Ali Mrindoko, 55, lives in Bangalala village, in the South Pare Mountains, Same district, in the north east of Tanzania. Like majority of the people in Bangalala, he lives off his land where he grows both food crops and cash crops. But something makes his plot of land stand out—during a typical dry spell his crops are greener.
In 2005, Mrindoko started implementing the conservation agriculture technique of stone terracing. This involves digging terraces and building stone embankments along the contours. It reduces run-off and in effect controls soil erosion while increasing the soil’s water retention capacity.It is hard and labour intensive but the result is better yields.
Stones and trees
Mrindoko’s homestead is surrounded by healthy, green crops. We ask him why the farmers around him are not applying stone terracing.
“It is labour intensive. The flat stones needed for the work can be challenging to produce,” he tells us. “Otherwise I am always happy to help other farmers implement the method and to share my knowledge.”
The other farming techniques Mrindoko uses are intercropping and agro-forestry. The careful selection of crops and trees to mix on his farm helps him produce a variety as well as reduce soil erosion.
Mrindoko works on his farm with his wife and son. His other children, six in number, are in school or working elsewhere. When asked what his biggest challenge as a farmer is, Mrindoko says “access to enough water for production.”
Although terraces can hold water when it rains, their capacity is limited when droughts set in. Mrindoko has suffered the impact of drought before to the extent that in 1999 he was forced to migrate to a place known as Kabuku in search of food because Bangalala had become extremely dry.
As we exchange pleasantries and prepare to leave his impressive farm, Mrindoko surprises us with sugarcane. “Take this with you,” he says as he hands us the sugarcane. His wife and child come quickly to bid us farewell.
Stone terracing ensures food security
Stone terracing is an efficient and sustainable agriculture technique for smallholder farmers. It helps in soil-water retention and reduces erosion. The terraces also protect the crops from stray animals. A few cows could severely damage crops if they crossed a field which has not been stone-terraced. Bringing techniques and technologies for food security to more farmers is what drives GWI EA.