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I could give you a list as long as my arm of the material things are farmers are lacking. And, because they live in a rural area, lack access to. Also being based in a rural area affects Seed Change’s access to very normal, very useful things – printer toner, filing cabinets, irrigation components – that we need to find in Dar es Salaam or bring in from overseas. But the hardest commodity for both Seed Change and our farmers to access is much more intangible and much more important – information.

This is probably not something that you should write in a blog that current/potential donors read when your organisation is largely funded by donations from such people, but at any given time we basically have no idea what is going on in some part of Seed Change. I don’t mean the things we can control like how our seedlings are growing or which lesson we are up to in our farmer training program but there is always something. As of today, here is a very short sample:

  • When will TANESCO (the government run electricity company) connect power to our nursery? No idea.
  • Do we have to pay into the Worker’s Compensation Fund for temporary or short-term contract employees? I just don’t know.
  • When will the poly bags (which we plant our seedlings in) arrive from Dar? They’ll arrive when they arrive.

Of course, you can have some idea about some things – the poly bags will get here in 1 to 4 weeks. But there is a non-trivial chance that that could end up being 1 to 4 months. So, you are operating in a significant haze of ignorance and uncertainty at all times. It’s… annoying.

The same goes for our farmers. But of course, it’s worse for them. They don’t have internet access or electricity at their houses to charge their phones, and town is an hour or more away. How do I get a bank account? No idea. And no one I know has one. And there is a 20% chance that when I turn up to the bank the one guy who can help me, isn’t there at that time. How much does 10kgs of NPK fertiliser cost? I could roughly estimate but I could easily be out by 20%. Are these Seed Change trees really actually good? I think so but should I gamble my small income on these trees with no real way of knowing if this is the right move?

Of course, we at Seed Change, being committed to helping farmers out of poverty, do what we can to attempt to fill this information lacuna (see here and here). But if knowledge is power, well… rural smallholders in Tanzania – and the bosses of Seed Change – might be struggling a little bit.

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