My name is Winfrid Tamba, a graduate student in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communication, and Leadership (ACEL) at The Ohio State University, funded through the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI). My studies focus on Agricultural and Extension Education, with a specialization in Community and Extension Education. Currently I’m working with the local government authority as an Agricultural Extension Agent in Masasi District Council, Tanzania. Coming to Ohio State for my graduate degree was not easy; however, my determination of helping the community in which I am working motivated me to push hard to ensure the journey was successful.
I originally come from a farming family. My parents still grow food such as cashew nuts, maize, cassava, rice, sesame, sorghum, pigeon peas, and other horticultural crops. The farming is primarily subsistence, and in most cases the harvest cannot suffice for a year, leading to food insecurity and poverty in most of the rural communities. Farmers face many challenges in terms of production, marketing, and environmental challenges. From my own perspective, I would categorize the challenges of production in two ways. First, lack of specification: most of the farmers, including my parents, will grow almost every crop that seems to grow well in small fields. However, from a food security standpoint, small farms with every crop helps to spread risk so that when one crop fails others crops still remain for harvest. The other category of the production challenges is the deficiencies in extension education. In Tanzania, there are ineffective agricultural extension services, for a number of reasons, which bring about low farm productivity. Despite the rich experience that most farmers have, many still lack the skills and knowledge of crop production. This is what prompted me to study agriculture, specifically agricultural extension and education, so that I can help to extend skills and knowledge to farmers in that area of crop production with the anticipation of increasing the number of food-secure families in my community.
Life was not easy at first when I arrived at Ohio State; I had to adjust to a new environment and culture, but eventually over time was able to acclimate myself. I accomplished this by making friends, attending church, and occasionally watching American football, of which I had never seen before coming to America. Another thing that helped me adapt during my stay at Ohio State was visiting the gym on campus. Almost every day I attended the Recreational and Physical Activity Center (RPAC), helping me to stay in good health and spirits throughout my time on campus.
My research project here at Ohio State aims at “Assessing Perceptions of Cashew Growers on the Effectiveness of Agricultural Extension Agents in Technology Dissemination and Adoption in Masasi District Council, Tanzania”. Under field condition transfer and adoption of innovations to farmers have been a major factor that causes low crop production to most farmers in Tanzania. Due to this problem, most rural household are food insecure. It is obvious that the interaction between agricultural extension agents (AEAs) and farmers, and the extent to which farmers perceive agricultural extension services as useful to them, is paramount to bringing about change in crop production. My project will help to identify cashew growers’ awareness and opinions on the quality of extension agents in disseminating technology and good agricultural practices of cashew. Production constraints and challenges cashew growers face, as well as their willingness/readiness to adopt cashew production technologies, will be part of the study.
This study is particularly important because cashew is among the major commercial crops, and main source of income, for farmers in the southern regions of Tanzania; and significantly contributes to the economy of Tanzania. For instance, in Masasi District Council where I’m working as an Extension Agent, cashew contributes over 90% of the farmers’ incomes. Currently the average yield of a mature cashew tree in the Masasi district council ranges from 5-7 kg/tree per year, which is far below the average world recorded potential of 27kg/tree per year. With the broad understanding of extension education that I have gained at Ohio State, my research is expected to provide knowledge and information that will enable farmers to understand and adopt particular cashew technologies and production management practices. Since cashew is the main cash crop and plays a key role in ensuring household income and food security in the Masasi District Council, the findings of this study will help to improve the quality of agricultural extension services and approaches, leading to increased crop production particularly of the cashew nut in the district. More importantly, the study will help to inform extension agents and decision makers about appropriate and sustainable extension approaches that may promote the uptake of technologies and good management practices of cashew for its increased production. Increased cashew production will help create job opportunities for rural populations, particularly women and youth. Increased cash incomes will help to reduce poverty and improve food security at the household level. Likewise, due to increased crop production, the Masasi District Council will increase its revenue through collections from producing cess. The collected funds can be used for improvement of social services, including but not limited to education, health, water, and road infrastructure within the council.
In reflecting on my Ohio State graduate program and research to date, my selected major -Agricultural and Extension Education – has helped me to gain skills in both leadership and extension communication that will help me to provide better agricultural extension services to the farmers in my work place for increased crop production and ultimately change farmers’ lives.
I’m so thankful to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for supporting my graduate studies at Ohio State. Of course it would not have been possible without the financial support from USAID - from the American people - through the iAGRI project.
Winfrid is a graduate student sponsored by the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI), a Feed the Future project in Tanzania funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by The Ohio State University. This major food security project seeks to prepare the next generation of agricultural scientists, leaders and food system institutions in Tanzania through graduate degree training, collaborative research, and human and institutional capacity development (HICD).