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Showcasing Best Practices at the Tanzania Learning Farm

Posted On: August 29, 2023
Technical Specialist Mganga Togolai and a visiting farmer crouch to examine ripe tomatoes growing at the learning farm.
Technical Specialist Mganga Togolai (left) and a visiting farmer examine tomatoes at the learning farm.

In September 2022, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation proudly unveiled a new learning farm in Kahama, located in northwestern Tanzania.

EWS-KT learning farms demonstrate best vegetable production practices. Each learning farm is tailored to local conditions to address the challenges encountered by area farmers. In the Kahama region, challenges include sandy soils with poor fertility and increasing heat and drought due to climate change. 

Technical Field Officer Lydia Mkopa shows a group of young farmers some plants at the learning farm.
In mid-January 2023, a Field Day open house at the learning farm welcomed 250 people. Here, Technical Field Officer Lydia Mkopa (left) shows a group of visitors around the farm.

Showcasing Best Practices

The learning farm currently features 19 varieties of 12 crops: tomato, sweet pepper, eggplant, African eggplant, okra, cucumber, sweet corn, Chinese cabbage, kale, onion, watermelon, and carrot. 

Improved agricultural techniques demonstrated at the farm include:

  • Organic manure to amend sandy soil 
  • Raised beds to create loose soil for easy root penetration, and to establish good drainage to avoid waterlogging
  • Proper use of organic mulch to conserve the scarce water available, suppress weed growth, and protect the bed from erosion in the rainy season—and also to add more organic matter to the soil as the mulch decomposes
  • Trellising to ensure well-supported plants, make it easy for do other crop management practices (from weeding to pest identification to harvesting), provide good aeration in the soil to avoid the spread of disease, and avoid the rotting of fruits resting against the ground
  • Improved seedling production methods, with options for using seedling containers or an improved ground nursery
  • Creation of a dedicated pesticide mixing area or structure for the safe use and handling of pesticides 
  • Home gardening techniques

Supporting and Inspiring Farmers

“Visitors to the learning farm are most impressed with the field layout, the performance of crops on sandy soil, the neat trellising, and the way moisture is conserved by organic mulch,” said Technical Specialist Mganga Togolai. “Seeing healthy plants growing out of sandy soil, with the help of organic manure amendments, gives visiting farmers confidence that they can produce good crops in their sandy-soil fields.”

Visitors also especially appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and get the information they need in response, explained Mganga, who, along with Tanzania Knowledge Transfer Manager Epaphras Milambwe, was instrumental in establishing the farm.

On-Field Training at the Learning Farm 

We hold public trainings at the learning farm every Tuesday and Friday for 2 hours, with topics based on the stage of the crops being grown. After completing our first growing season in March 2023, we started sowing seeds for a second season in mid-June.

Trainings cover activities across the crop cycle, including farm business planning, crop and variety selection, land preparation, seedling production, integrated pest management, safe use and handling of pesticides, proper use of fertilizers, harvesting, and post-harvest handling. 

The learning farm welcomes farmers, community members, government workers, vegetable buyers, and local leaders, as well as occasional student groups. Because of its location, it is easily accessible to people entering and leaving Kahama town and exposes a wide range of people to EWS-KT and our recommended vegetable production practices.

Two visiting farmers look on as Technical Specialist Mganga Togolai shows them some crops.

Are you interested in visiting the learning farm?

It’s located along Isaka Road, Nyakato Street, in Kahama district, opposite D4N Company LTD.

Come by and learn improved techniques for growing vegetables!

Strategic Objectives

The learning farm is an excellent teaching and learning tool for trainers, farmers, and communities in the Kahama district and beyond:

  • It stands as an integral part of the onboarding program for new staff, enabling them to get hands-on experience in EWS-KT techniques before they are deployed to the field
  • It serves as a center for trying out new techniques before introducing them to farmers
  • It acts as a hub for training farmers and other key stakeholders in the vegetable sector
  • It showcases EWS-KT activities to funders, government officials, and like-minded partners

This November, we are planning to initiate action research at the farm. This research project will compare the effects of three manure types (pig, cow, and chicken) on tomato performance. The results of our action research in different countries enable us to improve our recommendations to smallholder farmers.

Community Involvement for Learning Farm Continuity

As the Tanzania team expands to other areas in the country, local farmers will take over management of the learning farm, with minimal supervision from EWS-KT staff. To ensure knowledge transfer continuity, we are building the capacity of local people like 26-year-old Martin Mabula to maintain the learning farm. 

Martin has been working at the learning farm part-time since December 2022, engaging in daily crop management. He has his own farm near the learning farm site, and when we began to establish the learning farm he was very curious and asked a lot of questions about vegetable production. Due to his interest and enthusiasm, he was a natural candidate for a caretaker position at the learning farm. His role involves activities like irrigation, weeding, fertilizer application, trellising, spraying, and application of organic manure and organic mulch. On his own farm, Martin is currently managing a small Chinese cabbage plot, where he is replicating what he is learning at the learning farm. 

Under the care of community trainers and trained caretakers like Martin, the learning farm will continue to serve farmers and other community members in the Kahama area.

Caretaker Martin Mabula stands between two rows of tomato plants at the learning farm.
Caretaker Martin Mabula at the learning farm.