Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) in Morogoro recently hosted Mr. Martin Graf and Ms. Esther Hildebrand of Effretikon, Switzerland. No stranger to Tanzania, Mr. Graf has worked with agricultural development projects as an agronomist and livestock specialist, as well as safari guide for visitors to Tanzanian farms and National Parks. He has worked for some time with Sativa Ag Rheinau and is a former Minister of Justice for the Canton of Zurich. Sativa Ag Rheinau plays a leading role in the breeding, production and sale of biological seeds, developing breeds for organic farming and sustaining heritage seed breeds.
He and his wife Esther are here for several weeks to return to a site near Iringa adjacent to the Kisolanza Lodge. Famers engaging in agriculture on steep mountain slopes have accelerated erosion to the valley floors below and are risking their ability to maintain long-term productivity on these lands. Mr. Graf felt compelled to return Tanzania once again to work with these farmers to develop slope-stabilizing terraces for their crops.
Conversing easily in Kiswahili, Mr. Graf met with SAT Director Janet Maro and the couple toured around the SAT small demonstration farm near their office in Tushikamane Centre in Morogoro. They then ventured to SAT’s Farmer Training Centre (FTC) in Vinanze, with 80 hectares in Mvomero District situated adjacent to large pastoralist holdings. The couple had a quick tour and farm overview from atop the new 15,000 litre holding tank tower. As the sun set, solar-powered lights illuminated discussions over dinner on agroecology, permaculture and the threat of GMO’s.
After sunrise, and freshened with lemongrass tea and fresh-baked rolls, the tour of the facilities poultry, permaculture demonstration, greenhouses, crop trials and water systems continued. Of special interest to SAT’s Alex Wostry was the livestock program. Mr. Graf’s extensive knowledge of livestock, dairy and pasture management from Tanzania, Switzerland and Australia were most helpful to ongoing SAT efforts to improve their breeding program and animal management. Fencing construction, fodder and grass varieties and important sources for breeding stock and seeds were exchanged. Of interest to Mr. Graff was how SAT’s up-to-date facilities and experience in facilitation of farmer trainings could help the farmers near Iringa learn about contour construction and planting and basic and advanced organic farming at the Centre. Alex Wostry of SAT also briefed Mr. Graf on the training sessions SAT has developed for group leadership methodologies.
The visit ended with a quick tour of the earthen water catchment dam under construction at the FTC, which will stabilize water supplies and overcome seasonal shortages now being felt at the farm during dry periods. Mr. Graf and his wife promised to visit again and are looking forward to a new partnership between SAT and the farmers near Iringa.