After learning agricultural techniques to better cope with the effects of climate change, Aisha Hamisi Amir, 54, a farmer in Kiongoni village in Tanzania, shows off the pigeon pea and dried cassava from her farm.
After learning agricultural techniques to better cope with the effects of climate change, Aisha Hamisi Amir, 54, a farmer in Kiongoni village in Tanzania, shows off the pigeon pea and dried cassava from her farm. | Credit: Catherine Njuguna, IITA

Finding Hope in the Face of Climate Change

In Tanzania, USAID helps farmers adjust to erratic weather patterns
By Catherine Njuguna, USAID

Not far from the pristine beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania that are popular among tourists, smallholder farmers struggle to eke out a living from land that is increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change and population growth.

Unpredictable weather patterns are reducing farmers’ crop yields, resulting in less food for their families to eat and sell for income.

“Because of climate change, the rains have now become very erratic. Sometimes we receive very little, and our farming production has been greatly reduced.”

— farmer Aisha Hamisi Amir, 54

Through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s initiative to end hunger, and with support from USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Aisha and other farmers on Zanzibar’s Unguja Island are learning to better cope with the effects of climate change on agriculture.

As part of a project called Building Capacity for Resilient Food Security, the farmers spent one year using a demonstration plot to learn about resilient agricultural practices and technologies, and a second year adopting the practices on their own land.

This hands-on approach is known as Farmer Field School (FFS).

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District Agricultural Development Officer Ramadhan Suleiman Iddi visits Aisha Hamisi Amir on her farm.
District Agricultural Development Officer Ramadhan Suleiman Iddi visits Aisha Hamisi Amir on her farm.

At the FFS, we are learning by doing, and we are also able to see the benefit of these new farming methods by comparing them to our traditional ways.

We have been introduced to new, improved varieties suitable to our location. They are also high-yielding and tolerant to pests and diseases.”

— Aisha

Aisha, who lives in Kiongoni Village with her husband and three children, says the knowledge she’s gained from the project is critical, as her family depends entirely on agriculture for both food and income.

Using what she learned, Aisha began to grow an improved cassava seed variety known as Mahonda. This new technique includes preparing the seedlings for propagation and the soil into ridgelines, which give the roots space to grow. As a result, Aisha noted the plants can grow to a larger size, and are easier to weed and harvest.

“We have also made other changes; in areas where the land is too hard and rocky, we grow cassava on mounds. We learned how to use farmyard manure for natural fertilizer. Before, we only covered the cassava with leaves and grass,” she said.

Aisha is also using the practice of intercropping cassava with new, high-yielding varieties of pigeon pea. She was delighted with her cassava harvest this year — her yield nearly doubled.

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Aisha shows the improved pigeon pea varieties on her farm in Kiongoni village, Zanzibar.
Aisha shows the improved pigeon pea varieties on her farm in Kiongoni village, Zanzibar.

“From my harvest, I got enough food for my family and even sold the surplus to add to my savings, which I used to buy a tin roof for our new house.”

— Aisha

Aisha and her husband plan to lease more land to expand the size of their 1.5-acre farm, so they can plant more crops and increase their income.

“Having seen the benefits of these resilient agricultural practices and technologies, I cannot go back to how I used to farm,” Aisha said.

Aisha isn’t alone in her success. In nearby villages, 20 farmers participating in the Farmer Field School have also seen increased yields on their farms after implementing the new practices, said Ramadhan Suleiman Iddi, the district agricultural development officer overseeing the farmer field school site in Aisha’s village.

“Through this activity, the farmers can now engage in more rewarding farming,” he said.

The project started in 2017 in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO).

IITA and ICRAF set up 20 demonstration plots throughout Tanzania, which hosted more than 2,000 farmers learning about resilient agricultural practices and technologies suitable for their respective climatic conditions throughout the country.

UNFAO has been collaborating with the Tanzania Meteorological Authority to improve the communication of weather information to farmers in simplified seasonal weather forecasts that are geographically specific and accompanied with recommendations for what farmers can do based on the predictions.

With these interventions — training farmers on resilient agricultural practices and technologies and providing weather forecasts — the USAID and USDA efforts go a long way in supporting the smallholder farmers in Tanzania to cope with climate change and secure their food and income.

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Farmer Aisha Hamisi Amir admires the yields from the improved cassava and yam varieties with other farmers at the farmer field school.
Farmer Aisha Hamisi Amir admires the yields from the improved cassava and yam varieties with other farmers at the farmer field school.

This blog was originally published on USAID's Medium Page. 

Country
Tanzania
Sectors
Agriculture
Strategic Objective
Adaptation
Topics
Food Security and Agriculture, Climate-Smart Agriculture, Sustainable Land Management, Land Use, Land Tenure, Resilience
Region
Africa

Catherine Njuguna

Catherine Njuguna is a Communications Officer with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a USAID partner.

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USAID

USAID is the world's premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID's work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.

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