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The female face of farming

Frida harvesting pigeon peas. Photo: Farm Africa / Jon Spaull Frida harvesting pigeon peas. Photo: Farm Africa / Jon Spaull

Meet one of the many strong women behind farming. Farmer and mother of five Frida Elisante, 54, from northern Tanzania is making a success not just out of growing crops, but business. 

Frida has been working as a farmer for many years, but before enrolling in our FoodTrade project she used to struggle to make enough money from growing and selling her crops to support her family. After receiving training in farming and business skills from the project, she's gained the knowledge and confidence she needs to boost the profitability of her farming business.

“When I was just planting without using good agricultural practices I was harvesting, but not much. Now that I am following good practices, the harvest has increased. Previously, we used too many seeds and we had many, many maize plants that grew too close together and the harvest was very, very low."

Farm Africa - Female farmer Friday from FoodTrade with goatsThanks to her new farming and business skills, Frida is now able to earn enough income to pay for the family's medical costs and her son's studies. “I used to earn a very low income, it was hard to afford high-quality seeds. Before, when somebody got ill we had to take them to the hospital and pay the medical costs and then we didn’t have enough money left to pay the school fees, so our children would get sent home from school until we could pay. I had to eat very little for the children to go to school.  Now, we have enough money to pay for the children to go to college."

Key to Frida's success was a switch from selling her own crops on an individual basis to working with other farmers in her cooperative to aggregate their crops, store them and sell them in bulk once the market price had risen: 

"I have attended different FoodTrade seminars on agribusiness. Before, we were just farming as normal, we did not know about farming as a business. We have harvested our maize and we are storing it til the price goes up. If you sell individually, it is not good. If you sell collectively, you get a bigger market. The price is good because the buyer gets a bigger volume at the same time."

Farm Africa - female farmer Frida from FoodTrade

Storing crops used to be unheard of for various reasons, including farmers' urgent need for money at harvest time, and the risk of crops being destroyed by pests in storage. With Farm Africa's help, Frida has overcome both of these problems:

"We have decided in our group it is better to sell goats at harvest time to cover our costs than to sell maize because the goats are now fat and we can get a good price for them. It is better to wait to sell the maize when the price is higher. The village aggregation centre is good because I can leave the maize there and forget about it. I don’t have to worry about rats and mice."

While life is looking up for Frida, like any entrepreneur, she worries about securing her next customer: all her hard work is only paid off once she finds a committed buyer: "We are farming, we are putting in the effort, but finding a market is our biggest challenge. We are not sure about the market."

About FoodTrade

Tanzania and Uganda typically produce a surplus of staple crops every year, while Kenya only grows enough maize to feed itself one year in every five. Smallholder farmers in Tanzania and Uganda could reap huge benefits from selling their crops to regional markets like Kenya. With funding from the UK Government, we're helping farmers reduce post-harvest losses and build their links to markets. Click here to find out more.

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