The USAID-funded and IITA-led program Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING) is creating opportunities for smallholder farm households to move out of hunger and poverty through sustainably intensified farming systems that improve food, nutrition, and income security, particularly for women and children. This research-for-development project is currently being implemented in Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, and Mali. In a nutshell, the project pilot-tests agricultural technologies then scales them out by putting together investment plans with development agencies. The USAID Country Mission in Tanzania was impressed by the technologies of the program and funded a $6-million, 3-year joint technology scaling project between Africa RISING and the local development programs NAFAKA and TUBORESHE CHAKULA in 2014. Its goal is to ensure that 47,000 households in maize- and rice-based smallholder farming communities in the Manyara, Dodoma, Morogoro, Iringa, and Mbeya regions of Tanzania have access to improved agricultural technologies. The project also aims to expand the area under improved technologies of rice production to 58,000 ha and increase yields of both maize and rice by 50%. Only in its second year of implementation, the joint technology scaling project is already registering some very impressive outcomes.
No water? No problem
Masheshe Salum is a small-scale maize and legume farmer in Ngipa village, Kiteto District, in central Tanzania. Four years ago, maize yield from her 4-acre farm was barely enough to feed her family of five. Her farm is in a semi-arid region with low and erratic rainfall, so access to water was a big problem. And, just like other farmers in Ngipa village, she also planted recycled seeds. Year after year, she would use the broadcasting technique to plant her maize, and year after year, the result would be the same –a poor harvest. She knew she could get more from her farm but didn’t know what to do to improve productivity.
Things started to turn around for her when she learned about, and joined the Africa RISING joint technology project. Today, Masheshe is a model farmer in her community. In 2015, thanks to the technologies introduced by the project, she harvested an impressive 60 bags of maize despite a severe drought that affected Kiteto district. “My life changed thanks to the Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project,” said Masheshe, beaming proudly. She was one of the many beneficiaries of training on climate-smart farming in Kiteto District where she learned good agronomic practices and soilwater conservation strategies in such semi-arid areas. Eventually, her farm became one of the demonstration farms for the project. “We learned about planting drought-resistant maize varieties, line spacing, fertilizer application, and the use of tied-ridges to conserve soil water. I implemented all the best practices I learned, and I am grateful it has paid off in such a big way!” she says with a bright smile. “My fellow
farmers wondered if I used uchawi (magic) in my farm since it remained green while others were drying,” she adds “The higher yields from my farm were largely because of the tiedridges that held the little available rain water for longer periods. My crops had access to moisture in the soil for longer periods than in the traditional flat planting which my neighbors are practicing and which I used to practice as well.” “Thanks to the technologies of Africa RISING, I now have more than enough to feed my family! And with the postharvest knowledge that I gained from training, I intend to store my surplus and sell later at the best time and price so that I can pay my children’s school fees,” she happily concluded.
Less postharvest losses, more food
For many farmers in Ndurungumi village of Kongwa District, Central Tanzania, maize farming is not an option. It is a stressful, laborious, and often loss-making activity, but essential if one is to eat. Such was the predicament of Yohana Isaya, a 56-year-old subsistence maize farmer.
For a start, shelling the maize harvested from his 5-acre plot is a backbreaking job which he, with his wife and their five children, can’t finish on their own. They need at least eight extra pairs of hands to finish the job in three days. Isaya then stores the maize using a traditional Kilindo, a small cylindrical bin made from peeled miombo tree bark. The problem with this bin is that the stored maize will become moldy and inedible after a short time.
Then the Africa RISING joint scaling project came to his community.
“Before joining the Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project, I was using a raised wood platform for shelling maize. Usually it took me up to three days to shell 700 kg. We sometimes had to ask for help from our neighbors and compensate them with food, local brew, and sometimes cash. But after the project trained us on using simple and affordable machines like the motorized maize sheller, I can do the same work in only 30 minutes,” explained Yohana.
Farmers have been introduced to other technologies, not only the maize shelling machines. The postharvest training has also focused on a complete package including collapsible drier cases capable of drying 400 kg of maize in 5 hours under the sun, and storage in hermetic bags. As a result, farmers are able to process their crops faster, reduce their postharvest losses, and provide more food for their families. In the semi-arid areas of northern and central Tanzania, 20-40% of grains and legumes are usually lost during harvesting. A further 5% is lost during shelling, even when the amount of grains shelled per day was very small because of the drudgery and lack of improved technologies. Another 15-25% is lost during storage due to pest infestation and mold. Practices such as drying grains on bare floors and storage when the moisture contents are too high also often lead to deterioration. These are the challenges that the postharvest technologies being promoted by the Africa RISING joint scaling project is addressing in Tanzania.