The Tanzanian Sisal Board (TSB) is increasing its efforts to attract the youth to be involved in sisal production, as the country’s government has announced it plans to harvest 120 000 tonnes of the stiff fibre by the end of 2025. Sisal is a plant that is originally from southern Mexico, and is often used in the production of stiff, fibrous objects such as rope.
According to a TSB 2022 research, 60 000 tonnes of the 120 000 tonnes would be generated by farmers producing the crop in plantations, while 60 257 tonnes will come from smallholder farmers in 16 regions with favourable production settings. These include regions such as Tanga Coast, Morogoro, Dodoma, Singida, Shinyanga, Mwanza, Geita, Simiyu, Mara, Kagera, Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Lindi, Kigoma, Tabora, Rukwa, Katavi, Mtwara, and Ruvuma.
The board is adamant that young people make up 70% of all new sisal growers in the country. A total of 12 000 new smallholder growers have registered with the TSB and 55% of them are youths.
Connecting via social media
One of the ways in which the TSB is attracting younger sisal farmers is through an aggressive social media campaign. They have launched what is being called the “WhatsApp Mkongeni”, which will entice the youth to join the sisal farming community via the popular messaging platform.
Head of TSB, Saddy Kambona, claimed that there were not enough sisal farmers, which contributed to the underwhelming output of a crop listed as one of the nine strategic agricultural products by the Tanzanian government. He praised the sixth phase government’s efforts in helping to revive the crop, particularly the ownership nullification of undeveloped farms in the Morogoro and Tanga regions.
The Tanzania Diaspora Hub, the majority of whom are young, has been awarded 100 hectares in Magunga-Korogwe to help the board achieve its sisal yield goal.
In addition, TSB is locating and managing the availability of high-quality, reasonably priced sisal processing equipment, and it has worked with the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (Tari) at the Mlingano center to do crop research. For small-scale farmers, the board is also coordinating block farming to facilitate easy empowerment by commercial banks and financial institutions.
The board owns five sisal farms, including the Hale, Magoma, Magunga, Ngombezi, and Mwelya sisal estates.
A key export
A total of 22 779.9 tonnes of sisal lion were exported in 2019, bringing in $38.057 million, while 14 645.8 tonnes were sold domestically, bringing in Sh43.907 billion. According to the data, 13 796.02 tonnes sold locally last year brought in Sh41.712 billion, while 28 404.4 tonnes were exported, bringing in USD47.73 million.
According to the Bank of Tanzania’s (BoT) annual report for 2020–2021, sisal exports brought in $101.6 million for Tanzania between 2016 and 2020, $17.2 million between 2016 and 2017, and 28.7 million between 2016 and 2017. The Central Bank report also reveals that in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively, $18.8 million, $19.3 million, and $17.6 million were generated.