Farmers find hidden potential in organic farming

29Nov 2022
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
Farmers find hidden potential in organic farming

IN these days where the World has greatly changed in terms of technology and other innovations, it was hard to believe that someone can practice organic farming and still reap profit from it, says Songolo Madumla, a garden attendant at the National Sugar Institute (NSI) based in-

Songolo Madumla, a garden attendant at the National Sugar Institute (NSI) showing bell peppers in a screen house which have been grown organically.

-Kilombero District, Morogoro Region.

Madumla is one of the 117 garden attendants who have benefited from practical training on organic farming issued by the Tanzania Sustainable Agriculture (SAT) in 2020.

“I attended training for two weeks at the SAT centre in Vianzi, Morogoro, while there together with other garden attendants from various agricultural institutes in the country, we were deeply trained on how organic farming is and what we can do to ensure that it produces positive outcomes,” Madumla narrated this in an interview with The Guardian recently.

According to him, after coming back from the training, he shared the knowledge and skills with other fellow attendants at the college as well as tutors and staff.

“From there the college set aside a special area in which we can practice farming without using artificial fertilizers or pesticides. We then started cultivating vegetables using manure and liquid fertilizer and boosters which we produced ourselves using things that surround us such as wastes and manure,” he narrates.

Madumla who also runs a small organic farm at his home, says organic farming is cost effective as it uses little water with the fertilizer being found locally as well as plant booster which is made easily thus producing more profits that the modern one.

He says that in the screen house which was constructed by SAT at the college, they firstly planted cucumber and then bell paper and since they started harvesting in April this year, they have collected a good amount and deposited them in a special account which they opened for the purpose.

He notes that since they started practicing farming, they have attracted a number of customers whom they are now serving by sending them organic products such as bell peppers, amaranth, spinach and other veggies.

“The market is really huge because within this short period, we have secured customers from the college community but also in the streets, they wake up every day giving orders so as to be delivered with their products of their choice,” he adds.

According to him, naturally grown vegetables and fruits have high demand as the majority of customers say they have good taste and more health benefits.

He is echoed by Lucy Salila, a fellow garden attendant at the college who says that apart from practicing the farming at the college, they also do it at home and observed a lot of benefits both income and health.

“We have bell peppers in the screen house and other vegetables such as amaranth, spinach and fruit trees which have been planted outside the screen house,” she says.

Yohannes Msigwa, admission officer at NSI says the project has transformed their mindsets and many students as well as staff now admire organic farming more than the modern one as they have witnessed themselves in the school’s garden.

“The staff here were the first one to taste the vegetables which are free from chemicals, from there the garden attendants increased efforts and expanded their plots to produce more products so as to cater the demand in the college as well as serve other customers in the street,” he explains.

Msigwa says it was hard to believe that organic farming can transform the economy and people's lives, but after the training and practices, they have come to know that farming carries a lot of benefits if taken seriously.

He says that a total of nine teachers as well as two garden attendants have benefited from the project by attending a 14-day training in Morogoro.

“The training also helped the college to establish special fungicides and pesticides tree gardens so as to produce more trees that help fight pests in the vegetable and fruit gardens,” he adds.

In the past, the vegetable production yield was very poor and sometimes total loss caused by pests and diseases; high usage of synthetic pesticides to control pests and diseases increasing the cost of production and long term effects to workers and consumers,” he says.

At the college, students are also trained on organic farming and receive practical training in the farms and garden plots.

He commends SAT and the government for implementing the project which has seen improvements in curriculum and promotion of organic farming in various areas.

Antuse Massawe, programme manager from SAT says that what has been narrated by the garden attendants is the result of the implementation of the project dubbed: “Curriculum Implementation Support for Training Institutes (CISTI).

The project which commenced in 2020 and expected to be completed later this year, has benefited 29 agricultural training institutes in the country. It has facilitated review and approval of six new training modules for agriculture production on certificate and diploma levels which also saw organic farming being added as a course.

It has helped stimulate organic farming in the colleges and surrounding communities.

According to her, the project’s purpose was to support public and private training institutions to produce graduates who are in line with the needs of the country through successfully integrating and implementing organic agriculture, gender, environmental management, cooperatives and communication skills through the new training curriculum for agriculture on certificate and diploma levels.

She also says that the project also involved training tutors and garden-attendants on organic gardens’ management using natural botanical extracts so as to enable them to impart the knowledge to their students easily.

With support by LED Liechtenstein Development Service and coordinated by the government, the project has helped integrate several areas such as organic agriculture, gender, environmental management, cooperatives and communication skills that is based on the new training curriculum for agriculture at certificate and diploma levels.