Regional Mini Forums Help Identify Rural Producers’ Needs in Tanzania

Photo By: Joseph Tsongo is licensed under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

Regional Mini Forums Help Identify Rural Producers’ Needs in Tanzania

Over the past year, InterAction has been implementing a grant with local partners in East Africa to build producers’ organizations’ capacity, with a focus on rural smallholder producers, to engage more strategically and effectively in national agricultural development policy debates.

In a previous blog, we covered the goals, target audiences, implementation approach, and accomplishments to date. In a separate blog, we delved into results from an assessment survey we conducted with producers’ organizations in Tanzania to assess their advocacy and data-for-advocacy capabilities and needs.

This time around we’ll look at a series of regional meetings—known as mini forums—that InterAction’s Tanzanian partner, ANSAF, convened throughout Tanzania to identify and prioritize agricultural issues to advocate with policymakers.

What are the Mini Forums?

The broader grant’s focus in Tanzania has centered on the Forum for Rural Producers in Tanzania, or “Jukwaa la Wazalishaji Vijijini Tanzania” (JUWAVITA), a bottom-up, multi-value-chain policy advocacy coalition of 34 producers’ organizations that represent farmers, horticulturalists, beekeepers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, and hunter-gatherers from regions throughout the country. The JUWAVITA platform provides these producers’ organizations a stronger, collective voice to advocate for pro-poor development and to influence policy formulation and decision-making at both local and national levels to improve the livelihoods of rural smallholder producers.

SHPs discuss opportunities for and challenges to their sub-sector during the Zanzibar Mini Forum.

What makes JUWAVITA unique is its broad membership—it is a coalition of all types of smallholder producers (SHPs). Given this, the platform provides a truly representative voice to rural SHPs as a whole.

So, how does JUWAVITA, an independent, loose coalition of rural smallholder producers’ organizations, gather then amplify the priorities of the full range of Tanzania’s rural SHPs—from farmers to beekeepers to hunter-gatherers and beyond?

This is where the mini forums come in.

In the spirit of bottom-up advocacy, JUWAVITA organized six mini forums across six geographic zones in Tanzania, the purpose of which was to promote increased participation and representation of local rural SHPs in decision-making and policy formulation and to ensure that the most pressing issues confronting rural SHPs are included and prioritized in local and national advocacy plans.

Each zonal mini forum was coordinated and led by a JUWAVITA member organization based within that zone, in collaboration with other producers’ organizations in that zone. Utilizing this geography-based approach to convening the mini forums provides several advantages. Namely, it allows the JUWAVITA coalition to:

1. Get closer to smallholder producers. By convening a series of mini forums throughout Tanzania, ANSAF effectively opened up participation in these gatherings to many SHPs who might not have been able to participate had the mini forums been held somewhere like Dodoma or Dar Es Salaam. This more localized format ensured greater accessibility to SHPs and the organizations that represent them.

A participant explains the recommendations developed by her sub-sector group during the Zanzibar Mini Forum.

2. Increase participation and more diverse representation of rural producers in decision-making. The mini forums were a means for SHPs to have a greater say in decision-making and promote greater participation and representation among women and youth in discussions to determine policy priorities. Women comprised 36% of total participants in the mini forums, while nearly 22% were youth (ages 15-24).

3. Introduce the JUWAVITA platform and its members to the local government authorities. The mini forums provided a space for JUWAVITA to identify issues that can be raised at the national level. They were also a key venue in which SHPs and the organizations representing them could meet and engage local government officials. Each mini forum was opened by senior government representatives from the zone in which it was held, with 46 government officials participating across the six mini forums.

The government representative at the Central Zone Mini Forum, Eng. Ezron Charles Kilamhama (R) from the Office of the Regional Commissioner in Morogoro, and ANSAF’s head of operations, Honest Mseri (L), listen to a presentation.

4. Mobilize and consolidate SHPs’ voices and concerns within each zone. The mini forums are a key mechanism by which JUWAVITA hears from and engages with the full range of SHPs throughout Tanzania. Any issue unique to a zone is addressed at that mini forum, while more common issues feed upward into JUWAVITA’s national-level advocacy. In this way, the mini forums are designed to unify and amplify the collective voice of rural SHPs both within each of the six geographic zones and across all of Tanzania.

What Happened During the Mini Forums?

