The serene agricultural town of Babati, located 160 kilometers South West of Tanzania’s Arusha city, is home to a group of young farmers under the name “Shambani Solutions”,who are producing green beans for export. In early 2018, Shambani Solutions partnered with Kenyan based horticultural exporter Frigoken limited, to directly employ 2,200 young men and women through contractual farming, producing over 300 tons of green beans for export per annum.
“The bulk of our work involved training young people on the requisite farm and management techniques for production of green beans. With COVID-19, our training schedule and capacity has to adjust to the new reality”, says Johnson Mwambola, Shambani Solution’s project lead in Babati. “We used to train over 200 farmers in a day, during the pre-corona days. We have now scaled it down but we can still train around 20 participants per day”.
The training sessions have doubled-up as COVID-19 awareness sessions, where instructors from Shambani Solutions invite health and hygiene experts to sensitize participants on how to prevent the virus, collectively and individually. Participants attest to a clear change in behavior, for example people are washing their hands more frequently and are completely avoiding handshakes.
The situation in Babati highlights the plight faced by many farmers in the EAC . Whereas COVID-19 cases have remained relatively low in these remote areas, the effects of a diminished market for their farm products and a disruption in the supply chain can directly be felt.
In addition, the young farmers at Shambani Solutions face an acute shortage of preventive items like masks and sanitizers, which may need to be in plenty if cases start rising in Babati. “At the moment, we are fortunate that the numbers are low. Nevertheless, we know our farmers may not be in a position to afford a face mask per day, in case we reach that stage”, emphasized Johnson.