Tag Archives: farm

Making Movies – Journalist William Odinga on filming with farmers from Same, Tanzania

Same, a town in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region, sits in a basin on the leeward side of the South Pare Mountains.

Dawn has broken and from the compound of my hotel, Nzoroko, I see sunrays pierce though the mountains, forcing the dark morning mist to fade away rapidly.

I am in Same to find out how farmers are able to produce food in semi arid conditions, where annual rainfall can be as low as 400 millimetres.

With my crew, including James Mbiri, Liz Agiro, Dosteus Lopa, Donath Fungu and Bakari the driver, we set off for the villages.

We arrive at the home of a woman farmer, Rizaeli Samueli, in Mwembe village, a little after 9:00am and as soon as I step out of our air conditioned car the real Same welcomes me.

It is hot, windy and dusty. The land is bare; shrubs, rocks and thorny bushes stretch out as far as the eye can see. Every tree or grass is shrinking.

Hot, Windy & Dusty: Water-Smart Agriculture in the Dry Zone from Andy Johnstone – Wild Dog Ltd on Vimeo.

Farming is an uphill task, but, the population must eat. And so they practice agriculture.

At the moment no crop is growing on Rizaeli’s home farm, which is on a slope. It is too dry. She keeps a few cows which are now eating away at dry maize stocks from the previous harvest. They look unbothered by our presence, neither are they concerned about Rizaeli’s creaking wheelbarrow. It is Rizaeli’s duty, after all, to feed them if she is to get any milk out of them.

During this time Risaeli manages another garden in the adjoining valley, a few metres away from her home. With a bit of irrigation from a small stream, her beans and vegetables are growing very well, a sharp contrast to the trees and grasses uphill.

“It is difficult to farm here because of little rains,” Rizaeli tells us. “But we have been taught to do it better so these days we get good yields.”

Rizaeli is one of 63 farmers in this district that were selected by the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI EA) to practice soil and water conservation techniques in order to produce more food with less water.

The techniques include terracing, which reduces run-off and increases water infiltration into the soil, mulching which preserves soil moisture and supplementary irrigation where conditions allow.Same film shoot

GWI EA refers to the application of these techniques as “Water Smart Agriculture” and Rizaeli is a “Champion Farmer,” a farmer from whom others can learn and adopt these techniques.

In the blazing afternoon heat we drive off to see another farmer, Ali Mrindoko, in Bangalala village.

Mrindoko’s garden is one to behold. Using a technique known as stone terracing, where stone embankments are made for every terrace, Mrindoko is able to keep moisture in his garden for far much longer, to the extent that he can even grow sugarcane, a heavy consumer of water.

“We receive very little rain in this area. Building this stone wall terrace is a big task but the benefits are enormous. I get very good yields. My family cannot starve,” Mrindoko tells us.

Mrindoko and Rizaeli are on steep hills but in terms of altitude, they are much lower compared to Vudee, up in the Pares.

Traveling to Vudee is not for the fainthearted. The road, cut through hard rock, is so narrow, the climb too steep and the bends very sharp. Bakari and Fungu, the GWI EA agronomist covering this area, have been doing this route many times so I imagine they are used to it. To me, sometimes it feels like driving at the edge of a cliff.

Initially, people living in these highlands trekked long distances to the lowlands to farm and went back to the highlands to sleep. This they called seasonal farming.

But now, with better farming techniques and practices, they can use very little of land and water to grow so much. They farm near their homes.

With the help of government farming trainers, and programmes such as GWI EA, farmers have learnt techniques and practices such as bench and stone terracing, crop spacing, planting in rows, mulching, minimum tillage and inter cropping.

We find a group of women planting potatoes at a very steep slope, assisted by a government employed trainer, Ibrahim Ndumbalo.

“We are planting potatoes on terraces. This helps to manage soil erosion, controls nutrient loss and increases the soil’s capacity to trap and retain water,” Ndumbalo tells us.

