Equality in Tourism International (EiT), initiated a ground-breaking, sustainable tourism project in Tanzania to strengthen linkages between the Kilimanjaro tourism industry and the region’s subsistence farming industry. Together with our local women’s empowerment organisation, KWIECO (www.kwieco.org) we have trained 120 of the most marginalised women farmers to improve their livelihoods through modern, sustainable farming practices, microfinance, business operations, cooperative management and gender empowerment. It is the first such project globally, and is intended as a pilot so that we can share the learning with others.
Wamboma began supplying hotels and restaurants with fresh, quality local produce, but having dealt successfully with the severe impacts of climate change, the coop is now faced with the international pandemic and the closure of hotels.
The project responds to the challenge of poverty by empowering women farmers to access an opportunity in the hospitality industry’s fruit and vegetable value chain. Our objectives and outcomes are:
- to bring the women out of poverty through linking them to the tourism industry
- to enable the hospitality sector to recognise the benefits of purchasing their horticultural produce from the project
- to ensure the women understand their rights and are empowered
Established in 2017, this unique project has created partnerships that facilitate best practice in tourism so benefits accrue to local people. Farmers had always competed in the market place and sold the same produce to dealers at very low prices. Dealers then sell on to hotels supporting the Kilimanjaro climbing and safari market.
Until EiT’s workshop programme, KWIECO and other project partners had no idea of tourism’s potential to bring people out of poverty. Tourism operated in a bubble away from their work. Our workshop for hotel managers enabled them to understand the value to the community of backward linkages. Thirty hotels have expressed interest in partnering and have allowed procurement audits. They recognise the market advantage of identifying the provenance of their meals.
Over two years we have trained 120 women in new farming techniques, farming as a business, entrepreneurship, their legal marital and land rights, women’s empowerment and co-op and microfinance training. They have created the WAMBOMA Cooperative: Women Farming for their Future. By working together they can ensure the Coop supplies the quantity, quality and consistency of produce to hotels.
New farming techniques are critical because traditional methods embed farmers in poor results and poverty. Prior to the training, not one woman kept any accounts. On average women earned less than £1 a day. None could save. 30 pence a week wasn’t even possible. Now they save up to £5 weekly in their microfinance scheme.
60 women from two villages have been trained and created the coop and 60 women received the same training but are control groups and are independent entrepreneurs. Each group is monitored so we can be open to identifying necessary change and best practice. Control group women can apply to join the cooperative.
By contributing little to household’s finances, women’s status is low. She has limited influence over decision making and is exposed to risks such as gender based violence (GBV).
The project is tackling the governance and social norms that prevent women achieving their potential by undertaking a range of gender empowerment training and sensitisation dialogues at household, community and institutional levels.
JOB CREATION AND INCOME GENERATION ACTIVITIES
The rationale for establishing this project is to improve the livelihoods of impoverished women farmers and their families. Over the two years of the project women have already increased their incomes, sometimes they are doubled, tripled and quadrupled. But we still have to increase production to ensure stability. We place a strong emphasis on learning and innovation as our long term aim is take the learning from this project to share with other women farmers who could benefit in other tourism hubs. We intend to develop a model and create tools to not only bring 120 impoverished women farmers out of poverty, but to also take this project to other locations to reach more women.
In order to achieve this we need to tackle the key barriers to women’s economic participation in this potentially lucrative value chain. We have identified seven key areas where we need to see change. Our aim for the project’s farmers is be able to:
- Run their farms as a business enterprise and make a fair return for their labour
- Access and use new skills in fruit and vegetable production in order to maximise the quantity, quality and reliability of what they produce
- Access and use skills in financial planning and to be able to access credit when they need to expand their enterprise
- Access new skills in cooperative working and management and to work collaboratively with other farmers. This will be for the principal purpose of marketing their products in bulk to meet the needs of the value chain and access greater returns from it. However, we expect the women to see other benefits in working through a cooperative mechanism such as the sharing of technical production knowledge and developing solutions to allied challenges of input supply, storage, transport, quality control and running a supply business
- Understand the concept of women’s rights and be able and confident to enforce these to access and keep land and to enforce contracts
- Live and work within a situation of changed social norms that means there is a shared responsibility for unpaid care duties within the home between men and women and within the community. This will result in women having sufficient time to pursue their economic productive life in balance with time to manage the responsibilities of family life as well as their own personal needs such as for rest and relaxation
- Experience the reduction and elimination of the high levels of Gender Based Violence. Over the course of the project we expect to make progress in achieving these changes, but think that it will take longer before we achieve full benefits of what is possible to ensure sustainability
The project’s women farmers work plots which average around half an acre. They have now formed the WAMBOMA Cooperative. Working on their own, the women don’t have the capacity to meet the market demand. The cooperative enables them to sell in bulk, transforming their lives and that of their families. They can see that their old methods of farming – scattering poor quality seeds over poorly prepared earth – have embedded them in poverty. Outlets for their produce were very competitive and limited. They lack self-belief and have been unable to improve their livelihoods. Their standing in their communities has been very low. This is the first training these women have ever received.
Recent evaluation has highlighted that the women now have self-confidence, are walking proud, are new voices in their communities, are consulted by their neighbours on farming issues, are saving and repaying for the first time and have used loans to build brick houses, start micro-enterprises – and one has even been able to send her daughter to university to train as a teacher.
The project is based in two villages: Mailista in the Haj District, Kilimanjaro region. Mailista is well placed to serve the needs of the Mount Kilimanjaro tourist sector as it has good transport links lying on the Himo Road which runs between the two major tourist towns of Moshi and Arusha. It is just 7miles from Moshi and 40 miles from Arusha. Namwai is Located in West Kilimanjaro, 35 miles from Moshi and 45 miles from Arusha.
These villages were chosen because their different locations result in different climate conditions so they can supply different varieties of horticultural produce to the Coop all year round. Namwai is colder than Maili-sita, which is far hotter. For example, when tomatoes can’t be cultivated in Mailista, can be cultivated in Namwai.
WAMBOMA also has a shop and office in Moshi town.
Climate factors have already had serious impacts on the project. The project is constrained and was unable to produce sufficient produce to supply the waiting hotels. Climate change has resulted in flash floods which wash away the crops and there is now insufficient water during the dry season. The consequences of the floods are not only lost crops and income but soil degradation and gullies. The snows of Kilimanjaro are diminishing and the farmers who are on its western slopes are allowed water for one hour a day only. This is insufficient to sustain the crops.
The villages have no tanks, no wells, no pumps, no electricity and no toilets. The women cook on wood or charcoal in outside shacks. The women have no capital to reinvest in new seed.
The project has been able to mitigate these impacts through very generous donations and crowdfunding. The project’s business plan established that Wamboma would be self-sufficient in three years. This didn’t account for climate change impacts and a standstill in tourism.
However, these resilient women now have food security for the first time in their lives and plans for new, alternative markets.
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