A lecture hall at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) full of young scientists developing ideas for their Bachelor and Master thesis. So far it would be nothing special if it weren´t for a few rather unusual guests: farmers and pastoralists of the Morogoro region. Each year the Workshop for Participatory Research Design connects farmers or pastoralists with young researchers and thus initiates a new cycle of the Farmer Centred Research Programme (FCRP), which emerged a few years ago from the close collaboration of SAT and SUA. Farmers and pastoralists present their current challenges and offer their local knowledge. From there students use their research skills to find solutions for their challenges together with the farmers.
The problem of the fall army worms
Martha Makumba, a young woman, is one among eleven bachelor students from SUA who received a grant through the FCRP in 2018/2019 to conduct her research. After farmers expressed their problem of fall army worms being a big obstacle to their productivity in the 5th Workshop for Participatory Research Design, she decided to look further into that issue. Her research had the overall goal to assess the resistance of local maize seed varieties to the invasion of fall army worms and the use of environmentally friendly pesticides as control mechanisms. During the following weeks she observed that the improved seed variety called “Tumbili” performed better compared to farmer managed seeds and that neem powder worked better as an organic pesticide than moringa. Although Martha Makumba recommended to use improved seed varieties one farmer decided to extend the research.
Farmers contribute to research findings
Mwombeck Cleophace is a member of the Tushikamane group in Kimambila village which was formed in 2017 in the course of the Farmers and Pastoralists Collaboration Project. He is also one of the Farmer to Farmer facilitators who pass on their knowledge to other farmers. Mwombeck Cleophace decided to extend the research in his village by visiting ten farms with improved seeds and ten farms with farmer managed seeds. Contrarily to Martha Makumba, he observed that improved seeds were much more affected by fall army worms compared to farmer managed seeds.
And the research goes on…
To us, we can draw two conclusions from this: First, it shows us how engaged and motivated our farmers are beyond our project activities. They can see that this research helps them to create a sustainable and well working agricultural system at their farms. Secondly, it also shows that different research analysis can provide different results. Another sign that we need to invest more time into long-term research to better understand the specifics of the seeds and their resilience towards the fall army worm.
On our organically managed farm in Vianzi we have plenty for you to experience. In fourteen different courses you can learn hands-on agroecological farming as well as value addition practices. In our opinion “learning by doing” is the key for a successful training experience, therefore we use a participatory training approach in all of our courses. For the first time we also offer a course on post-harvest management.
SAT is a leader in the field of ecological organic agriculture in Tanzania and has a lot of experience in capacity building and training. Our organization is internationally recognized and appreciated. Last year, almost 800 farmers, pastoralists and representatives of NGOs or governmental insitutions attended our courses.
This year’s training schedule includes the following courses
29th June – 3rd July 2020 5th October – 9th October 2020 23rd November – 27th Novemeber 2020
Currently, the demand for cardamom on the market is very high. Therefore, Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) offered an agroecological training on the spice. This capacity building session in the field took place to show how the plant can be intercropped in an agroforestry system so that the slopes of the Uluguru Mountains remain or become again protected from erosion.
Mkuyuni, a small village in the Ruvu river area of the Uluguru Mountains, is not easy to reach. The drive from the SAT headquarter in Morogoro up in the mountains was already hampered due to the rain season and muddy roads. After the car was parked, another 20-minute walk was needed to reach the remote demonstration plot. This provides a brief yet important glimpse on the obstacles, such as difficult market access and poor infrastructure, small-scale farmers have to face in addition to the harsh working conditions in the mountains.
Dr. Mgembe explainshow to grow and harvest cardamom
No matter if the sun was shining or rain was falling, farmers of Mkuyuni and the surrounding areas were very keen on learning about the production of cardamom. As part of the Uluguru Spice Project, this capacity building training was attended by 87 farmers from 10 different farmers groups. Two government extension officers were also present to ensure that knowledge and expertise on the highly demanded spice remains beyond the duration of the project. All attended farmers are from SAT trained peer-to-peer trainers who combined will share the knowledge with a total network of 1500 farmers over the next three years. In addition to that, we also provide further possibilities to gain knowledge on spices at our Organic Spice Production Course.
