Is it possible to increase income while conserving the environment?

Joyce Beno, a small-scale spice farmer from Kinole village in the Uluguru Mountains of Morogoro, Tanzania, faced many challenges in agriculture, such as limited access to profitable markets and low productivity. Joyce, a single mother who lives with her family in the Uluguru Mountains appreciated the diverse and beautiful natural landscapes of the Mountains. However, human activities have caused damage to some areas, including soil erosion and the destruction of catchment areas. These destructive practices have had a significant impact, leading to drought and soil fertility depletion.  

Despite coming from an agricultural family, Joyce thought that starting a business was the best plan of action because of the harm done to the natural landscapes, which hindered her ability to increase her spice production, fight off diseases, and minimize post-harvest losses because she was unaware of organic farming practices and post-harvest handling.

Quoting her own words, she said, “Agriculture seemed unattainable to me at one point, especially when it came to spices. They grow so slowly, and the yield is so poor for the price.”

Joyce Beno faced additional difficulties like pests and diseases, which caused low harvests and substantial losses. Her productivity was also significantly impacted by poor soil fertility.

Time passed, and she became less involved in agriculture, but with the good influence of her sister-in-law, she was advised to join a group where her sister-in-law was a member. The group name was Doga Kilimo, which is under the Uluguru Spice Project (USP), supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and Land Vorarlberg, implemented by Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT). Joyce was inspired by her sister-in-law’s success and joined the group in early 2022. Through the USP, Joyce learned about different organic agriculture practices that helped preserve the beautiful Uluguru Mountains while increasing her spice productivity.

Joyce began learning about techniques to improve soil fertility, such as leaving harvested bushes in the field rather than burning them to provide nutrients. She discovered the benefits of compost in boosting productivity and learned how to use a mulch to preserve water and prevent water losses. She also learned how to use bio-pesticides like neem trees, eucalyptus, and many more to combat pests and diseases. On the business side, she learned about record-keeping methods to help her track her harvest, sales, and losses.

Joyce’s production increased significantly, and she primarily cultivates cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper on her 3.5-acre organically farmed land. During the 2021 harvest season, Joyce harvested 760kg of cloves and 220 kilograms of black pepper. In the 2022 harvest season, her harvest increased to 1173kg of cloves and 403 kilograms of black pepper.

Joyce is one of the Internal Control System (ICS) organic certified farmers, so she can sell her product at a premium price through the farmers’ cooperative “CHAUWAVIMU AMCOS LTD” to SAT Holistic Group LTD (a social business affiliated with SAT). Thus in 2022, Joyce earned up to 14 million TZS (equal to 5500 EUR) from selling cloves and black pepper. With the money she made, she could buy more land to cultivate, support her family, send her daughter to school, and save in her bank account.

Joyce is proud of her accomplishments and encourages other women to engage in spice farming, since spices are perennial crops, and they help in conserving the environment she believes it is worth it and the benefit can be inherited by her children and future generations. Furthermore, the USP project implemented by SAT has helped conserve the Uluguru Mountains by promoting organic farming practices. Organic farming promotes soil health and fertility, leading to improved crop yields and reducing the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals. This practice also preserves the natural landscape and protects against soil erosion, ensuring the sustainability of the environment for future generations.

Joyce’s success story is an inspiration to many and a reminder that with hard work, determination, and the right support, it is possible to overcome challenges and achieve success. By adopting organic farming practices while at the same time contributing to the conservation of the Uluguru Mountains, Joyce has not only improved her own life but has also contributed to the well-being of her community and the environment.

The Uluguru Spice Project (USP) is kindly supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Fester Foundation and Land Vorarlberg