Stories from the Field: Ecological Organic Agriculture Project Workshop (EOA)

Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) brought together sixteen small-scale farmers from six regions throughout the country for an intensive three-day workshop at their Farmer Training Centre in Vianzi as part of the Ecologial Organic Agiculture Project to dissemtinate organic farming principles to a wider group of Tanzanian farmers. The workshop focus was to address solutions to the main challenges facing Tanzanian farmers: maintaining and improving soil fertility, pest and disease problems, post-harvest handling, as well as water scarcity for irrigation.

Topics during the workshop included soil classification and texture, recognizing the effects of organic matter on soil health, structure and chemistry. Soil degredation from exposure of bare soil, overuse of  synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, over irrgation, erosion by not using terraces on sloping land and loss of organic matter from burning and overgrazing were acknowledged. A composting demonstration practicum used local materials to build a heap at the training centre. The importance of compost to improve soil fertility for both macro and micro nutrients, microogranisms, pH, soil water holding capacity and water infiltration rates was also emphasized.  The importance of calcium for tomatoes and the benefits of Boron as a micronutrient for onions was also discussed. Using kitchen waste was also identified as a good way in bring micronutrients into the compost and farm.

The facilitators led discussions on green manure, cover crops and crop rotations as other important means to retain and improve soil fertility and reduce pest infestations. The varied backgrounds and experiences of the participants were invaluable tools as they shared their successes with classmates. Mulching and the use of leguminous agroforestry trees were also recommended for small farms for both soil improvement and erosion control. Medicinal plants that can be used in pest control were discussed. A tour of the plants in the training centre’s demonstration garden was followed by how, when and where to use the various mixtures of organic pest controls. Compounds included the use of Neem, Pyrethrum, ashes, tobacco, hot peppers, and the Tephrosia plant.

Various micro-irrigation systems were discussed, from bottle irrigation to more elaborate drip tape systems. The screenhouse at Vianzi was toured, where drip tape is used for the crops. A Zanzibar farmer also explained his micro-irrigation system to the group. Food storage for grains and general hygiene for food processing and storage were the focus of one of the sessions. A practicum for sun-drying of fruits and other produce used pineapple and bananas in the training centre solar food dryer.

This cadre of trained farmers will return to their communities and share their knowledge and experiences, spreading the message of organic, environmentally-safe farming practices to their neighbours.