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Value added snax… Tanzanian sorghum growers' new take on popcorn

19 September 2023

Value added snax… Tanzanian sorghum growers' new take on popcorn

By Dan Collison, Chief Executive, Farm Africa

What on earth is value addition? We talk a lot about it at Farm Africa, about helping farmers get further up the value chain - but what does it look like in practice?

It’s the hottest time of the year in Dodoma in central Tanzania. Huge rock formations rise out of the dry and dusty landscape and the shallow lakes have dried up. In the districts where Farm Africa is working we can see bright patches of green where young farmers are irrigating the land for vegetable production.

The farmers are getting ready to plant. Word from the government agriculture extension agents, from the radio and the weather apps is that the El Niño charged November rains will be heavy and widespread, setting up a good 2024 harvest.

Farmers in Dodoma are producing sorghum. Lots of sorghum! With funding from Irish Aid, the Mastercard Foundation and the World Food Programme, Farm Africa is working with nearly 100,000 farmers in central Tanzania to introduce Climate-Smart Agriculture techniques, including access to improved seeds and better post-harvest handling, and they are seeing a massive increase in production and price, in spite of dry conditions in 2023.

Woman holding basket

Farmers have increased sorghum production on average by an incredible 300%. There’s a big market for sorghum, not only with Tanzania Breweries, but with buyers coming from all over the region, from Rwanda and South Sudan to source this high-quality grain. And increased quality commands a higher price, with growers getting up to 780 Tanzanian Shillings (TZS) per kilo this year, compared to around 250 TZS per kilo three years ago.

When the farmers are not growing sorghum, they’re growing off-season vegetables, irrigating plots for tomatoes, onions and leafy greens that improve household incomes as well as dietary diversity.


I met a dynamic group of women in Ilinidi village, organised as the Mwagnaza Women’s Group, it has 28 members, it was established in 2019 and is now supported by Farm Africa.

The Mwagnaza group has figured out some new ways of adding value to their sorghum. Value addition means taking the original product and processing it to make something new – and then selling it for more.

They have developed a range of sorghum-based snacks that they sell in the market and around neighbouring villages. This includes “popsorghum” (imagine popcorn but made from sorghum – smaller but far superior to its Styrofoam flavoured cousin), as well as very fine biscuits made from sorghum flour – like a nutty shortbread. 

They are also producing and selling a highly nutritious mix of sorghum flour and groundnuts, which is great for babies and new mothers. And, using a locally made solar dryer they are drying and packaging sweet potatoes and green leaves.

mwagnaza womens group sitting with their money box

This all adds up to new income that they put into the group’s village saving scheme, which now has capital of 4 million TZS (around $1,500). Members can take loans from the fund to boost their own income generation.

Mary Mpale, a mother of four, knew that there was high demand for chickens in the Dodoma. She borrowed 500,000 TZS to buy chickens, sold them for 700,000 TZS, paid the interest of 75,000 TZS, and cleared 125,000 TZS in profit, around $50. This kind of money is incredibly useful in ensuring that all her children can go to school and are adequately fed. She keeps the loan for three months before returning it to the fund.

Sustainable savings and loans schemes are at the heart of so many Farm Africa projects.  Access to finance means not only that farmers can buy their essential farming inputs, like seeds and fertiliser, but also can add value to their products and further diversify their livelihoods.