Small farming and antiquated fertilization methods — Agriculture in Tanzania cannot support its citizens. That’s how you help to promote change.
If you are a nature films aficionado, you have probably heard about the Serengeti, the huge African savannah, some of which is in Tanzania. The island of Zanzibar, which has become a hot tourist destination in recent years, is also quite well known. Mount Kilimanjaro, towering 5,895 meters high in the north, is considered the roof of the African continent. But, not everything in Tanzania is wild. Tanzania is a poor country — one-third of its inhabitants live in difficult conditions, and agriculture is unable to support them.
As far as climate and land conditions are concerned, Tanzania is a dream. About 53 million people live in an area of 950,000 square kilometers, and it is rich in natural resources such as tin, phosphate, iron, coal, diamonds, gems, gold, natural gas, and nickel. The climate changes from region to region. Near the shore, the weather is tropical, and in other areas like the mountains, the climate is moderate. The problem is that although the quantity of precipitation during the rainy season is large, the fertilization methods are antiquated. Farmers add almost any fertilizer to their fields. In a country in which most people engage in small farming with traditional methods, this means very small yield in their crops.
A farmer in Tanzania cultivates his land by traditional methods, with almost no irrigation or mechanical tools. Most of the produce serves to feed his family. If there is a surplus, it is sold at the local markets. USAID, funded by the US government, initiated a perennial program to educate Tanzanian farmers to apply advanced land cultivation, sowing and fertilization methods. The goal of the program, named “Feed the Future,” is to increase yield and quality of the fruits and vegetables in Tanzania’s farmlands. Small farmers will be able to improve their earning power and their quality of life. The goal is clear: New techniques, modern tools, and high-quality materials result in more produce and less poverty. And this is where ICL Specialty Fertilizers comes in.
The year in which Tanzanian farmers will see the difference
ICL Special Fertilizers joined the American project in 2018, and is training about 3,000 Tanzanian farmers to use the group’s innovative fertilizers — for both irrigated and non-irrigated crops. The team in the field, with agronomical support from Israel, have located 30 demonstration plots of leading farmers in two regions in southern Tanzania. Each demonstration plot was divided into two: In one half, the farmer grew his crops (mostly potatoes, onions, and tomatoes) in the traditional way, and in the other half, the ICL team grew the same crops with improved fertilizer management, using ICL’s “Agromaster” – a controlled release fertilizer – and ICL’s Polysulphate®. With these two fertilizers, the farmer supplies eight plant nutrients in only one application. Instead, farmers’ practice consists in applying only two nutrients with three different fertilizers in three applications during the crop cycle. With ICL improved practice, farmers can save time and money in fertilizer application, while receiving more yields and more profits due to balanced nutrition.
The results were overwhelming: yields at the ICL plots were significantly higher than the farmers’ practice for all the three crops. The average increase in yields was 46% for tomatoes, 47% for onions and 57% for potatoes. The income of the farmer was increased accordingly.
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2018 was the year in which Tanzanian farmers, who are part of the project, saw the difference between using advanced methods and high-quality fertilizer and using less effective traditional methods. This is not the first time that ICL has had a hand in helping farmers and developing agriculture in the world. ICL Specialty Fertilizers is active in India, Kenya and other developing countries, and now Tanzania has joined the list of countries in which farmers are shown how to best fertilize their land.
ICL’s experience indicates that we can expect a substantial increase of crops’ yields, which will allow the farmer to use some of it for his family’s consumption, and to sell the rest, keeping some of the intake to buy next season’s seeds and fertilizer. These farmers will provide wellbeing for their families, and will no doubt spread the word to other farmers in their country.
Clement Kimaro, a farmer who participated in the project, is already enjoying the change in his fields. “I use a new technique that plows the land differently and with new materials, and my yield is double that of previous years,” he told USAID officials, “I have more produce that I can sell.”
Not only sowing and fertilizing techniques have changed, but also packaging and storage. “In the past, farmers put their produce in straw baskets that stood in the sun, the produce rotted, and a lot was wasted,” says Kadija Rajab, a local farming expert who is accompanying the project.
“We showed to the farmers that adoption of a balanced and modern fertilizer approach can increase yields, profits and improve living standards”, says Dr. Lilian W. Mbuthia, ICL Senior Agronomist in Kenya, who is responsible of the project on behalf ICL. “Given the success of the project, USAID has decided to extend the funding for additional crop seasons”.
With the project’s progress and expansion in Tanzania, together with ICL’s contribution to its success, we can only hope that the people of Tanzania continue to enjoy all of the good that their land can give them.