In Tanzania, the Training Centre for agro-ecology is now a destination of choice, benefiting farmers and like-minded organisations.
“Do you put on a gas mask to eat carrots?” The cartoon projected on the screen provokes amusement amongst the 25 men and woman in the classroom. The students have just learned how to protect their vegetables from diseases and pests without using chemicals. The Swiss NGO Swissaid has sent these Tanzanian agricultural advisers to Morogoro for an intensive course in agro-ecology. The Training Centre for ecological agriculture, run by Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), has an excellent reputation in Tanzania. It is used by NGOs such as Swissaid, Swisscontact, the Burundi Organic Agriculture Movement (BOAM) and government organisations such as the Tanzanian Ministry of Water & Irrigation. Welcome news for Biovision as it has supported SAT almost from its inception.
In 2008, the young Austrian Alex Wostry started the project with a start-up capital of US$ 300 and a small demonstration garden. Biovision has supported the Training Centre since 2009. During the last 8 years, Alex, members of his team and his now wife Janet Maro have continued their pioneer work with great commitment and professional expertise. They have founded an organic shop, entered into a research agreement with the Sokoine University and developed the major Farmer Training Centre (FTC) in Morogoro. FTC, which has 15 employees, farms more than 80 hectares of land and uses agro-ecological principles to grow arable crops, vegetables and fruit trees. The Centre also has training gardens, classrooms, accommodation and a refectory for 42 students, a water reservoir with solarpowered water pump and much more.
Knowledge brings progress SAT see itself as a platform for innovations in agro-ecology that benefit small-scale farmers. The Tanzanian NGO uses a holistic approach that combines research, marketing, networking and the dissemination of information.
An internal post-intervention survey in 2016 found that:
- Those who applied agro-ecological methods increased their incomes on average by 38 %.
- 91 % were using erosion control measures.
- 64 % were able to restore and reuse leached soils by applying ecological methods.
- 97 % of trainees indicated that they had improved their situation in a sustainable way.
Up to the end of 2016, a total of 2006 farmers had been trained in the theory and practice of using ecological methods on their land. Some 1464 small-scale farmers and agricultural advisors had been trained at the SAT Training Centre. The NGO is now working with 72 farmer groups, including the Mungano women’s cooperative in Kibuko. In the past, female farmers just about kept their heads above water by growing fruit. Since the training they have also successfully grown vegetables, allowing families to benefit from the income earned from the sale of produce.
Recently, Janet Maro visited the cooperative and the women presented her with two live cockerels as a thank-you to the SAT Director and her husband Alex Wostry for the effective way they had helped them to help themselves.