Vegetables are a key component of human nutrition. The population of Africa is growing steeply. To feed the population sufficiently, the productivity of vegetable cultivation should improve drastically. The vegetable production in Tanzania did not meet the mark for producing sufficient good quality and food-safe volumes to serve the markets both in rural communities and in the fast growing urban centers. To make matters worse, African farmers are facing the effects of climate change.
Vegetable farming is potentially highly profitable. Vegetable farming is also dynamic with quick production cycles. The markets for vegetables are growing and there is a demand for an array of colours, flavours, shapes and sizes of many different types of vegetables. A farmer may earn a significant amount of money on a relatively small piece of land and looking at rural economies, the vegetable sector is by far the most important employment generator per hectare for (part time) labour.
How to seize the opportunity? is the next question. The opportunity comes from the private sector and more specifically from the international vegetable seed industry. Improved varieties and high quality seeds bring high yields per hectare, have built-in resistance for diseases and may be more tolerant to droughts. They therefore bring the potential for climate resilient and income secure production. This is the benefit for the farmers, but in the end also for the consumers. These improved varieties only bring the expected benefits when the farmers have the knowledge and the skills needed to grow high-end vegetable varieties. The farmers need a minimum package of information and knowledge in order to reap the fruits of investing in these high quality seeds. To invest in knowledge and skills of the farmers is beneficial for the farmer communities, but also for the international seed sector and the rest of the agro-industry. Only when the farmers are making money, the seed sector can build its markets. From this philosophy, SEVIA sprouted.
Showing farmers the benefits of improved seeds, combined with basic knowledge, skills and technologies was the core of SEVIA, with its motto ‘Seeing is Believing’. Knowledge transfer by experiencing and by creating farmer to farmer dynamics in farmer communities is what SEVIA brought to some 48,000 farmers across Tanzania. A dedicated team of agronomists, station workers and office staff, spread over Tanzania since 2014, demonstrated the potential of vegetable farming. SEVIA, a partnership of Wageningen University & Research with East West Seed and Rijk Zwaan, two leading seed companies. The project had a clear mission: show farmers how to grow vegetables in a sustainable and profitable manner. Wageningen University & Research, with its dedicated team of expert agronomists in tropical vegetable production, was keen to contribute with accountable and evidence-based knowledge and extension strategies.
In six years time SEVIA has become a respected knowledge brand that will continue to serve the farmers of Africa in years to come.