As evening approaches, we start our descent to Same town. A photo shoot in the town, just for fun, caps our 2-day trip here. It has been a wonderful experience especially for me and James, the Wild Dog crew based in Kampala, Uganda.

William Odinga Balikuddembe

Science Journalist

Watch the film here.

A Quick Climb to the Top

I am used to programs where things build up slowly, steadily, and sometimes laboriously to a climax. But attending a recent Global Water Initiative Regional Advocacy meeting in August, a much more nimble dynamic seemed to be afoot. A group of about 50 (?) participants from national- and intermediate-levels of government in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, research institutions, the media and NGOs came together in Morogoro, Tanzania to discuss the grave need for enhanced financial investments and political commitment to water for smallholder agriculture in East Africa. In a mere day and a half of meetings and with revisions to the draft text rather bravely facilitated in a plenary discussion, these individuals had penned their names, and thus affixed their commitments, to a joint charter urging for governments and other concerned stakeholders to take action.

Let me put things in context. This was the first time this particular group of people had come together. The meeting organizers had merely hoped for consensus around a draft charter text; it was participants that wanted to sign a finalized charter before leaving. An official from Uganda even requested that the word “government” be added in a certain place to leave no ambiguity as to who needed to take action.

Having been involved from the NGO side with projects that aim to work closely with government, I tried to reflect (with the hopes of future replication) on what the ingredients of success were. Maybe it was the fact that GWI, an action-research project, has been designed to involve government early on, rather than carry on independently before sending forth some well-researched but ill-timed and uninformed requests—a shortcoming many programs are guilty of. Maybe it is that government, despite its reputation for bureaucracy and interminable deliberations, is comprised of many individuals who are eager to improve the lot of their constituents and are capable of swift action. Or maybe all were inspired to do bold things by the grandeur of the Uluguru Mountains overlooking the venue. Whatever the secret, I hope to see more of this catchy enthusiasm spread out from the various players that came together to change the face of water for smallholder agriculture in East Africa.

By Malaika Cheney-Coker
Learning and Influencing Advisor, CARE Water Team


Welcome to our Blog

GWI East Africa is nearly a year old now and we want to use this opportunity to invite comment from you on what we do, how we can help make change happen in support of smallholder farmers in East Africa and how we can reach out successfully to influence key decision makers.UGD00430 Whilst we have time to achieve change – the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI EA) Secure Water for Smallholder Agriculture is a 5-year program of action research, advocacy and policy influencing – there is urgency behind what we do. Each year of poor or unreliable rainfall, farmer food security it seriously affected (in both Tanzania and Uganda this year, for example, rains have been poor (see how this has affected production levels in Tanzania). Our funding partner, the Howard G Buffett Foundation, generously supports our work because of a firm commitment to achieving change in support of smallholder farmers, the bedrock of household food security in East Africa.

Our program in East Africa is part of the wider Global Water Initiative working in addition in West Africa and Central America on water for agriculture issues. In all regions the focus is on generating solid evidence to support policy change. In East Africa our goal is that through this change, smallholder farmers will achieve greater food security through more sustainable access to and productive use of water.

We are working towards three strategic outcomes to achieve this goal: Greater political attention to water for smallholder production evidenced through changes in policies and plans, and their effective implementation at local, national and regional levels; Increased investment in smarter, affordable and innovative solutions to providing water for smallholder production, especially for women farmers; and that the voice and influence of smallholders, particularly women, will increase within institutions responsible for access to and control over water for agriculture.

These are complex and challenging outcomes to achieve, but we’re confident of success given the right political support and public debate. We will be using this blog to showcase what we are doing regionally, but also to invite guest blogs from our partners and others working with us across East Africa. Please sign up and join in. A starting point should be our Regional Charter on Investment in Water for Smallholder Agriculture. Concluded and signed up to by all participants at a recent regional meeting in Morogoro, the Charter sets out six key undertakings in support of water for smallholder agriculture. Please take a look and join us by signing up to the Charter here!

Dr Alan Nicol
Program Director
GWI East Africa