With the NABU- AfriEvolve project in its second year of implementation, Nature Uganda represented by the Executive Director- Achilles Byaruhanga, NABU Project Officer- Jacob Karuhura and Communications officer- Brian Abong were in Tanzania for a peer to peer visit with Nature Tanzania, Nature Kenya, Birdlife partners from Germany and France Maik Jerusalem and Samuel Fournet and Ken Mwathe-Policy and Communications Coordinator at BirdLife International.
The weeklong event saw the teams visit Amani Forest reserve where their partners, Nature Tanzania are implementing their NABU project. Joined by the Executive Director Nature Kenya- Dr. Paul Matiku and project officer- Carol Kalibu and hosts Nature Tanzania led by their Executive Director- Emmanuel Mgimwa, the team first paid a courtesy call to the Muheza District local government where the project lies. Accompanied by the district agricultural officer, Mr. Sylvester Mziray, it was then to the reserve where the teams interacted with locals of the area comprising local leaders and farmers from Shembomeza, Mbomole and IBC Msasa wards.
The farmers on their part, expressed gratitude with the project thus far, especially to do with capacity building and value addition, just two components of the project. Through this, the spice farmers in the area, who grow cloves, cinnamon among others, have developed a new appreciation for the forest. This has made them conservation and Climate Smart Agriculture ambassadors.
In Shembomeza, the team visited a model cinnamon and Paraguay farm. Located on the slopes of *Mountain Name*, the farm was a model for cost effective & scalable agriculture along slopes. With soil erosion, flooding, soil fertility and poverty featuring high on the list of challenges. Nature Tanzania under project officer Scholastica Mbinile found cost effective and innovative ways to address these.
Aptly named Fanya juu which means throw upwards, the technique utilizes readily available tools such as sticks, nails and rope to create contours. Using an A frame constructed with 3 sticks, nails, a string and a stone dangling, the farmers measured contour lines. Working in a way similar to a line level/spirit level, the A is moved from one end of the farm to another, ensuring the stone stays in the centre. Each time it is moved, a pole (mambo) is driven into the ground to mark the path of the contour. Once completed, a 1-2 foot distance is measured and marked with another mambo. This determined the width of the contour. A 1-2 foot trench is then dug, with the soil excavated poured onto the higher ground, hence Fanya juu.
Another tool, named a triangle for obvious reasons, was also shown to be effective in determining the contour interval. Divided into six sections each with a corresponding number value range, the triangle resembles an oversized triangular protractor with a stone dangling off a string in the centre. Requiring two people to operate, the first identifies a point at the top of the farm, and holding a stick, makes a notch at his/her eye level. The stick is then handed over to the second person who walks downhill a predetermined number of steps basing on the degree of slope. Once there, the first person holds the triangle to his/her eye and adjusts its base to correspond with the notch on the stick. With the triangle aligned, the number at which the stone dangles determines the contour interval.
Smart, simple, effective.
On day two, the teams started off with a visit to the Mbomole ward offices where they were warmly welcomed by the ward leaders. After which they proceeded to another model spice farm where black pepper, cloves and cardamom were grown. Being part of the larger project, the farm also utilized Fanya juu but on demonstration was how to make compost. The proud Mbomole farmers took the team through the compost process which starts off with a 30cm pit measuring 120cm by 150cm. Sticks are then placed at the bottom to allow aeration. The farmers then add dry grass, fresh leaves, farmyard manure and ash. The order of these is important as the dry grass decomposes first and wont promote growth of fungus while the ash acts as a source of minerals. Water is then added to quicken decomposition and top soil that was excavated poured on top. This process is repeated until the heap is 1.5meters in height and left for 2-3weeks.
In rural settings such as these, it’s important to use readily available technologies and the Mbomole farmers know this first hand. As such, to monitor the decomposition process without access to thermometers, they utilize a stick instead. The trick, shove a stick into the middle of the compost pit. To find out if the manure is ready, simply pull it out and touch the base that was in the pit, if it’s hot, then the manure is ready. If the stick is cold, they add water and wait a few more days. A simple look at the pit as the 3 weeks draw near can also inform them of the state. Once all the fresh grass is gone and the soil turns dark, you are good to go.
This organic manure produced by this process is cost effective & environmentally friendly, and has been found ideal for spices and vegetables. With the success of this innovation, the farmers were thinking forward, requesting the partners to establish a seed bank in the village so as to eliminate the dependency on GMOs. A proposal that the partners agreed was a good idea, and would consider as long as a win-win situation is established. Samuel Fournet, NABU partner from Germany, agreed that if the farmers could make assurances that encroachment could be minimized and a land use plan created, then the next phase of the project could consider the seed bank.
From farm to market, the farmers took the team to their processing plant where they mixed cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper and cloves to show the teams how Tea Masala, one of their products was made. The machine used in this was the fruit of a Community Revolving Fund (CFM) loan. This has allowed them add value to their products which are then packaged and sold within the village, greater Muheza district and as far as Tanga. Dr. Matiku expressed his gratitude with the progress the farmers have made and also thanked the project officer, Scholastica Mbinile.
At Msasa IBC, another spice and tea growing village, the team witnessed the making of organic boosters. This innovation was a response to farmers’ pleas for a way to increase yields of their farms while protecting the environment. With Nature Tanzania and partners, the farmers have been taught how to make organic boosters which are cheap. Up one of the numerous, the team gathered for a demonstration. Using a water drum, organic manure from cows, sheep or even chicken, a plastic bag, rubber, 2 sticks, nails and a rope, it was class time for the teams again.
The process involved collecting 30kgs of manure/2 buckets in a sack. A drum is then filled 75% and the manure is dangled off a stick secured to the top of the drum with nails. Making sure the manure touches the water to allow it dissolve into the water, a plastic bag is then tied to the top to make it airtight. To ensure all the manure dissolves into the water, a stick is left in the drum to allow for daily stirring of the mix without opening the top. After 2-3 weeks, the booster is ready and one way to tell is the water turns dark. This gives the booster the name chai, rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
The next peer to peer exchange will see the partners visit Uganda in March 2023.