Each mini forum was intended to provide space for SHPs and the organizations that represent them to identify and discuss 1) the opportunities available to each sub-sector (e.g., livestock keeping, crop-growing, fisheries, etc.), 2) the challenges faced by SHPs in their respective sub-sectors, and 3) a set of recommendations for addressing these challenges.

During the first day of the mini forums, participants worked in thematic groups, organized by sub-sector, to identify the key issues relevant to each sub-sector. This was followed by a plenary session during which all participants agreed on the issues identified. On the second day, participants identified key policy recommendations and developed action plans that were presented to government representatives.

A group of SHPs discusses challenges to their sub-sector at the Northern Zone Mini Forum in Arusha.

Following each mini forum, each zone’s lead organization produced a report that outlined the main challenges, opportunities, and recommendations that arose during discussions. Recommendations from the mini forums that broadly apply to all sub-sectors were included in a national report that recommends policy actions to be implemented by the national government. Concerns and recommendations ranged from the availability of financing to promoting practical agricultural science in primary school curriculums to strengthening enforcement of tax collection regulations.

As a result of these regional gatherings, the JUWAVITA coalition was able to identify a list of themes and key needs by zone, which will feed directly into the coalition’s district- and national-level advocacy in the year ahead.

In addition to surfacing the key policy challenges of SHPs throughout the country, the mini forums promoted women- and youth-led agribusiness through exhibitions held during the mini forums, creating opportunities for linkages to potential markets. More than 60 women and 30 youth participated in the mini forum exhibitions.

Southern Highlands Zone Mini Forum in Mbeya.

What Was the Impact?

Altogether, the six zonal mini forums convened more than 425 smallholder producers, policymakers, media, and duty-bearers, with more than 300 SHPs, including farmers, horticulturalists, livestock keepers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, beekeepers, and hunter-gatherers, from communities throughout Tanzania. The mini forums generated local interest in, and media coverage of, the challenges confronting the SHPs in those zones and their policy needs, with 26 members of Tanzanian media present at the mini forums.

Participants gather for the Northern Zone Mini Forum in Arusha.

Furthermore, senior government officials’ presence greatly enhanced the mini forums’ impact as some of the challenges raised by SHPs were immediately addressed and resolved, with officials, including the Minister of Agriculture, Japhet Hasunga, providing firm commitments to addressing the issues raised by SHPs, including the following.

  • Following the Northern Zone Mini Forum, the regional administrative officer for the Arusha region committed to working with local organizations to resolve challenges facing SHPs on issues of land conflict and the availability of extension officers to enhance the productivity of SHPs.
  • The Southern Zone Mini Forum led to several government commitments and actions toward enhancing an enabling environment for cashew farmers, including 1) the Cashew Board of Tanzania (CBT) now conducts inspections of fertilizers imported for cashew farmers, 2) the Minister of Agriculture has ordered the CBT to organize two stakeholders meeting annually, to consolidate and address cashew farmers’ challenges, and 3) the Minister of Agriculture committed to work toward reconciling farmers’ delayed payments with NBC and CRDB banks in Tanzania.
  • Based on the mini forums’ recommendations, the Ministry of Agriculture committed to reviewing the Agriculture Marketing Policy to incorporate contract farming.
A group reviews a SWOT analysis during the Lake Zone Mini Forum in Mwanza.

InterAction and ANSAF are proud of these results, achieved as direct byproducts of the mini forums. These results are set to increase in the year ahead as the mini forums laid a foundation for building the JUWAVITA coalition’s national- and district-level advocacy in 2021. Building directly on the outcomes of the six mini forums, ANSAF will implement the following activities in 2021 to amplify the voices of rural SHPs in the policy process.

  • Convene a national-level policy dialogue meeting with decision-makers to advocate for SHP demands that emerged during the mini forums.
  • Conduct six zonal roundtable discussions with decision-makers to advocate for SHP demands at the zonal level.
  • Organize the national JUWAVITA conference—the coalition’s flagship event that brings together SHPs, producers’ organizations, national and local government officials, the private sector, academics, and media.

As ANSAF and the JUWAVITA coalition expand their advocacy efforts in 2021, we look forward to sharing more exciting news about results achieved for—and by—rural smallholder producers in Tanzania. We’ll be sure to update you here on the blog as JUWAVITA ramps up its district- and national-level advocacy. Stay tuned for more results from Tanzania!

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