How organic farming benefits farmers in Kilimanjaro

12Nov 2019
Francis Kajubi
The Guardian
How organic farming benefits farmers in Kilimanjaro

IT takes one to drive for at least 30 minutes from Moshi Municipality to Shimbwe Juu village in Moshi Rural District. The village is a home of 544 households, Remmy Temba’s family being one of them. Temba’s family is now enjoying the fruits of organic farming—an agricultural system that uses-

-ecologically based pest controls and biological fertilizers derived largely from animal and plant wastes and nitrogen-fixing cover crops.

It’s now 16 years since a 57-year-old Temba switched to organic farming that has led him to a happy life that guarantees him food on table, cash to take care of his children and send them to school.

Almost 90 per cent of Shimbwe Juu villagers rely on agriculture especially ecological organic agriculture (EOA), livestock and beekeeping as their key economic activities.

Temba, a father of nine, has been practicing ecological organic agriculture since 2003 when the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) experts visited the village for the first time to educate coffee farmers on the potential of organic farming in terms of economy, health and environment.

Being the only child in his family, Temba inherited a three-acre farm from his late father Severine Temba in 1979 whom inherited the same from his late father in 1917.

The farm which has been there for more than 100 years is being planted Arabica coffee, passion trees, banana trees, legumes, beans, maize, pitches, Avocado and yams.

Temba works in his farm eight hours a day seven days a week. He rarely hires assistants to work in his farm, but he ensures that the farm gets all the services needed.

“Prior to FAO trainings in 2003, I and my fellow villagers were practicing inorganic farming that call for a use of industrial farm inputs that affected the natural ecological system as some of the insects such as worms, ants and which are important in sustaining soil fertility were killed by chemicals of the farm inputs;

The positive impact of using such industrial chemicals in growing coffee was just a big quantity of harvest but of poor quality on the market. On the negative side, conventional agriculture destroyed soil fertility that forced me to change places of cultivating other food crops like banana, beans and maize within the same farm after every three years just looking for fertile land” said Temba.

Temba said that he uses neem tree powder, pepper powder, and fermented livestock urine of rabbits, cow and goats as organic pesticides to suppress pests in his farm. He said the livestock urine is collected in small quantity and fermented for 21 days to have power of killing the pests.

“I have never used agrochemicals to suppress pests for the past sixteen years. I only use the organic pesticides I mentioned only when I realize that some pests have invaded the farm and this is very rare,” said Temba.    

He said that it’s now sixteen years since he started practicing ecological organic agriculture and the plants have been yielding harvests of high quality that are acceptable to the world markets. With conventional farming, Temba used to harvest between 700 and 800 kilos of coffee a year, but now gets between 600 and 700 kilos though organic farming.

“I switched to organic agriculture since it gives quality products that defeat agro products that are a result of conventional farming since it guarantees health of a consumer. The current value of organic coffee at Shimbwe is 4,500/- but coffee produced by conventional farming that rely on industrial agro inputs is sold at 2,500/- per kilogram” he said.

According to Temba, most of coffee farmers in Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions are turning into organic farming as years pass by but are facing climate change challenges as heavy rains especially in November and December delays maturity of coffee.

He asserted that he don’t rely only on coffee farming for his living and family households but also beekeeping. 

Commenting on the control of agrochemicals such as pesticides, Joseph Bukalasa, Pesticides Registrar, Tanzania Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) said: “The institute is very keen in making sure that farmers are not enticed into fake or unauthorized agro inputs.”

“Apart from other initiatives such as raids on fertilizer dealers’ shops we are now applying the Trade Management Information System (ARTIMIS) in providing licenses for importing and doing the agro-input business. We have been using the system since earlier February this year and has increased transparency and predictability in the management and operations of TPRI relating to crops and farm inputs,” said Bukarasa.

Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM) calls upon farmers of cash crops such as tobacco, cotton, tea and cotton in Tanzania to take advantage of organic agriculture as its products are taking a big stake of the globe market share.

TOAM’s Communication Advisor, Constantine Akitanda said that since its inception in 2005, TOAM coordinates and promotes, through networking and information dissemination, the development of the organic farming sector among smallholder producers for sustainable livelihoods in Tanzania.

Membership includes farmer associations and co-ops, NGOs, organic operators, research and trainers. 89 subscribed institutional members. TOAM also plays a role of certifying organic farmers and has so far registered 155 members mostly AMCOS with not less than 5,000 participants each. It has so far certified 250,000 organic farmers in the country.

“There is a big opportunity in organic farming that farmers must grab. The demand for organic agro products is growing in the world. In Tanzania U$6billion has been invested in organic farming so far. Tanzania is the only country to date in the EAC region that has adopted a policy statement on agro ecology since 2013,” said Akitanda.

Matt Carter, Sustainability Manager for TRIBECA Coffee South Africa, said that organic products demand is growing globally due to its quality and nutrients that guarantees health of a consumer.

According to him, organic is not only for environmental conservation but mostly for hearth benefits of a consumer and economic developments as it is against the application of chemicals for high productivity but that damages the long term soil fertility.

“We don’t want consume poison anymore that is in most today’s industrial food staffs. Organic farming ensures what we eat is natural produced for health benefits. The organic products production is growing in Africa but more efforts are need especially for making organic farming sustainable”

According to the FiBL survey 2019, United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU) stands as the main destinations of the world’s certified organic products from Africa and Asia.

The FiBL survey states that global organic market reached 92.1 billion euros up to February 2019 (From data collected since 2017) whereby 69.8 million hectares worldwide are under organic agricultural management and Africa has only 2.1 million hectares from that stake.

According to the survey, Tanzania and Uganda are the only countries from the EAC region with the largest number of organic producers in the world.

Uganda took the second position in the list with 210,352 producers of organic products behind the leading India with 835,000. Tanzania is the sixth with 148,610 producers. The other countries are Mexico, Ethiopia, Philippines, Peru, Turkey, Italy and Paraguay. The survey states that there were 41 million hectares of wild collection and beekeeping areas during the period under review.

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