As the cardamom plant is rather new here as a potential cash crop, SAT invited Dr. Elias Mgembe from the Sokoine University of Agriculture as an external trainer to provide the needed expertise on how to grow, foster and harvest the spice. Only a few farmers have already cardamom plants on their fields, for many of them it is still a very new plant. However, a very promising one: The demand is very high and the supply not sufficient. Thus, farmers can get a very high profit from selling cardamom, and from the other way around the soil is protected through this intercropped perennial plant.
The cardamom plant: similar to turmeric and ginger and yet different
The training was held on a demonstration plot so that Dr. Mgembe could provide very practical, hands-on explanations. Actually, for an untrained eye it is not that easy to detect the inflorescence. It is quite a big plant, which belongs to the same family as turmeric and ginger, with actual capsules growing on a small part above the ground. In addition, there are three different types of cardamom plants with different needs and aspects to consider. Generally, a few characteristics can be noted, which the plant needs or has:
Shade (50-60%), thus intercropping is helpful and it is suited for agroforestry
Short roots, thus a highly nutritious top soil layer is needed
Seedlings for propagation of plant (danger of transferring diseases too)
Bees for pollination
Capacity building: Handpicking ensures the best quality
Often, farmers harvest too early because they need the income from selling the spice, leading to a loss of quality. The cardamom plant needs to be harvested not only manually, but the almost ripe capsules need to be handpicked just before maturity. Thus, the spice needs a lot of work and attention. Yet, the process continues beyond harvesting as the right storage and drying process also plays an important role for the quality of the final product.
Cardamom is only the latest addition to the trainings which are part of the USP project to increase capacity building on the spices. By doing so, SAT provides the small-scale farmers with a strengthened value chain. It focusses on direct processing at the farm and product development and market access via SAT facilities. SAT pays the farmers a premium price (at least 10% more), which is mutually agreed on with the producers themselves and leads to a more secure income.
Community building and knowledge exchange as part of the USP project
Back to the training: The many questions the farmers had for Dr. Mgembe were a clear sign that there is a need and interest on the cultivation of cardamom. Furthermore, during lunch the different farmer groups could connect and share experiences on agroecological methods, another important aspect in the work of SAT. To foster community exchange and participation of farmers is an essential objective of SAT’s vision to grow sustainable agriculture in Tanzania.
From 27th February to 1st March 2020, Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) hosted as part of the Farmers & Pastoralists Collaboration project a workshop on agroforestry systems in dryland areas. Through field visits, presentations on research, discussions, and group work, the participants were able to identify the main challenges dryland inhabitants are facing and suggest systemic solutions. Farmers, pastoralists, researchers, students, and facilitators jointly developed four agroforestry systems. These promising combinations of technologies are now being tested and optimised.
“I understand: there is not a single thing in nature that does not have its value for a farm”, summarises Julia Samson, a pastoralist woman. She refers to the remarkable variety of technologies the group of roughly 20 people just admired on Mercy Meena’s permaculture dryland farm. The lush vegetable beds and crop fields around the house sharply contrast with the arid environment. All this becomes possible if only one cleverly combines various plant species and actively cares about soil and water management.
This farm visit is part of a four-day workshop on agroforestry in the course of the Farmers & Pastoralists Collaboration project. SAT invited pastoralists, farmers, soil and agroforestry scientists, students, and some of its staff members. The goal of the workshop is to outline agroforestry systems with appropriate technologies to redress the challenges faced by people living in the drylands. These systems shall be implemented, tested, researched and refined on the premises of the SAT Farmer Training Centre. Simultaneously, interested farmers and pastoralists will do their trials. Thus, they’ll contribute to the further refinement of the chosen agroforestry systems.
Agroforestry is a broad term. It refers to a combined land-use system that, in any case, is based on woody perennial plants like trees and shrubs and combined with at least one more component like crops or animals. The aim is to select beneficiary combinations of species to ensure food security, nutritional balance and economic dynamism. Chosen wisely, trees, crops, and livestock maintain the material cycles, create desirable agroclimatic conditions, and diversify the producer’s source of income. At best, the planned biodiversity increases the general biodiversity on the farmlands and in the surroundings.
However, the vast amount of species leads to an incredible number of possibilities to join them. To narrow this down, one needs to answer a set of questions: What’s the purpose the system should serve? What are the challenges the producers are facing? Which are the species that withstand the given conditions? What characteristics do they have?
