The story of landscape labeling in Tanzania begins in Mbeya Region, in the western reaches of the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. This region is among the most important in the country for agriculture, particularly for its rice, which is recognized for its superior quality throughout Tanzania.
Recently, the government of Tanzania has renewed its interest in supporting agriculture as the base of the country’s economy. They aim to encourage private sector investment to scale up agricultural development more rapidly, particularly in what is known as the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, or SAGCOT for short.
Excitement and trepidation
While the government’s plans for agricultural development have brought considerable excitement, they also have raised significant concerns about the wellbeing of smallholder producers and the conservation of Tanzania’s rich biodiversity and natural resources.
In 2012, EcoAgriculture Partners collaborated with the SAGCOT Centre to begin developing an “agriculture green growth” model of development for the Corridor that would mitigate these concerns by explicitly including smallholders in agricultural investments and creating incentives for protecting biodiversity.
Investigating landscape labeling
Based on a brief introduction of the concept during the Greening Agricultural Development in Mbeya: Using Maps to Advance Innovations workshop in March 2013, an Action Team formed in Mbeya around landscape labeling. An early focus of the Landscape Labeling Action Team was to expand their knowledge of producers engaged in sustainable agriculture practices, and connect with entrepreneurs and producer leaders who might be interested in learning more about landscape labeling. This led to a series of activities, funded by Hivos International and Oxfam-Novib, including a multi-day workshop in Mbeya focused exclusively on landscape labeling in Mbeya.
Finding the right path forward
The group of leaders in Mbeya has demonstrated interest in continuing to develop a landscape label despite slow progress and notable barriers. It remains to be seen if viable markets can be accessed or created for the products explored in the workshop. Nonetheless, the landscape labeling approach has facilitated cross-sectoral dialogue, inspired collaboration between diverse actors in the landscape and identified important new areas for capacity building and knowledge exchange.