Organic farmer and TV Star

Mkulima Mbunifu (The Smart Farmer) is the only farmer magazine in Tanzania in Swahili. Thanks to a reader who won a reality TV show, demand for the magazine has increased throughout the country.

Shruti Patel, Biovision​​​​​​​

The majority of Tanzania’s 19 million smallscale farmers lack access to relevant information on agricultural practices. Only one in ten farmers have access to this information and only a few communication channels reach remote areas. Since 2011, Biovision has been working to remedy this deficit by publishing a monthly magazine for farmers called “Mkulima Mbunifu” (MkM – The Smart Farmer). Distributed free of charge to farmer groups, churches, schools, NGOs and agricultural training institutes, MkM is written in the national language Swahili and contains practical advice for farmers published at an appropriate time in line with seasonal activities.

From chicken farmer to TV star

58-year old Elinuru Pallangyo, known as Mama Pallangyo, is one of the best known readers of MkM. In Tanzania she is known as “Mama Shujaa wa Chakula” (food heroine), after she emerged as the winner of a reality TV show called “Women in Agriculture”. She attributes her success to MkM. It taught her how to breed and rear chickens and how to prevent the diseases that affect poultry. Mama Pallangyo has significantly reduced what she spends on veterinary products and since adopting ecological methods in her vegetable garden her yields are much higher. This allows her to support five children, four relatives and two neighbours with a physical disability.

Now a role model and activist for women’s rights and sustainable agriculture, Mama Pallangyo uses MkM to teach other members of her women’s group as well as her neighbours. One of them, Evaline Anthony sings her praises: “I learned organic methods of farming from Elinuru and since then my life has changed. My children no longer suffer from stomach aches and we rarely have to visit the hospital”.

 

  • a newspaper
    In 2014, Elinuru Moses Pallangyo won a reality TV show; newspapers also reported on her success; see MS1 in photo.
  • a certificate
    Mama Pallangyo won the television prize because she impressed the jury with her innovations and model organic garden as well as her novel approach to increasing her income.
  • Woman is standing in front of bee boxes
    Mrs Pallangyo also keeps bees and works with both traditional log hives and modern beehives.
  • a village
    Elinuru Pallangyo’s farm in Tengeru, a village at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro between Arusha and Moshi.

  • a garden
    The trees in Elinuru’s vegetable garden provide both shade and protection from the wind.
  • Two women are gardening
    Mrs Pallangyo learned what she needed to know about organic agriculture from Janet Maro (left) of “Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania”, an organisation that Biovision has supported for years.
  • a woman shows something
    Today, she is happy to pass on her knowledge to neighbouring farmers.
  • a woman shows something
    An important element of organic farming is making compost to improve the soil and increase yields.
  • someone writes in a notebook
    Mrs Pallangyo uses “Mkulima Mbunifu” (MkM) The Smart Farmer), Biovision’s magazine for farmers in Tanzania, as a teaching aid in her training courses.
  • Portrait of two women and a man
    There is a committed editorial team behind MkM; it provides farmers with regular background information and practical tips. In the photo from left to right: Ayubu Nnko, Gabriela John and Flora Laanyuni.
  • an open guestbook
    A notable entry in Mama Pallangyo’s visitor book is Carlo Petrini, founder of the international Slow Food movement of which Mrs Pallangyo is a member.
  • Cassava in a bowl
    Delicacies from Elinuru’s garden for a guest buffet: cassava.
  • sweet potatoes in a bowl
    Sweet potatoes
  • Polenta on plant leaves
    National dish in both Tanzania and Kenya: “Ugali”, a type of polenta made from very fine cornmeal.
  • Fruit is drying on the grates
    Mrs Pallangyo makes mango and banana chips and by selling the dried fruits increases her income.

(Photos by J. & V. Weber und Gaby Grau)

High demand – limited supply

In Tanzania, more than 130 000 farmers would like to read Mkulima Mbunifu – about 8 times more than can be reached with a circulation of 15 000. This includes a group of 60 000 coffee producers from Kagera, the most northerly district of Tanzania on the shores of Lake Victoria. Many are members of the Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU) and in addition to coffee many keep livestock and use traditional methods to grow bananas, maize, beans, cassava and sweet potatoes. About 20 000 KCU members – all small-scale farmers – are already producing organic coffee. This coffee, which is sold under the name “Baraza Coffee” – is also available in the claro shops in Switzerland.

The content of MkM is ideally suited to the needs of farmers in Kagera and so Biovision is now supporting the KCU by providing copies of the magazine. At present, copies are only available for a few of the farmers who want to read it. To change that, we need the support of our donors.