The participatory and interdisciplinary approach of this workshop fostered a lively exchange concerning these questions. Even more so, because the participants had very diverse backgrounds. Scientists of World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) presented the latest relevant findings and clarified the underlying concepts. Farmers and pastoralists, for their part, contributed local knowledge on tree species, insight in their challenges, and critical feedback on feasibility. SAT, finally, provided the holistic agroecological perspective.
In his presentation Agroforestry Research and Development in Tanzania, Dr Anthony Kimaro (ICRAF) explains the processes by which trees improve soil productivity. On the one hand, they increase the inputs of nutrients and organic matter, but also raise the nutrient availability for crops, and reduce the losses of soil. On the other hand, trees may improve the physical and biological soil properties and thereby enhance the moisture content. He then gives an overview of how agroforestry is implemented in Tanzania.
At the end of this presentation, Julia Samson shows her wit again: “There are really no questions from my part, but I congratulate you. What I saw were all well-known trees from our environment. If we start planting them, our cattle will gain weight; you won’t believe that.” Julia, a pastoralist who practises pasture management, quickly grasped the prospect of agroforestry. Many agroforestry systems have the potential, indeed, to fight the lack of fodder in the drylands.
During the workshop, Prof. Luther Lulandala from the Department of Ecosystems and Conservation at SUA repeatedly emphasises: “Identify the challenges you want to overcome, and you will find a suitable agroforestry system for the aims you pursue.” The difficulties in the drylands are manifold and very often interconnected. Through group work, the participants pinned down the most challenging issues. There is a shortage of firewood and water, the careless cutting of trees aggravates the loss of arable land, which, in turn, increases land-use conflicts. Food and fodder insecurity affect people and livestock. Both animals and crops frequently get infested by pests. There are little opportunities for economic activities and development.
However, there are good chances that a systemic approach like agroforestry positively affects this complex situation. The workshop participants developed four promising designs that now need to prove their efficacy and feasibility.
During the field visit on the fourth day of the event, many benefits of agroforestry already became clear. Dryland farmers who are part of current and completed research projects of ICRAF guided the visitors through their farms, tree nurseries and animal pens. What they showed is encouraging: Their maize is strong and healthy, their animals are well-fed, and the woodpiles were abundant in cut branches of gliricidia trees. This cooking fuel is a renewable product of their agroforestry system.
Alexander Wostry was interviewed by Biovision (Foundation for Ecological Development) early April about the current situation in Tanzania: Which preliminary measures have been introduced to prepare for the global SARS-CoV-2 (better known as COVID-19) pandemic.
“We are part of the food system. We cannot just stop working now.”
The work of SAT continues in times of COVID-19
In the interview, Alexander Wostry talks about the importance of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania during such a crisis: SAT is part of the food system and thus has to continue working. Furthermore, he explains the measures taken by SAT such as awareness raising on which hygiene measures are important considering COVID-19. This is particularly important at all SAT facilities, including the SAT Organic Shop, where renovations took place and hygiene measures were taken.
Furthermore, SAT introduced at its Farming Training Centre and in the villages where SAT is working with small-scale farmers a handwashing system called TipTap. In the Video below you can see how it works without the need to touch anything with the hands.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Tanzania
Current information on the pandemic in Tanzania can be found at the WHO website. The work of SAT continues, even tough with a few limiations. We would like to thank Biovision for the interview, which you can listen to here:
You can support the work of SAT and it’s vision of establishing sustainable and organic agriculture in Tanzania during this crisis by donating here.
With every pot they open, the melange of scents gets more exciting. Elizabeth Mizambwa and Jane Daudi prepare to serve plain rice, pilau, peas with coconut cream, braised beef with a gingery sauce, leafy vegetables with onions, chilli relish and, as a healthy dessert, juicy watermelon. Thirty-nine spice farmers queue up for lunch. They gathered for a meeting on post-harvest management, and already during the tea break enjoyed the fantastic cooking of Elizabeth, Jane and their fellow group members.
“Our group has grown to thirty members – all women. Of course, not all of us participate at once when we have a catering order. Normally, ten to thirteen women meet at somebody’s home to prepare the menu. We cook on wood or charcoal stoves. Most of the ingredients we use come from the SAT Organic Shop” summarises Elizabeth, who is the group’s chairperson.
