Tanzania – Champion farmers serve as models for more sustainable agricultural practices in same district
Mr. Mrindoko Ali and Mrs. Rizaeli Samueli Mjema are two of the more than 60 “champion farmers” identified and trained by CARE Tanzania under the Global Water Initiative and Where the Rain Falls projects in Same District in the Kilimanjaro region. Champion farmers have been selected in all seven villages currently served by the projects; these progressive farmers have volunteered to receive additional training in sustainable agricultural practices and establish demonstration plots on their farms to share their learning with other farmers in the village. Since these villages range from upland villages on steep slopes in the Pare Mountains all the way down to the flat lowlands of the Pangani River basin, the specific types of sustainable soil and water conversation practices promoted vary from village to village and farm to farm depending on topography.
Mr. Ali and his wife have established stone bench terraces on the fields near their homestead in Bangalala village as a way of reducing soil erosion on their hillside farm and making better use of the water from the nearby irrigation channel. First introduced to this practice in 2005 under another project, they have been inspired by CARE Tanzania to expand this practice on their own farm and encourage other farmers to adopt it. While establishing such terraces is a time-consuming and labor-intensive practice, the results are immediately visible when comparing the height and health of their maize fields to those of their neighbors. In addition to terracing for soil and water conservation, they are also practicing integrated farming, with cassava, sugar cane, banana, papaya, and jackfruit all in production at the time of our visit, in addition to chickens and two milk cows. They report that, since adopting terracing and diversifying their production, their household is food secure year-round.
In Mwembe village, Mrs. Rizaeli Samueli Mjema has the primary responsibility for managing the family farm since her husband is employed by the Government as an agricultural extension worker in another region. They have five children, of whom one son assists his mother with the farm work. On her farm, located on a slope above the road through the village, she is employing the traditional fanya juu terracing method. This involves mounding dirt to create terraces on which grasses are planted to produce fodder to feed her cow and two sheep. The night before our visit to her farm there had been a heavy rain, and you could observe how the terrace and ditch system reduced soil erosion and retained more water in the field.
In addition to her regular farm and household work, Mrs. Mjema also maintains a small weather station on her farm as part of a Sokoine Agricultural University research project. On the day we visited, she recorded 33mm of rainfall during the previous day, in addition to the 73mm that had fallen in the two prior days. At more than 100mm of rain, this three-day period brought the equivalent of almost 20 percent of the average annual rainfall of Same District. This period of rain in February, before the normal onset of the masika rains in May, demonstrated the importance of the sort of soil and water conservation activities promoted by CARE Tanzania in Same District under the Where the Rain Falls project.
By Kevin Henry