Robin Wood in Tanzania

“When I first came here as a settler in 1982, there were lots of trees together with elephants and lions,” recalls Sabinus Ndolu, a farmer in Fulwe (Tanzania). Then, more and more people arrived; the trees disappeared and with them the animals. Now nature is hitting back. There is less and less rain and harvests have plummeted. Sabinus wants to change that.

Peter Lüthi, Biovision Project Reporter

“The more trees there are, the more clouds and so the more rain,” Sabinus Ndolu is convinced of that; it is what he has observed in the last 30 years or more. In 2013, Sabinus and his farmer group decided to act. They attended a basic course in ecological farming run by the NGO Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT). Biovision has supported SAT since it was established and today it is the destination of choice for the training of farmers in ecological agriculture in Tanzania. SAT also helps with the production and distribution of “Mkulima Mbunifu”, the only magazine for farmers in Tanzania in the local language of Swahili and set up as part of the Biovision FCP Programme.


  • "Robin Wood" in Tanzania: Sabinus Ndolu from Fulwe (Tanzania) plans to replace the cleared woodland.
  • He acquired the necessary knowledge from the Training Centre for ecological agriculture run by Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania, an NGO supported by SAT since it was set up.
  • Janet Maro, agronomist, the joint founder and director of SAT and her team train the farmers and agricultural advisers in ecological farming methods. She also mentors the agronomy students at Sokoine University.
  • Occasionally Janet Maro visits farms to provide advice to former trainees such as Sabinus Ndolu.
  • Since the SAT training, Sabinus Ndolu has used his new knowledge of ecological agriculture on his own land.
  • Mr Ndolu has also introduced his wife Serafia to ecological methods of farming.
  • As in many parts of East Africa, the Fulwe forests also had to make way for arable land. Sabinus Ndolu regards the remaining trees as sacred.
  • As in many parts of East Africa, the Fulwe forests also had to make way for arable land. Sabinus Ndolu regards the remaining trees as sacred.
  • Since the trees almost disappeared from the fertile plains at the foot of the Uluguru Mountains, rainfall has dropped and erosion has increased. Farmers on the slopes of the Uluguru Mountains do at least get more rain, although sometimes it can be too heavy.
  • In addition to clearing the trees for arable land, the wood is also used for charcoal, firewood and timber: This puts considerable pressure on the remaining woodland (Photo: Usambara Mountains, Tanzania)
  • Sabinus and Serafia Ndolu also look after their great grandson – this includes checking his homework.
  • Responsibility for future generations: Sabinus Ndolu has learned from the loss of woodland and the drop in rainfall and is now an enthusiastic organic farmer.

Bring back the woodland

Sabinus and his group learned how to make compost and natural pesticides from plant extracts, how to grow vegetables and keep poultry. The also learned how to adapt their cultivation methods to cope with the arid conditions. The farmers then decided to bring back the woodland. Sabinus alone has already dug 1000 holes in the ground for the seedlings. As soon as the plants are large enough, he can start the process of reforestation.

Trees make rain

For more interesting stories and information, see the background report by Andreas Sicks, Head of Programmes and Partnerships at Biovision. Read PDF