through the partnership, TBL gives farmers a contract which guarantees the off-take and the price, provided that the barley meets required quality standards. It provides them with training through five extension farmers and one agronomist, as well as pre-finance assistance (which totalled 2 billion TSh (US$1.25 million) in 2012).
Local barley and malt production contributes 25 % of the malt requirement, the remaining being supplemented by imports. Over the years TBL has developed and supported the malting barley industry to the extent that barley has become an important and reliable cash crop thus making a big contribution in the efforts towards poverty eradication.
With success stories like these running through my mind, I could not help but remind myself that Africa’s lions are indeed on the move. Economics lions like co-operative farmer Anjela and Chairman Anatoli are changing the landscape of Tanzania’s economy one seed at a time.