Traveling in Tanzania
By Sylvie Desilles, EWS-KT Knowledge Manager
As Knowledge Manager, I oversee capacity building and knowledge access for all of East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation. In this role, I travel often, visiting each country to support our local teams. Earlier this year, I visited the Kahama area of Tanzania and had the opportunity to spend time with some of the local farmers.
Farmers Training More Farmers
At EWS-KT, our approach is to train farmers, who then train other farmers—a sustainable way of transferring knowledge from farmer to farmer. This effort is often led by Community Farmer Trainers. These are former key farmers who have very sound technical farming skills and are highly motivated to share their knowledge and experience. The Community Farmer Trainers are contacted by other farmers in their community and help the farmers to begin growing vegetables or to improve their vegetable production.
Community Farmer Trainer Spotlight: Martin
Martin Kisamba (right) not only has excellent technical skills but is also extremely committed, and he has good ideas on how to develop vegetable farming. He willingly helps others because he wants to show that vegetable farming is a satisfying and profitable business activity. He has been very successful with his own farming and also with supporting other farmers.
When he visits a farmer who has asked for his help, Martin assesses whether the farmer has what is needed for success: good land for vegetables, water availability, capital to invest, and commitment. He will not support a farmer in vegetable farming if he feels that the person will not succeed.
Looking toward the future, Martin wants first to support a number of farmers in producing vegetables. Then, when the vegetable production is settled, he would look at grouping and planning the production to get more opportunities for marketing the vegetables.
Women Farmers as Entrepreneurs
Women farmers in Tanzania are generally economically independent and take charge of the crop management and decision-making for their fields. One of their main challenges is accessing seeds and other agricultural inputs; some women told me that they spend two and a half hours getting to an agro-input dealer. They work long days, but most of the women farmers are proud to engage in vegetable production and to have their own source of income.
Woman Farmer Spotlight: Felister
Felister Mihayo was growing rice and groundnuts when she heard about EWS-KT’s work with vegetable farmers. She visited a local demonstration field, and she was so impressed with what she saw that she called the demonstration field’s Technical Field Officer, Mganga Togolai, to learn more.
With EWS-KT’s training, Felister feels more confident about her agronomic skills, and she now has the knowledge to choose her own seeds, fertilizers, and other agricultural inputs. When she goes to the agro-input dealer, she knows what she wants to buy and will not budge. If what she wants is not there, she phones Mganga for advice.
Felister now grows tomatoes, Chinese cabbages, and papayas. She sells some produce herself, and traders also come to her farm to pick up vegetables to sell. EWS-KT has helped her to build her confidence, and she has become a farm entrepreneur.
Felister would like to inspire other women to grow vegetables, and she has been working with female farmers in the area to help them get started in vegetable farming.
She also wants to enlarge her own farm. Her brother has land available, and he is planning to dig a borehole for her so she can grow more vegetables.
Engaging Young People in Farming
Attracting young people to farming is vital for a sufficient food supply, especially given Tanzania’s rapid population growth. Because land is inexpensive in the Kahama area—about 300,000 Tanzanian shillings (US$130) per acre—young people are able to access land for farming. These young farmers are motivated and committed, and they are looking for knowledge and advice to improve their crops. Rather than seeing vegetable farming as a last resort, they consider it a good investment and business opportunity.
Young Farmer Spotlight: Paschal and Tyson
Paschal Attanas, age 29, bought about 700 square meters of land and created an urban garden. He first learned by visiting other farmers, and then he became a key farmer for EWS-KT.
Paschal practices multicropping and grows tomatoes, cucumbers, Chinese cabbages, sunflowers, maize, lemongrass, and sweet potatoes, with sisal and neem trees as live fencing.
I also met Tyson Thobias (left; Technical Field Officer Mganga Togolai is on the right).
Tyson, age 28, and two of his friends are laborers on a farm. The landowner let them use about 500 square meters as an EWS-KT demonstration plot, and they are growing tomatoes. They are eager to learn new skills and to get income from the plot to add to their salary.