Participatory Action Research in Tanzania, finding solutions for pastoralists to increase climate resilience

Pastoralists through participatory research have learned that employing suitable land preparation and incorporating cattle dung, will enhance cattle feed production and quality to address livestock feed needs throughout the year, especially during the dry season when they have been experiencing animal feed deficit. Working with researchers on a step-by-step approach has aided farmers and pastoralists in overcoming various challenges on the ground and gaining a deeper grasp of multiple solutions.

Pastoralists listening attentively to the facilitator about African foxtail grasses in the field

What is the core problem?

Pastoralist groups have always been migratory in quest of better pastures and water. They had no time to grow animal feed or they had less fodder to feed their cattle and these led to pastoralist grazing their animals, on crop farms or crop residuals during the dry season, when natural grasses are unable to endure drought, resulting in major tension between them and farmers or other land users and hence a prolonged conflict between them. The decrease in grazing land and water scarcity partly caused by increased population and climatic change effects has led the pastoralist communities to change their lifestyles to tackle some of these challenges.

Through the Farmers and Pastoralist collaboration (FPC) Project, funded by the Biovision Foundation, farmers and pastoralists can currently coexist peacefully by using acknowledged agroecological practices and benefiting from each other through a circular economy. So, both sides benefit by increasing income, improving food security, reducing conflicts, and strengthening climate resilience. Farmers and pastoralists have been taught how to produce their own pasture and the importance of having their own land for pasture production.


During the 7th WPRD workshop in December 2020, pastoralist and farmers presented their problem, which is how they can maximize the production of their pastures for livestock to feed throughout the dry season, and a researcher from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) decided to conduct participatory research together with pastoralist from Mela village based on the problem they presented during the workshop.

Mr. Onesmo Ngenzi, master’s student from Sokoine University of agriculture together with pastoralists and field facilitators.

What is participatory research?

Farmer-centered research (FCRP) is a research platform that develops solutions for small-scale farmers and pastoralists who use agro-ecological farming methods. The FCRP decentralizes the research process and puts farmers at the center. Through this process, farmers and pastoralists can voice their needs to the research community. Until now we have conducted 82 research studies of which 71 are completed and 11 are ongoing, involving 79 research students of which (68 have completed and 11 are ongoing students) out of the 79 students 66 students are Bachelor’s students and 16 are Master’s student. These participatory researches have helped farmers to get practical solutions for their farming and livestock problems.

Through this approach, farmers and pastoralists own the complete research throughout the development stage of the research problems. The third pillar of SAT, “Research,” is implemented with the help of FCRP. The obtained knowledge and expertise are put to the test and the outcomes are shared with the community.

How do participatory research help farmers and pastoralist?

Understanding research and its value can assist us in solving a variety of difficulties.

“Research has formalized curiosity,” as the expression goes.

This is directly related to what we do in agriculture. Pastoralists would like to cultivate high-quality pasture (nutritional content) that may be used all year round. To learn how to boost pasture productivity and quality, extensive research must be conducted.

However, not all farmers have the technical expertise or financial resources to perform research that can aid them in overcoming these obstacles. Pastoralists living in remote areas of Morogoro district in Mela village participated in participatory research with SUA master’s student researcher Mr. Onesmo Ngenzi.

The study was conducted over a period of five months by observing the growth of grasses using different technologies of preparing nursery seedbeds and the use of different amounts of cow dung. The study’s major goal was to discover acceptable techniques of soil preparation including no-till, flat till, and sunken beds preparation for pasture establishment. Other observation measures were manure composting and its application looking for manure application rate per hector. 

The plot area where the research was conducted

The hypothetical behind this research was that all of the treatments (tilling type and manure rating) will bring the effect of biomass of the pasture which will be analyzed at the laboratory. The increase in pasture production and quality will meet the needs of livestock throughout the year. The grass that was used was African foxtail grass (Cenchrus ciliaris).

Also, the amount of cow dung used was categorized into four; that is, 0 tons per hectare, 5 tons per hectare, 10 tons per hectare, and 15 tons per hectare. A total of 36 blocks were used in the study. 12 blocks were not plowed at all, 12 other blocks were plowed but were flat, and 12 blocks were sinking. Where each of the blocks, was fertilized with a different amount of dung.


The research reveals that pastoralists could begin grazing their land with flat nurseries made of cow dung (10 to 15 tons per hectare), harvesting and storing it for the dry season when grazing is sparse. This will lessen conflicts between pastoralists and other land users, which have resulted in a variety of losses, including livestock and human deaths, as a result of nomadic pastoralism.

Also, it has been discovered from the research that the natural grasses in Mela Village are not able to withstand the drought, after which the rain disappears for a short time. Pastoralists should begin cultivating African foxtail grass (Cenchrus Ciliaris) that is more productive, drought tolerant, extinct, and preferred by livestock.

What do pastoralists say?

Nashim Yusuph, one of the Mela Village pastoralists who participated in the research, advises her fellow pastoralists to establish their own pasture since it is critical for them to be able to feed their cattle during the dry season.

“Through out the research, I have learned a lot about appropriate technologies of pasture production which I will apply the same techniques on my farm”

Nashim together with her fellow pastoralist in the field where the research was conducted

What does the researcher say?

Onesmo says the importance of participatory research is to help farmers and pastoralists replicate what they have done in research on their own farms and apply the same proven techniques to get success and have high pasture production.

Onesmo observing African foxtail grasses on the field.

 In field conditions, while waiting for the laboratory results Researcher has the following recommendations 

  • Use of flat till method for pasture establishment because does not allow water flooding,
  • Use of cuttings/suckers because of fast sprouting compared with the use of seeds,
  • Use of 10 to 15 tones of cow dung per hector at transplanting time (top dressing method ), 
  • Timely weeding, Watering 3 times a week and keeping away from livestock/wild animal destruction 

Learn more from the researcher and Pastoralist through the video below

The Farmers and Pastoralist Collaboration (FPC) is kindly supported by the Biovison Foundation