A sneak preview

A sneak preview

Date: 28 April 2014

This week Janet Maro from Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) will be speaking at three events around the UK as part of the launch of our new agribusiness campaign. Here she gives a sneak preview of what she’ll be talking about.

Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) is a grassroots organization working directly with small scale farmers in Morogoro region. Our area of focus has been using locally available materials mostly from plant sources to produce useful inputs such as fertilizers and botanical extracts for use in the farm during crop production. Nature has a lot in store for us and there is a wide range of different plants which are useful for plants, human and animals.

We first experiment and try using the different locally available plants to produce high quality compost, botanical extracts and do companion planting to see how they will perform on our crops before we disseminate the knowledge to farmers who we train in the villages and those who come to learn at our training centre.

We work in diverse environments, in the slopes of the Uluguru mountains we train farmers to construct terraces, contours and stripes so as to conserve the water and soil, in the dry lands we train farmers on technologies to slow the speed of water, sink and spread it in the soil during the rainy season as well as have enough organic matter in the soil to preserve moisture for crops to grow and reach maturity despite the little rain. We encourage and promote cultivation of local indigenous African plants (vegetables and fruits) since they are highly nutritious, are tasty, are easier to grow and are well adapted to our local environment.

The Uluguru mountains are an important watershed for Tanzania since they are the source of important rivers which supply water used in the cities of Dar Es Salaam and Morogoro. Due to the importance of the mountains, it is necessary that communities who live on the mountains practice environmentally friendly agriculture and conserve the forest. There has been a lot of slash and burn, a lot of soil erosion, decline in soil fertility, deforestation as well as encroachment of the forest reserve.

Still the communities in these mountains depend on agriculture for their livelihood. They produce food to feed themselves and residents of Morogoro city, the small scale farmers are the major producers of vegetables consumed in Morogoro and we are glad to have the first group of small scale farmers who are certified organic in Tanzania from this area.

In the villages we work, we have witnessed changes in the environment and the general practice of agriculture, there are more trees planted, there is more independence for the farmers, there is improvement in nutrition due to the diversity of crops that farmers produce. The families have to first have enough food to feed themselves; the surplus is sold in the local market and at the SAT organic shop in Morogoro town. The SAT organic shop sells fresh and dried organic products from farmers to local consumers in Morogoro. The motto of the shop is high quality organic products for the local market and for local Tanzanians.

Pius Paulini, a farmer from the Maendeleo group, delivering vegetables to the SAT organic shop

SAT runs Bustani ya Tushikamane ‘garden of solidarity’ which is about a half acre garden in Morogoro town where we demonstrate different technologies and innovations for people of all sorts to see, learn, exchange and share. We have a stock of seeds of useful plants that we share and exchange with beginners who do not have access to these plants.

Also the garden of solidarity boasts an array of urban gardening techniques such as sack mounds, vertical gardens and recycling and reusing tires and plastic bottles as a way to manage waste. The sack gardens are attractive for urban dwellers who some have adopted this approach and are now growing their own vegetables in their homes. For about five years the garden of solidarity has hosted farmers, university students and lecturers, reseachers and individuals from all around the world at the information office and demonstration garden.

The SAT Farmer Training Centre (FTC) opened in September 2013 is the first and only centre that is solely specialized in ecological agriculture in Tanzania. It is an initiative of SAT, there to cater for farmers from other parts of Tanzania who participate in our short courses offered during the year. The centre is located in a dry land with little rainfall and poor soils and for us this is an opportunity to experiment and turn this land into useful productive land with fertile soils using ecological methods.

Now towards the end of our first year on this land we have planted more than 1,500 trees and cultivated about 15 acres with maize, sunflower, sorghum, cassava, and hibiscus all intercropped with legumes. There is also a range of fruits and vegetables planted in about 2 acres. All the cultivated land is under contours so as to save as much water as possible. All the seeds used are local open pollinated varieties. We are glad to witness and see how the quality of the land and soil is changing. The food harvested from the farm is consumed during the trainings and a surplus is sold. We are soon introducing livestock in the centre since we believe crops and livestock can mutually benefit each other.  

Janet and a collague with some of the more than 1,500 tree seedlings that are planted at the SAT Farmer Training Centre

For my trip to the UK, I will be speaking about SAT and small scale farmers in the area I work who are successfully practising agroecological farming and have been able to change their lives and the environment around them.

Janet will be speaking events in Birmingham (29 April), London (30 April) and Edinburgh (1 May), entitled The new scramble for Africa? Full details about all three events are available here.

Photo top: A youth group that trained by SAT harvest the first egg plants from their plot for sale