T-Hakiki: preventing the sale of input  counterfeits with mobile technology takes root in Tanzania

Tanzania- East Africa’s agriculture powerhouse has made a lot of strides in controlling the sale and use of uncertified input, thanks to public and private partnerships geared to transforming smallholder farmers to commercialization.

According to  Mr. Patrick Ngwediagi, the Director-General of TOSCI (Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute) anyone doing seed business in Tanzania must have a TOSCI label for tracking purposes that ensures only quality and certified seeds are sold to farmers.

 “So far the coverage is about 80 percent and we expect this year to have 100 percent compliance,” he notes. Mechanisms set up are robust, he said, and the verification using mobile phones (T-hakiki) can make sure fake labels are not used. The verification can also be done via TOSCI online portal. 

On his side, Mr. Bob Shuma, Executive Director of Tanzania Seed Trade Association (TASTA) notes that for years counterfeit and substandard seeds used to be a significant deterrent to smallholder farmers adopting agriculture technology, leading to poor harvests and enormous losses for farmers.

The vice would often take multiple forms running from uncertified seeds, brand imitations, diluted or entirely fake products. 

Maize is the most crucial crop used to experience the most counterfeit, where concerted efforts are being fruits, with farmers being able to access verifiable improved variety from last year. 

TASTA members, numbering 47, are all producing seeds packaged and have labels from the regulator- Tanzania Official Seed Certification (TOSCI), making verification a reality. 

“Unlike in the past, we have Agro Dealers even at the village levels selling to smallholder farmers certified seeds. Agriculture reforms and infrastructure development throughout the country have made it possible for farmers to access variable inputs,” he notes.   

 In the last decade, the government’s efforts, with support from agriculture stakeholders, including the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), created an environment for the registration and growth of private seed companies.  

In the past, AGRA’s Program for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) worked with government research institutions to hybridize 23 maize seed varieties suitable for diverse climatic conditions in the country, and now fueling seed companies to regenerate branded seeds. 

“Since 2017,  policy and developmental actions have turned around the situation. Smallholder farmers have gained confidence with improved seeds, as there are ways of verifying them,” Mr. Bob says.

AGRA gave a grant to TASTA to coordinate and monitor the reforms in accessing publicly registered early generation seeds.   Mr. Bob says the grant enabled public-private firms to access early generation seeds. “There was lengthy bureaucracy which made it difficult for private seed companies to access registered public early generation seeds,” he says.

“We are grateful to the government. After the private sector identified issues that constrained access to registered public varieties, the government drafted a circular that made it easy for private seed companies to access early generation seeds,” Mr. Bob notes.

Tanzania Official Seed Certification (TOSCI),  a government institute responsible for only quality agricultural seeds are produced or imported and safeguarding farmers from poor (fake) sources, has been very supportive to registered seeds companies, he notes.

AGRA also directly supported some seed companies to track the distribution of products through verified labels. A large section of seed processing companies in the country has world-class packaging and labeling capacities.

In Tanzania, AGRA has funded the release of over 40  improved cultivars of food crops such as maize, cassava, beans, and soybeans.

“About  20 of these are varieties that are commercially available to farmers.  AGRA has also supported dozen seed companies to increase productivity. We have also capacitated over 5000 agro-dealers from around the country,  and helped postgraduate studies Masters and 10 Ph.D. of several leading researchers in agriculture, notes Mr. Vianey Rweyendela, AGRA Country Manager,

To make the gains made sustainable, TOSCI has made sure packaging and labeling seeds up to the standard. It is possible to use verification methods to confirm the source of given improved variety before farmers’ usage, saving them from the headache of counterfeit products.  

Last year during farmers’ day (Nane Nane) in Arusha, then  Minister of Agriculture, Japhet Hasunga, launched an exceptional input verification service known as ‘T-HAKIKI.’ 

The electronic verification system uses Unstructured Supplementary Service (USSD) code *148 *52 #, and where input buyers put scratch panels on the seed packets or on the pesticide bottles to confirm the authenticity of the input.

At least in every household in Tanzania, there is someone who owns a cell phone; thus, smallholder farmers can access the service. 

Quincewood Group Limited, with support from AGRA, partnered with Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation (TTCL),  Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) and Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI), and other agricultural sector stakeholders to make the innovative solution for ending the use of fake or uncertified inputs in Tanzania.

Quincewood Group Managing Director, Ms. Fatma Fernandes, notes that AGRA funded the project to benefit smallholder farmers. Before partnering with the government on the T-Hakiki platform, the company developed E-Hakiki. Hakiki is a Swahili word for verification. 

“Ours is to help farmers and agro-dealers in Tanzania to get world-class verifications for farming inputs. All farmers in Tanzania deserve only to buy genuine seeds and pesticides. When farmers are sold counterfeit goods, it can destroy them financially and collectively; it is bad for the overall economy because agriculture affects over 80 percent of Tanzania’s population,” she says.

Both T-Haiki and eHakiki’s e-verification system protect farmers’ interests. Apart from verifying agricultural inputs’ legitimacy, the platform is also used to verify other items like medicines and other consumer goods.

AGRA funded the piloting of the precursor to t-Hakiki, e-hakiki. After the government saw the results, it was possible for a more comprehensive partnership, which has led to the current arrangement where all seed companies in the country use the system.

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