What proliferates the more it is shared?
The locks from the dam in the Uluguru Mountains in Tanzania were opened at the end of 2013. Torrential rain ripped plants and soil from their steep slopes and left behind a wake of destruction. In the Towelo region, few arable crops were able to survive the downpour. They had one thing in common, though: they were all planted on terraces.
Peter Lüthi, Communications
Two groups of farmers from Ruvuma Village had built the terraces. The village lies on a mountain slope 500 meters above sea level and above the district capital of Morogoro. Already in 2010, the members of the group “Maendeleo” (in English, “Development”) had attended the basic course for organic farming at "Bustani ya Tushikimane" (ByT, or “Garden of Solidarity”), a small local NGO in Morogoro. Biovision has supported ByT from the very beginning. ByT has since then developed into “Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania”, the most important training center for organic farming in the country. Following their introductory course, Hugo Kunguru, an experienced farmer consultant, visited the members of “Maendeleo” every week for two years. He guided them build terraces and a community garden on extremely steep terrain. There, they learned various organic farming techniques. Topics included better marketing for their organic products and the introduction of an interest-free savings and loan system for group members that replaced banks for mandatory investments.
Mountain farmers and organic entrepreneurs
Maendeleo was one of the first farmers’ groups in Tanzania to obtain a collective organic certificate. Individual members succeeded in accessing new markets for their healthy and tasty vegetables. For example, Pius Paulini, a star member of the group, supplies an organic wholesaler in Dar es Salaam. In addition to producing his own high-quality vegetables, he also set up a rapid transport system. Paulini saved money from his vegetable sales and invested it in a motorcycle, which today secures his son a livelihood of his own. The son runs a taxi service for the mountain people and drives his father's vegetables down to Morogoro. There, the fresh produce is immediately transported by a reliable bus company to the big city. Pius Paulini's annual turnover is the equivalent of around 3,500 Swiss francs (approximately the same number of US dollars) per year and brings him a profit of around 870 francs. This is a lot of money in Ruvuma Village. The the local population, and his own wife Fitina Athumani, took notice.
Knowledge draws circles
Early in 2013, Pius Paulini’s wife asked him to consider passing on his knowledge and experience to other interested people. Paulini along with Hadija Kibwana, the president of Maendeleo, agreed. 18 interested farmers founded the new group “Nguwu Kasi” (“Manpower”) and laid out a terraced training garden based on Maendeleo’s model. Pius and Hadija trained their neighbors for several hours every week. With this “Farmer-to-Farmer Training,” they perfectly implemented Biovision's strategy for disseminating knowledge and practical skills in organic farming methods. The members of Nguwu Kasi (including 22-year-old Pendo Said, the protagonist on the February calendar page in Patrick Rohr's Biovision Anniversary Calendar 2019) applied what they learned to their own fields. In the areas surrounding Ruvuma Village, more and more terraces were created to be cultivated according to ecological principles. “For me, organic cultivation is more profitable than conventional cultivation,” says Fitina Athumani. 30-year-old Sudi Hamadi agrees: “Thanks to high-quality compost and terrace construction, I can improve my soil, produce top-quality vegetables and stop erosion.” The gardens already lived up to the test in the first year, giving early substantiation for these farmers’ excitement.