Seven memorable months in Morogoro

During my seven-month visit, I was able to see for myself the work done by Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) in Morogoro and experience at first hand the daily life of smallholders in Tanzania.

Isabel Kühne, biologist and currently student at ETH NADEL

Through its various projects, SAT, a partner of Biovision, is working to reduce poverty in the region of Morogoro, improve food security and defuse conflicts over land. To do this, SAT advocates agro-ecological methods and encourages cooperation between farming and pastoral families.

In addition to my work in the office, I made regular visits to the various farmer groups. At the time of the refitting and re-opening of the new SAT Organic Shop in Morogoro, which sells fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs produced by the farmers and creates opportunities for the local processing and marketing of organic agriculture produce, I profiled each of the 12 farmer groups who had achieved certification under the East African Organic Products Standard.

 

  • Akley, SAT Marketing Manager, Pius, vegetable grower and Aysia, sales assistant in front of the freshly renovated SAT Organic Shop. Copyright SAT/Isabel Kühne
  • To prevent rapid evaporation, straw is placed on the beds. Copyright SAT/Isabel Kühne
  • We rounded off each visit by chanting “Kilimo Hai”, which means organic farming. Copyright SAT/Isabel Kühne
  • Farmers visiting one of the experimental fields at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, where one of the students explained his trials of biological pest control. Copyright SAT/Isabel Kühne
  • During the WPRD, the herders and veterinary students discuss the challenges posed by animal diseases. Copyright SAT/Isabel Kühne

None of the 12 visits to individual farmer groups was the same. What I experienced were 12 very different days, verging on adventures: Faced with say a heavy downpour, a motorcycle breakdown or a last minute change to plans, I needed both flexibility and the ability to improvise.

I quickly realised that it made no sense to plan the day before. It was better to do the planning on the morning of the visit before we set off. I needed to put aside that instinctive urge of the Swiss to plan and adapt to the rhythm of life in Tanzania. That did not mean that nothing worked without early planning. I was repeatedly surprised – in a good way – by what could be perfectly organised within a very short time and how when problems arose innovative solutions were quickly found and implemented.

Through the Biovision project Bustani ya Tushikamane – Garden of Solidarity – SAT has developed a network of farmer groups in the area close to the Uluguru Mountains. It is now well-known in the region and its work is widely recognised. Thanks to the positive cooperation between SAT staff and the farmer groups, SAT is highly regarded high up in the Uluguru Mountains as well as down in the valleys. We were always warmly welcomed.

Stories from the Community Garden

The groups meet each week in their Community Garden to exchange knowledge, support one another and learn together. We choose this weekly meeting for our visits as it enabled us to meet and interview as many farmers as possible. The visits always started with a round of introductions. This was followed by a discussion between the farmers and SAT staff on their primary concerns.

Using an interpreter, I tried to find out as much as possible from individual farmers when I interviewed them. What was special about their group? What successes would they like to share with their customers?  What do they grow in the Community Garden? The farmers answered every question patiently and in full. At the end of each visit, we chanted “Kilimo Hai”, which means “organic farming”. I then returned to the office with a rucksack full of awe-inspiring stories.

After seven months and with my life enriched by many fascinating and instructive adventures, it was time to bid farewell and return to Switzerland to my postgraduate studies in development and cooperation. I am so grateful to SAT for the opportunity to learn about their organisation, projects and the lives of smallholders in Tanzania. I am sure that I will find the experience gained at SAT valuable in many situations in the future.

 

The new SAT project supported by Biovision “Marketing of ecological agriculture production” will promote the mutual exchange of information between farming and pastoral communities, which in turn will strengthen peaceful coexistence. The project will also encourage cooperation between farmers and local scientists and with it demand-led research in agro-ecology.