Fighting conflict with animal feed and fertiliser


Loredana Sorg, Biovision (Text) and Safaris Studio Morogoro (Pictures)

With great perseverance, unconventional ideas and openness, projects can change lives for the better. This is shown in a study of our seven-year commitment to livestock breeders in Tanzania.

«In our Maasai community, livestock comes first», explains Kaspeni Mkurumbwe from the village of Mbwade in Tanzania. He stands in the middle of his herd of 30 cows and 40 goats: «We used to live solely from the little milk our cows produced. Our living conditions were very difficult.» If the dry season lasted too long, some of the cows died because they were unable to find enough food. The search for pastureland also led to conflict with farming families.

«Thanks to the project, I learnt that even livestock breeders can manage their pastures and keep the grass as hay», says the 60-year-old. He has now set aside two hectares for this purpose.

The Biovision project has improved the situation for him and his family: «Today, our cows produce four times as much milk. We even milk the goats.» Mkurumbwe now sells an average of 20 litres of milk at the market each day: «My income has increased a lot. Now I can send my children to school.»

Livestock breeder Kaspeni Mkurumbwe with his children and herd.

More income, fewer conflicts

For seven years, our partner organisation Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) has been working on this project to improve the living conditions of groups of farmers and livestock breeders in the Morogoro region. The bold approach also aims to develop solutions to avoid conflicts.

«Time and again, livestock breeding and farming families clash over differences in land use», explains Salma Yassin, project manager at SAT. This leads to outbreaks of violence, cattle theft, destruction of fields and expulsion. What is more, pastureland is shrinking due to the growing population and the additional land required for arable farming, which is fuelling conflict even more.

The impact of this project was analysed by an external Tanzanian agency on behalf of SAT and Biovision in 2023. The results showed that the average annual income of the farmer and livestock breeder families who have been involved in project activities since 2017 has more than doubled – from the equivalent of 200 to 490 Swiss francs. By way of comparison, the income of families who did not participate in the project only increased to the equivalent of 370 Swiss francs.

Greater diversity as a safeguard

The livestock breeders achieved these improvements by crossbreeding new cattle breeds and producing hay during the rainy season – to ensure a better supply of animal feed in the dry season. At the same time, they are trying to utilise their limited land resources even more sparingly.

For their part, the farmers are focussing on ensuring greater diversity in their arable crops. This not only allows them to harness the synergies between different plants, but also reduces the risk of crop failure.

The impact study shows that even farmers were able to substantially improve their productivity: yields of maize, a staple food, rose from an average of 1,912 kg to 3,271 kg per hectare. This is significantly more than the yield of the control group.

«Today, our cows produce four times as much milk»; the Mkurumbwe family pours milk into a large metal container.

Bartering that benefits everyone

The farming families now bring their harvests to the nearby SAT training centre in Vianzi, where they can process their products and market them at a reasonable price. The residual parts or byproducts left after processing, such as sunflower seed cake, are offered to livestock breeders by the farming families for use as animal feed. They receive animal fertiliser in return.

Bartering in this way has become established practice. It benefits everyone involved and strengthens mutual understanding. Fertilised plots of land result in higher production, which in turn increases the amount of animal feed available. And last but not least, feeding animals in this way has the potential to increase milk production.

Pioneer of agroecological vegetable production

Mercy Meena from the village of Kimambila has switched to sustainable agriculture thanks to the project: «I’m enthusiastic about agroecology. It’s not just about growing food, but also about looking after the soil and protecting the environment.»

Her soil used to be very dry. Meena has installed an irrigation system and introduced compost and animal manure. She grows seedlings in her new greenhouse and uses her drying system to preserve the harvested tomatoes and hibiscus for longer. By selling these products, she has also improved her income: «It was the only way I could buy dairy cows so that I can sell their milk to my neighbours.» And the poor relationship with livestock breeders is a thing of the past: «We’ve been able to build up such good relationships that we sit down together to discuss the progress of the project.»

«We’ve been able to build up good relationships with the livestock breeders»; farmer Mercy Meena uses her drying system to preserve her harvest for longer.

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