How demonstration plots boosted knowledge – and use – of fertilizer.

In the lush Southern Highlands of Tanzania lies the country’s breadbasket. Here, maize, potatoes and sunflowers are grown among the rolling hills and verdant valleys.

This is why Leonard Rubuye decided to start up Rubuye Agro-Business Co, a hub agrodealer, in the Njombe region in 2002. Just 33 years old at the time, Mr Rubuye poured his savings of $15,000 into this family enterprise, transforming it into a booming fertilizer and agricultural inputs business which supplies four regions – Njombe, Iringa, Ruvuma and Mbeya – and serves 45 agrodealers as well as 90,680 farmers in 132 villages.

Rubuye’s partnership with AFAP, which began in 2013, has helped increase fertilizer knowledge – and boosted sales.

“Improved knowledge has improved yields,” says Mr Rubuye of the company’s 16 demonstration plots, which were first established in various strategic locations in the region in the 2015/16 season. Here, he says, farmers don’t just see results with their own eyes, but they also are able learn more about good agronomic practices, including how and when to apply fertilizers and at what rate.

‘‘Farmers like the performance of our products, especially fertilizer, which has dramatically increased their yield levels,” he says. “We also have an agronomist who frequently visits farmers at their fields to provide technical advice on the use of fertilizer and other agrochemicals.’’

This support has translated into sales of more than $1 million in the 2015/16 growing season.

But it’s not just the demonstration plots that have contributed to the bottom line. AFAP also assisted with the construction of a warehouse, providing adequate storage for fertilizer in season. During the off-season the space is used to aggregate maize for processing at the company’s processing plant in Dar es Salaam, where farmers bring maize, red sorghum and white sorghum – creating a ready market for their farmers.

‘‘Our plan is to increase efficiency at the maize milling plant to serve more people with our maize-flour products. This will enable us to buy more maize from farmers we serve with agro-inputs and address the problem of an unreliable maize market,” says Mr Rubuye.

He hopes in the future that AFAP will assist in their maize agro processing initiatives, including help with capital and technical expertise, such as training farmers on maize post-harvest handling and equipment.