Year in review: Strengthening skills and training capacity in the horticulture sector in Tanzania


One year ago, the Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) project “Strengthening skills and training capacity in the horticulture sector” officially started implementation during a kick-off event in Dodoma, Tanzania. At this event, in October 2019, the project team welcomed the Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, Hon. Prof. J. Ndalichako (MP) and the Netherlands Ambassador to Tanzania, H.E. Jeroen Verheul. Both mentioned in their speeches the full support to and interest in the project.

The event was hosted by the two lead partners in the project: the Dutch Maastricht School of Management (MSM) and the Tanzanian National Council for Technical Education (NACTE). In their speeches their representatives explained that the project’s geographic focus is a complex one: capacity needs to be strengthened at three Diploma-level horticultural TVET colleges that are situated throughout the eastern side of country. Horti Tengeru college in Arusha covers the north of the country, Mati Uyole college in Mbeya is located in the centre of the Southern Highlands, and Mahinya college is situated in Songea, in the deep south and close to the border with Mozambique.

Listening to the future employers
Shortly after the event, late October 2019, representatives of MSM and NACTE carried out an in-depth Labour market needs assessment. In and around Arusha nearly 30 interviews were held with horticulture producers, processors and exporters. Besides company field visits and interviews many companies joined a workshop event for discussion and networking. The event was covered by Tanzanian media and interviews with company owners and project team members were held.

The team then travelled south, to the Iringa and Mbeya region, and from there via Njombe to the Songea region. An additional 20 company field visits and interviews were held in these southern areas. Findings of the Labour market needs assessment provided good overall insights in the existing gap between the colleges on the one hand and the industry on the other. On one thing all industry players agreed: the number one reason that holds back growth of the horticulture industry is the lack of skilled graduates that can be hired as staff. Through structured interviews the project team identified the top-3 general competencies that, according to the industry, make a skilled graduate: farm management skills; negotiating skills; and skills to understand how markets and contracts work. The top-5 technical subjects that came up as most crucial for graduates to master are soil types and cultivation; seed and its key features; fertilization and crop nutrition; crop protection and IPM; and nursery management, harvest and post-harvest.

The project aims at narrowing that gap between TVET colleges and industry and will make good use of the knowledge and track record of its project partners to do so. From the Dutch side this will be supported by project partners InHolland University of applied sciences, Q-Point B.V., and Profyta B.V. From the Tanzanian the project partners Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA), and Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) will bring in their expertise and local knowledge and networks.

Importance of the horticulture sector to the country
The project is implemented in a time when the horticulture sector is said to be the fastest growing industry within Tanzania’s agricultural sector, with an annual average growth rate of 11%. Exports have increased steeply in the past decade, and TAHA expects this to grow further to reach a value of US$ 1.85 billion by next year (2021). Over the past 20 years the industry saw growth of medium and large-scale investors operating independently and by integrating with small-scale contract farmers. COVID-19 will however have impacted on horticulture production, processing and trade and its effects on the sector are yet to be known and understood.

Educating a horticulture workforce for the future
Regardless the impact of COVID-10, what remains crucial is for the horticulture TVET colleges to educate a practical, entrepreneurial workforce that has what it takes to find work in the ever-modernizing industry, or with the right skillset and attitude to enter the industry as entrepreneur. A new generation of graduates that understands how to apply new and sustainable business models in horticulture, to be able to make a transition towards a resilient and circular food system in Tanzania in the years to come. One that combines horticulture business with preservation of nature, climate change, and the future of rural farming communities.

Each project partner is equipped with specific experience to contribute to the desired transition to a circular and resilient horticulture system. It is the project’s goal to train college students in gaining competencies with which they see horticulture as being part of a broader natural system, that preserves healthy soils, efficiently uses water and raw materials, halts the decline in biodiversity, and helps the Tanzanian agriculture sector to fulfil commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

Combining expertise of Dutch and Tanzanian project partners
The OKP project partners are aware that to achieve these ambitions for resilient and sustainable circular horticulture, it will need to work with a wide range of relevant actors and stakeholders. For this reason, it invited Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA), and Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) to be part of its consortium. At the same time, over the past decades the Netherlands has gained a reputation of a highly innovative horticulture producer. The future of horticulture production, also in Tanzania, needs new innovations and approaches. For efficient production of vegetables in circular processes, the project’s aim is to become a solid co-creating partner to the Tanzanian sector, offering the latest, affordable products and skills development approaches.

Next steps until end of 2020
Since the kick-off event in Dodoma and the Labour market needs assessment that followed, a number of activities have been taking place. These focused on two key aspects of the project. First a team of experts mapped required investments for practical training facilities and online learning infrastructure at each of the three colleges. These investments are a pre-requisite for further training of teachers and students.

Second, curriculum development experts analysed the existing horticulture curriculum that is being used at the colleges and identified the route for revision and modernization of it into a competency-based curriculum under the wings of and accredited by NACTE.

The next steps, to take place in the period between October and the end of 2020, are the following. The curriculum revision and modernisation process that is currently ongoing will result in a solid modernized content, including learner guides, while at the same time following the strict official revision steps and protocols – under the professional guidance of NACTE. At the same time, the project will prepare with Profyta, at the company’s modern horticulture facilities in Iringa, the first technical teacher training week.

While these activities are starting the purchase list for investments in practical training facilities and in online learning infrastructure will be finalized and agreed upon, after which official procurement of equipment can start. In the same period, concrete planning and pilot implementation of a Triple Helix platform at 1 or 2 TVET colleges can start, combined with a training of TVET staff in planning and undertaking applied research in support of Triple Helix activities. And finally, a plan will be made with SUA to start the entrepreneurship and incubator activities at 1 or 2 TVETs, in combination with the SUA-based SUGACO incubator initiative. This may start with an exposure visit of TVET staff and students to the SUGACO ground in Morogoro.

Orange Knowledge Programme
This project is part of the Nuffic Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP). For more information click here.

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