When food is ready, they use a hired car to transport the thermos pots to the venue. Elizabeth describes logistics as a big challenge for the catering group. “It occurs that everything is prepared, but the driver is late. Most often, this happens when a driver takes the opportunity to work for somebody else on the same day. Sometimes such small jobs take longer than expected. And then, we end up being late to serve the food, which is very bad for our business.”
Luckily, from this point of view, their primary customer is SAT. Therefore, the young entrepreneurs have a friendly environment to get set for the expansion of their business into the competitive market. How has this cooperation evolved? The group Nguvu Kazi (‘Strenght of Work’) started in 2014 as a pure saving and lending group. SAT had decided to offer this successful training on microfinance and entrepreneurship to non-farmers as well.
In a nutshell, this system allows the group members to buy shares every week, which increases the collective fund. Every shareholder can request loans out of this fund for entrepreneurial activities. If the group grants the credit, the borrower needs to pay back the money within three months. Due to quite reliable repayment and the interest on loans, the collective fund grows steadily. At the end of a yearly cycle, the group redistributes the savings. Every saver receives her part according to the shares she has bought throughout the year.
“In the beginning, we mostly used the loans to buy raw material for soap production. But in 2018, we decided to try something new and invested in our catering enterprise,” recalls Elizabeth. “After every order, we decide on how much to reinvest and then we share the rest of our profits. It’s a good source of income and covers a considerable part of my household expenses. Paying our children’s school fees has become easier, and we all buy more shares on a more regular basis.”
This year, the Nguvu Kazi group impressively demonstrated their ‘strength of work’. Thirty women managed to buy shares for about 22.5 million Tanzanian Shillings (approximately USD 10,000). Thanks to their lively lending activities and dependable repayments, they increased the total amount in the collective fund to more than 25 million Tanzanian Shillings (almost USD 11,000). This is a considerable success in terms of return, which is more than 10%, but even more so because it shows that the group members actually can afford to save money for future use.
Asked about her group’s plans, Elizabeth replies: “We dream of catering at congresses or meetings and in offices. In short: to have additional customers apart from SAT. For this, we need to invest in advertisement and also in more decent plates and cutlery.” SAT believes that, with sufficient seed funding and additional consulting, the powerful Nguvu Kazi women could even pioneer Tanzania’s first organic catering. This project perfectly matches the concept of agroecology. Farmers will benefit from higher demand for organic products, and value addition will take place on the spot. Consumers, on their part, will finally have the option to eat fresh and healthy food outside their homes as well.
is my bike”, says Pendo Ndemo pointing at a bicycle that peers between a
group of Masai women. They have gathered in the shade of a veranda. Outside,
the light is dazzling. Now and then, a hot and dry breath of wind tells how
harsh it would be without the roof. “I use the bike to visit the members
of Tupendane group”, Pendo continues. She is a Pastoralist to Pastoralist
Facilitator, and therefore one of the crucial persons in multiplying the skills
she acquired before.
group, Nameloki (‘Good Luck’), started their training with SAT in 2017.
“Since then, we made a lot of progress. We have 30 crossbreed goats and
three cows that are offspring of our traditional sort and a beautiful Mpwapwa
bull.” These animals are more heavily built than the Masai’s customary
livestock but well adapted to the environment. “Of course, these cattle eat
a bit more. But thanks to our stock of hay, this is no problem anymore.”
What Pendo refers to here, is part of a fundamental change of habits. Traditionally, Masai would roam the savanna with their herds to search for grazeland and waterholes. Especially during the dry season, this involves wandering long distances. Through the Farmers and Pastoralists Collaboration (FPC) project, they learnt how to cultivate their pastures with nutritious grasses, and to bale hay for the following period. “Of course, we had our ways to relieve this problem a bit”, Pendo explains. “We fenced off suitable areas so that the fodder grasses would remain for tough times. Then, we would let our cows in for grazing. But these areas usually didn’t last for long.”
to that transformation, FPC also encourages pastoralists to grow crops. This
raises their awareness of how it is like when cows invade a crop field. It is a
goal of this project to reduce conflicts between farmers and pastoralists.
First impressions imply that it works well, evaluation is underway. There is no
doubt, though, that the Masai remarkably improved their variety of food through
however, water is the source of life. That is why SAT supported the
pastoralists with digging a reservoir big enough to quench the thirst of their
cattle. Nameloki’s watering-place lies amidst the labyrinth of bald trunks and
mostly naked branches in all shades of brown, yellow and ochre, characteristic
for the dry season. The pond is surrounded by the typical fencing of thorny
twigs and branches, which truely shows its efficiency if only one tries to open
it. When needed, a pump drives the water to the concrete trough.
