Overcoming Farming Challenges During Drought
There has been a prolonged drought in the southern and central district of Chamwino in Tanzania. But farmers who have followed the conservation agriculture (CA) principles of minimum tillage, crop rotation, and keeping the soil covered to retain moisture will harvest something this year. The program’s volunteer “animators” – farmers who learn and use CA principles and teach them to their peers – also share valuable information on water and livestock management and storing grains in airtight containers to keep them from pests.
Erica, an elderly widowed farmer who lives near an animator, welcomed the information he shared on ways to grow food for her family in these dry conditions. She had farmed for many years, but the increasing droughts helped her to see that she needed to farm differently. Her animator, Henry, showed her how to recycle her household washing water to keep her kitchen-garden vegetables going strong.
In order to plant a crop of sorghum, Erica made her own rope from rags to measure spacing between and within rows, used a hand hoe to dig holes or “planting stations” rather than plowing the whole field, and filled the holes with ash and manure before planting the seed. To retain soil moisture and add nutrients, she intercropped the sorghum with a legume called lablab as a cover crop.
The drought made it necessary to replant the sorghum three times, but she was able to harvest a crop. In fact, because hers was the only plot that produced grains, she had to harvest quickly to prevent the community’s chickens from getting to it first. Her neighbors are now keenly interested in doing CA as well. It’s very hard work, but worth it when the end result is dry season vegetables and enough grain to store.
Tanzania Chamwino Program
Led by Mennonite Central Committee & Anglican Church of Tanzania Diocese of Central Tanganyika