Tanzania farmers winning against climate change

6 January 2021

“Climate change has been affecting us greatly. For example, in the past, we knew when the growing seasons were. Now the rains sometimes come early and sometimes they are late. Sometimes we get a big harvest, and sometimes we get very little,” says Hassan Haji Fumu, a farmer from Mahonda village in Kaskazini B district, Zanzibar.

While Zanzibar is a well-known tourist paradise with its pristine beaches and rich history, over 80% of the inhabitants are farmers who depend on subsistence farming for food and income, like Hassan. Climate change is one of the greatest threats to their income, food, and very survival. That is if nothing is done to support them to adapt to the changes.

Tanzania farmers winning against climate change
IITA’s Project officer Bakari pays Hassan a visit in his farm to see how he is progressing in testing CSA practices and technologies.

“My crop yields were very low,” Hassan continued. “This was because I was not growing good varieties and not preparing my farm well. The plants were also being greatly affected by pests and diseases,” he added.

Learning climate-smart agriculture

Haji is among the beneficiaries of a USAID-Tanzania supported project that is building the capacity of agricultural extension officers to select and demonstrate appropriate climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies and practices suitable for different agroclimatic zones to farmers to learn from, and eventually adopt, to cope with climate change

One of the demonstration plots is at Hassan’s village in Mahonda, where he has been learning about the CSA practices and technologies working alongside other farmers as part of a Farmer Field School. After seeing the good results on the plot, he became interested and eager to try the CSA technologies and practices on his farm.

“Through the training organized by the project, I have learned how to choose the best banana suckers (the baby plantlets that grow next to the main banana plant and which are the planting material), correct plant spacing, and how to prepare the planting holes,” he said.

“I have also learned how to apply manure; how to stop the spread of pests and diseases by treating the suckers with hot water before planting and mulching to conserve moisture and to keep the fields clean by removing dry leaves, reducing the suckers and weeding on time. Now I am enjoying high yields from my farm,” says a smiling Hassan.

The project gave him some banana suckers, which he planted in a portion of his field following the new farming practices and technologies. After observing promising outcomes, he expanded the banana plot following the practices he had learned.

“Although I do not have a weighing balance to measure the yield, I personally see a big difference compared to the past when I used to cultivate without considering the CSA practices and technologies. I could carry a bunch of the bananas with one hand. But now I have to carry a bunch with both hands, and sometimes on my head due to its heavy weight,” he narrated.

Use of weather information

The project is also providing farmers with down-scaled seasonal weather forecasts accompanied by advice and recommendations on what farmers can do based on the predictions.

“Now I rely on forecasting information via radio and TV. This is very important because it helps me to make the right decisions. For example, if I know that a lot of rainfall is expected in the season, then I can decide not to plant at that time and wait until the rains are moderate and suitable for planting bananas and also cassava on open ridges to avoid the effect of waterlogging on the crop,” he says.

“Also, if we get information that the rain will be below normal, we can decide not to grow crops like vegetables which need sufficient moisture.”

The project has trained over 1,500 farmers on improved technologies and practices throughout Tanzania. In addition, the project Districts have embraced and are budgeting for CSA, thus laying a good foundation for scaling up CSA technologies and practices to help farmers in Tanzania to cope with climate change and secure income and food for smallholders.