Melkior Kilenga, second on the left in the picture, has been farming for more than thirty years, but has only been a resident of Mbingu village since 2008. A subsistence farmer before 2008, he has always grown plantain, rice, cocoa, fruits and vegetables, but since acquiring his two plots totalling 4.5 acres in Mbingu he has increasingly specialised in cocoa as a commercial crop.
Before Kokoa Kamili’s arrival in Mbingu, Kilenga sold his cocoa to ‘Olam’ – an agri-business operating from seed to shelf. While Melkior’s relationship with Olam was largely trouble-free, the pre-Kokoa Kamili price seemed to be dictated by a small cartel of buyers from Iringa and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) with little discrimination made in terms of farmers’ harvested products and product quality.
Before Kokoa Kamili’s arrival in Mbingu there was no real market price, however their arrival quickly led to the introduction of a quality and pricing tier that resulted in better quality grades of cocoa being rewarded with a significantly higher price per kilo sold. Additionally, while Olam received their purchases at collection points, which came with an additional transport cost, Kokoa Kamili offered what was then an innovative collection service for the ‘wet’ cocoa at no extra charge. When Kokoa Kamili are not buying up harvested stock from the local producers, Melkior then sells to Olam, but on the basis of a substantially reduced purchase price to that offered by Kokoa Kamili’s in-season offer (less than 15%-25% per kilo).
Melkior continues to grow rice, maize, plantain, limes and bananas on his expanding small-holding in Mbingu. Melkior produces a range of fruits and vegetables for local market sale as well as for the sustenance needs of his family. Aside from the competitive purchase price and collection facility offered by Kokoa Kamili, Kilenga stated that “Kokoa Kamili’s advisory and agri-product training services are much appreciated; their horticultural advisory services helping me to enhance my average yields by approximately 10% that has resulted in my overall income increasing to 25%-30% over the past three seasons.”
Planting, pruning, weeding and soil maintenance have probably been the most significant contributors to his increased yields, with the techniques he has learned being applicable to his other crop production activities. He estimated that his seasonal yield per mature tree was approximately 3-4 kilos. Given his increasingly busy farm production he intends to hire an additional 3 seasonal workers to help out with his crop production.
In 2016, Melkior intends to purchase a total of 500 seedlings, taking his total number of productive trees up to 1,000 within the next three years. He stated “I hope my sales performance in 2015 will be recognised by Kokoa Kamili with some free or ‘bonus’ seedlings.”
With five children between the ages of 4 and 24 years, Melkior has a significant incentive to expand his farming activities.
TRAC-LIFT Marketing & Communications Team – Thursday 25th February 2016
Venue: Mbingu Village, Kilombero District, Tanzania