“This is what we need too,” explains Nambeya Nyange, referring to her group’s plans. Tupendane group was founded in April 2019. “We were inspired by what happened in our neighbourhood,” Nambeya Nyange goes on. Asked about the progress, they have made during the first six months, the Tupendane women pick out two improvements. They never had as much milk before during this time of year. And they say that they engage more actively in trade. Through their saving and lending groups, FPC beneficiaries mutually grant loans that must be invested in business. “The men”, describes Theresia Makoretu, “use the credits to buy goats in the neighbourhood and to sell them with profit on the market. The women, on their part, buy wholesale products like soap in town and sell it retail to the villagers.”
Pendo Ndemo, who coaches the Tupendane members through her experience and her skills she picked up in the specialized training for trainers, leads the group to the tuition pasture. The untrained eye could barely make out this area except for the prickly branch fencing and the lower density of trees. Here, Johnson Mwakyusa, SAT facilitator, chips in. He suggests how the group should deal with this grassland that has not thriven as expected because of little rainfalls. “Let the cows in to graze here. This will fertilize the pasture and later encourage the nutritious grass species we sowed to grow faster. They prefer clear spaces.”
women in Mingo village, Johnson manoeuvres the motorcycle along the winding
paths tightly lined by the bare wood of this time of year. Farmers and
pastoralists engage in protecting this fascinating maze. They practice
agroforestry, which includes reforestation, and they learn how to produce
sustainable cooking fuel. Looking back, the houses in Mingo fade in the web of
twigs and branches. Soon, one believes to be miles away from settlements. And
indeed, without a vehicle, this place is very remote.
Tupendane and all the other 49 groups of FPC with their 1660 members stay
connected with each other and with SAT through a messenger platform on their
mobile phones. And before long we got back to Morogoro, there flies in a video
showing how Pendo Ndemo instructs the Tupendane group in compost making.
The FPC project is kindly supported by Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, and LED Liechtenstein Development Service.
In March 2019 the SAT Farmer Training Center received three guests from Ethiopia. Mr. Ali is part of the Green Flower Foundation, an organization that supports young people in Ethiopia. They have a project that Ali is currently developing in Bishoftu Polytechnic College. Bishoftu is a city just some kilometer away from Addis Ababa. At that college he is creating and implementing a curriculum for organic horticulture. The students will be trained form Level I to IV with theoretical and practical input on a small plot at the college. Two of the teachers, Hailu and Dereje, joined Ali to travel to Tanzania to prepare for this program.
SAT offered those three guests a two weeks special training in organic production. Their individual schedule was of great variety to get input for the most crucial aspects of organic agriculture.
Amongst other things SAT facilitators trained them in organic horticulture, crop production, manure production, soil management, compost making, pest control, organic certification and creating a business plan. These courses were designed to help them develop their organization further in organic production. The theoretical parts were taught and discussed, followed by practical sessions in the field. Dereje is most proud of their double dug which the three of them were digging under the tropical sun, a climatic condition they were not used to.
One thing they were very impressed by was how well educated every single person working in the field at SAT is, that everyone knows exactly why and how they are doing their work in order to achieve good organic quality, said Mr. Ali.
They went to visit one of the pastoralist groups that supported by SAT in Mvomero. The challenges of the farmer-pastoralist conflict were discussed as well as how SAT has managed to improve the situation of land use struggles. In Ethiopia there are similar challenges between these groups and there is an urgent need for improvement as well.
The visitors were fascinated on what has been done already in trying to overcome the existing challenges. Even though their college is focusing on horticulture, they might implement trainings about livestock management in their project as well. All three were very happy that their expectations towards the training were more than fulfilled. They will implement the gained theoretical and practical knowledge in their organization and further its development.
Having similar goals and challenges SAT will have a partnership to promote sustainable agriculture in East Africa. The knowledge transfer can help to find solutions to challenges that communities in the whole region are dealing with. The fact that organic production is now being implemented in a curriculum at a school is a big success. This is a sign for the future towards the right direction in agriculture. This is the second partnership of SAT in Ethiopia. South-South Co-operations like those are crucial for sustainable development and can create innovations and benefits for organic farming in East Africa.