The story of Elijah
'Together we try to fill the knowledge gap'
Elijah Mwashayenyi is Managing Director of SEVIA, a public-private partnership that aims to develop the vegetable industry in Africa by introducing hybrid varieties and technology and also increasing growers’ technical knowledge.
“We set the bar high: in five years’ time we want to reach 30,000 growers throughout Tanzania. To reach such a big group, we work with extension officers who are each responsible for a certain region. Each officer has around 15 demo sites where groups and individuals receive training. We identify and give extra training to ’lead farmers’ who play a central role in the community, and after a season of training we move to the next village so we can reach as many growers as possible.”
“In such a big country, we obviously have to set priorities. We do this together with our partners: Rijk Zwaan, East West Seeds and Wageningen University Research Center - Applied Plant Research. The financial contribution and the knowledge that Rijk Zwaan shares benefits all farmers, not only the ones who buy Rijk Zwaan’s seeds, so that’s rather special.
We sit down, look at the knowledge gap and try to use all of our expertise to fill it. We might need to start a new research project or develop new kinds of training, for example.”
“One of the main challenges for African horticulture is to change the mindset. Unlike in cereal crop production, vegetable growers have to start from a market perspective first, get organised and see vegetables as a business. For this, we also refer them to the Tanzanian Horticulture Association (TAHA) which can help them with marketing, including export opportunities. But it also works the other way around: TAHA can refer growers to Rijk Zwaan for advice about greenhouses. In turn, Rijk Zwaan refers growers to SEVIA for technical support. It’s like a loop in which we all have the same goal: training large numbers of growers is one thing, but adoption and a ’green African revolution’ is our ultimate dream.”
Read more about Rijk Zwaan's activities in Africa on www.rijkzwaanafrica.com