How a retired banker harnessed the power of cassava to improve livelihoods in her village

This story was prepared by MEDA’s partner organization, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) as part of MEDA’s BEST Cassava project in Tanzania.

Angelita Mbatia is a cassava seed producer and former Director of Financial Markets from the Central Bank of Tanzania. In 2004, she moved from Dar es Salaam to Bwama village, Kisarawe district. Her motivation to move there was clear: she was inspired by Julius Nyerere’s (Tanzania’s first president) philosophy of self-reliance and wanted to apply this philosophy to helping support the Bwama village community. After moving there, Angelita worked in education, social welfare, and agriculture. In 2018, she attended a MEDA BEST Cassava project training session and learned of the tremendous economic potential of growing this popular crop.

“Cassava is a crop grown in every household in Kisarawe, but the productivity is very low due to use of traditional practices of production. I saw we could address the challenge of low yield using clean seeds and good farming practices,” Angelita noted.

Angelita started a certified cassava seed entrepreneurship by planting improved cassava seeds on 15 acres. She was inspired to find a holistic solution (production, processing, and markets) to the cassava value chain in the community, where she works with Tumaini Lyimo, a young agricultural economist from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA).

“The project has some pending aspects of the value chain like processing and markets; for us to penetrate in the community mindsets about cassava growing, Tumaini is helping to teach farmers on intercropping and rotational agriculture but the main focus is cassava,” Angelita added.

Above: Angelita discussing business matters with her colleagues

Angelita’s teaching has helped change farmers’ mindsets about growing cassava seeds. This was a stark change in attitudes compared to previous years when the community believed cassava could not become a commercial crop. With more people interested in cassava, it has increased demand for cassava seeds, placing a strain on the cassava root market. In response, Angelita plans to build a cassava processing center to handle the increased demand.

Throughout Angelita’s journey, she’s experienced her share of challenges. Recently, a fire burnt her entire 5-acre seed farm. Yet, Angelita sees opportunity amid this loss.

“The loss amounted to approximately 9 million TZS ($3,905 USD). I believe when the community leaders hear of the value, they will be convinced to take cassava production seriously and begin prioritizing the crop,” Angelita explained.

Since 2018, Angelita’s life has changed – she became a member of the Tanzania Cassava Producers and Processors Association (TACCAPA) and Cassava Seed Growers Association (CSGA)-Coastal zone, where she has benefited from finding markets for her seeds. She was also selected to lead the Ward Agricultural Resource Centre (WARC) Steering Committee in the Kibuta ward. The WARC aims to provide theoretical and practical agricultural knowledge to the community. Angelita has also bought more land to build a cassava processing facility closer to the WARC.

For Angelita, her greatest joy and achievement is working with young Tumaini and using her knowledge and skills to help uplift her community.

To learn more about how MEDA is working to provide farmers and entrepreneurs with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, read more of our client success stories.

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