Research & Analysis

National Survey and Segmentation of Smallholder Households in Tanzania

Tanzania is a democratic republic of 44 million people with an average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 6 percent to 7 percent over the past decade. Agricultural development is key to attaining the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and is the mainstay of the economy, contributing over 27 percent of GDP and employing 78 percent of the labor force. Tanzania is largely self-sufficient in its main staple crop, maize, though it still faces shortfalls in some years due to weather variability.

Smallholder farmers in Tanzania face a range of challenges, including obtaining and paying for quality seeds, fertilizer, and pesticide, and transporting goods to market along run down road networks. Compounding this is a lack of post-harvest storage facilities for crops and, if available, their prohibitive cost. Both the public and private sector in Tanzania have made significant investments in the country’s financial infrastructure in recent years, but the provision of credit, insurance, and payments facilities for smallholders is still lacking.

Mobile money services are a powerful tool to bring the unbanked and those using only informal financial services into the formal financial sector. They transform a mobile phone from a communications tool into a channel for low-cost financial services such as payments, transfers, insurance, credit, and savings. Mobile money is established and maturing in Tanzania overall, serving new business areas and enabling a wider range of digital payments, including among some smallholder households.

In close collaboration with the Financial Sector Deepening Trust–Tanzania (FSDT), CGAP conducted a nationally representative survey of smallholder households between August and September 2015. This study sought to develop a comprehensive map of the many activities, interests, aspirations, barriers, and pressures facing smallholder families. The questionnaire also explored nonagricultural household activities, financial practices and interests, and challenges and aspirations of these households.

This report shares the findings, observations, and insights from the national survey of smallholder households in Tanzania. It begins with an overview of the research approach, core program objectives, research questions, preliminary phases of development, and topics included in the questionnaire. It then profiles smallholder farmers in Tanzania, including their household demographics, farmographics, decision-making processes, self-identification and characterization of their identity, and motivations to do their work.

This comprehensive exploration of the lives of smallholder households sought to answer the following three questions:

  • What does the community of practice need to know or do to support smallholder households build more resilient and productive livelihoods?
  • How can financial mechanisms respond to the relevant needs and desires of smallholder households?
  • What types of market strategies and approaches can cultivate uptake and use of financial mechanisms?

The report examines how smallholder families manage their income and expenses and the issues they face that often lead to financial instability. It then describes financial inclusion in the smallholder sector, exploring household tools that are essential for financial inclusion, including mobile phones and national identification documents, as well as adoption of financial products, awareness, barriers, and interests. The sections that follow outline the five distinct segments of the smallholder population in Tanzania, mapping out groups of smallholder farmers that matter for fostering greater product adoption, and delving into their demand for various financial mechanisms. A full explanation of the research methodology and the user guide that accompanies the data set are included in Annex 1.

Related Resources


Over three-quarters of the population in Tanzania are involved in the agriculture sector. Yet despite their active financial and agricultural lives, smallholders in Tanzania have few tools to manage their irregular and volatile household cash flows.

Each short section in this summary complements CGAP data and insights for each country and addresses what the data tells us and what this means for FSPs and others.