Swiss financed ActionAid implemented project changing women’s lives

21Sep 2021
Beatrice Philemon
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Swiss financed ActionAid implemented project changing women’s lives

A Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation backed project being implemented by ActionAid Tanzania is changing lives of smallholder women farmers in Mbozi district of Songwe region.

The Swiss backed agro-ecological farming project’s focal person at Mbozi District Council, Peter Ndalakwa showing a smallholder farmer how to prevent pests that destroy crops in farms.

The SDC’s National Project Manager, Samwely Mkwatwa said recently that the U$800,000 (over 1.6bn/-) project has trained and equipped the women with knowledge and skills in agro-ecology farming hence weaning them from artificial inputs modern farming.

Mkwatwa said the smallholder women farmers are now using modern agro-ecology farming methods, access extension officers while accessing agro-inputs which boost quality and quantity of their farm produce

“We have also been working with the government in this project which can be spread to other parts of the country because there are many women farmers in rural areas who cannot afford to purchase inputs such hybrid seeds, fertilizers and the like,” he said.

The SDC Manager further explained that since 2019, the Swiss agency donated the money to ActionAid Tanzania to implement Phase 11 of the project that will be completed in 2023. In Phase I, the agency donated U$500,000 in 2016 for the implementation of Public Resources Management in Health and Agriculture in Southern Africa.

The Project is being implemented by ActionAid Tanzania in collaboration with a not for profit organization called MIICO which is based in Mbeya. “We are working with smallholder women farmers at ward and district level,” he said.

Among other things, the project seeks to improve public service delivery in agriculture sector (food security), and health (HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and rights) by strengthening the oversight and social accountability roles of five target groups in Southern Africa Development Community region.

Specifically, the five year project also targets relevant parliamentary committees, government departments and agencies, issue-based civil society organisation and smallholder farmer organisations but also the media for dissemination of information.

One of the beneficiaries of the project from Mbozi district is Maria Munduwi, a mother of two who lives at Itaka Village.

In an interview, Munduwi said she has received training in how to use modern agro-inputs, make traditional pesticides and manures from some indigenous species of plants to improve soil fertility and prevent pests that attack crops.

She and her peers were also trained in leadership, gender equality, environmental and health principles, budget analysis, public expenditure tracking, organic farming, agro-forestry and the importance of women participation in hamlet and villages meetings.

Through the knowledge gained from MIICO and ActionAid Tanzania trainers, Munduwi has been able to engaged in agro-ecological farming for sunflower and groundnuts using indigenous seeds, traditional pesticides, local organic manure that are safe to both people and the environment.

“To start with in 2020/21farming season, I managed to cultivated a quarter acre of sunflower intercropping with groundnuts in my farm using indigenous seeds, traditional pesticides and managed to harvest two sacks which made 30 jerry cans of edible oil for both domestic and commercial use,” she said.

Through the training, Munduwi revealed that she has reduced farming cost to zero during the 2020/21 season hence made a savings of 192,000/- used to buy industrial made inputs such as fertilizers and hybrid seeds.

She said before receiving training from the project, she used to buy DAP for 60,000/- UREA 54,000/-, pay casual workers 58,000/- and planting 20,000/- per acre which is very expensive to many smallholder farmers.

Agro-ecological farming which uses natural inputs helps reduce farming cost; protect people’s health and the environment while helping farmers reduce costs.“As smallholder farmers, we are requesting the government to invest in this type of farming by allocating enough budget to support its adoption by the majority of smallholder farmers,” Munduwi urged.

Backing Munduwi’s observation, Project Officer, Gloria Mdindile said agro-ecological farming has become so popular among smallholder women farmers and that so far 52 women’s groups comprising of 1,560 members in five villages of Mbozi district are engaging in the environmentally friendly farming.

She said the women have also been able to access funding to invent in their projects and so far six groups have been able to get 16m/- credit from Mbozi District Council funds allocated to women for investment in income generating projects.

“The beneficiaries have also established village community banks which enable members to save and access credit to invest in small businesses easily. We are so far satisfied with what has been achieved in Mbozi district,” Mdindile said. She noted that district officials have also increased the agriculture budget from 2.5 percent to 12.5 percent to support extension services and boost agro-ecology cultivation.

The project’s Focal Person at Mbozi District Council, Peter Ndalakwa said this year, they have allocated over 265.9m/- to the agriculture budget with main focus on agro-ecology farming which is largely being practices by women’s groups.

“We are also investing in improvement of extension services to boost agro-ecological  farming by training more extension officers,  soil testing, produce traditional seedlings  and other related activities for 2021/22 season,” Ndalakwa said while adding that another 64m/- has been allocated to support for irrigation farming. 

Commenting on the project, MIICO Executive Director, Catheline Mulaga said the organization has been working in the Agriculture sector with focus in three advocacy areas that includes; allocation of extension officers, quality extension services provided meeting and addressing women’s issues and experiment on alternative means of agriculture production for sustainability.

“Apart from training the farmers, MIICO also support the women through market linkages so that they are able to sell their produce directly to processors,” Mulaga said while noting that they also equip them with agribusiness skills.