Tanzania smallholder farmers outsmarting climate change

By Daniel Semberya

TANGA REGION, Tanzania – Mwanaisha Issa Kuziwa, a smallholder farmer from Lushoto District in Northern Tanzania, used to get poor yields from her maize field every year.

Kuziwa blamed low-quality seeds and inadequate preparation of her field for the 200 kg of maize she harvested each farming season.

She is a happy farmer. Kuziwa is now harvesting 700 kg of maize.

“Most of the farmers used to save seeds from the previous season to use in the next one,” said Kuziwa, one of over 800 farmers participating in the Integrated Approaches for Climate Change Adaptation Project (IACCAP). The programme has  trained farmers on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) techniques. Farmers are now using improved seeds which give high yields, meaning they  have more food and surplus to sell after harvest.

Everything changed after Kuziwa learnt about improved seed varieties. She improved the way she prepared her field, applying  fertilisers and pesticides. As a result, Kuziwa harvested more maize compared to previous years and increased  her income.

Kuziwa revealed this during a study tour of the project at Mbuzii Village by smallholder farmers, extension workers, government officials, researchers from the Social Research Foundation (ESRF), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute – Selian.

Government officials, extension officers, farmers and researchers learning about Climate Smart Agriculture during the AFRICAP study tour in Tanzania. Photo by Daniel Semberya.

The study tour was one of the GCRF-AFRICAP programme capacity building, policy design and engagement activities.

GCRF-AFRICAP is a four-year, £9.2million research programme focused on improving evidence-based policy making to develop sustainable, productive, agricultural systems, resilient to climate change. It is implemented in four countries – Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. ESRF is an implementing partner in Tanzania.                       

“The aim of the study tour was to provide participants with an opportunity to learn from what is on the ground on Climate Smart Agriculture best practices,” said Abel Songole, a researcher with the Social Research Foundation.

The study tour involved field visits to the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)’s Climate Smart Villages in Lushoto District.

The CSA focal point in East Usambara Mountains (EUM), Sylvester Mziray, said farmers used to get low yields because of poor local farming practices. Soil erosion was also a major challenge.

Farmers are digging trenches to prevent the washing away of soil during floods after being trained on soil and water conservation techniques.

The project has also supported farmers with a warehouse for storing spices before they are sold at the market.

“They collect their spices and bargain the prices with traders in a win-win situation,” said Mziray, adding, “The training helped them to understand the market demand and supply dynamics.”

George Sayula, a researcher from TARI-Selian, Department of Resources specialising on climate change, said small-scale farmers were lacking proper education platforms to understand good farming practices and how to manage climate change  risks.

Through the project, the farmers were supported to diversify their incomes by venturing into dairy. They now sell 5,000 litres of milk a day. They also have a butterfly farming project whose aim is to help conserve forests and fight poverty. This means that if floods wash away their crops, they can still generate income from the other projects.