The Chololo Ecovillage project has notched up a number of successes, including delivering reliably good harvests without the investment of large amounts of cash. This European Union funded project is demonstrating that knowledge, not money, is often key to delivering results.
As a result of climate change, farmers in Tanzania have recently struggled with rains that arrive later, finish earlier with a regular dry spell only a few weeks into the traditionally wet season. In recent years these new weather patterns have left crops withering in the ground and farmers struggling with depleted harvests.
As part of a Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) project, farmers have been encouraged to abandon long-held wisdom to plant with the first rains and instead wait a month or so until early January.
The campaign ‘Panda baada ya Krismasi’ or ‘Plant After Christmas’ is proving a notable success. Delayed planting means the young seedlings can survive the new mid-rains dry spell and are more likely to produce strong crops and a good harvest.
“Initially I was planting my farm haphazardly. I was planting in the dry season when the first rains come in November, and seeds can germinate and dry or die,” said Stefano Chifaguzi, a Chololo farmer who has received GCCA-training and seen his pearl millet harvest triple. “But after being trained I am now waiting for the big rains, then I plough my farm, plant my crops in proper spacing and now the yields of crops have increased.”
Tanzania may not be a significant contributor to emissions that cause climate change, but it is certainly on the receiving end of some of the worst fall-out from these changes. Mean annual temperature has increased by 1°C since 1960 in this East African country and annual rainfall has decreased at an average of 3.3% per decade.
Six major droughts over the past 30 years have caused severe damage to agricultural production, which provides one-third of the nation’s gross domestic product as well as income and employment to more than 80% of the population.
Looking forward, the situation is expected to worsen with extreme events such as droughts, floods, tropical storms and cyclones likely to become more frequent, intense and unpredictable.
Far-reaching problems are often thought to require costly interventions. But Chololo and its farmers are proving otherwise.
Alongside the new advice to plant later, farmers are also being encouraged to adopt a range of other measures that make the most of limited rainfall, improve soil fertility and boost their harvest.
Farmers are being taught the value of animal manure in maintaining soil quality, the importance of crop rotation and intercropping (planting a variety of crops in the same field) in guarding against nutrient loss, as well as how to build contour ridges and gullies that conserve rainwater and prevent soil erosion, among other measures.
“In the past I was not using farmyard manure in my farm but now it is a great resource. I am using it in my farms,” said Gilbert Masiga, another farmer to have received the GCCA training. “Combined with Good Agricultural Practices I am now getting enough food for my family and surplus for sale.”
As well as improving on traditional farming methods and practices, production has also diversified in Chololo, with women reaping the benefits by learning new skills and ways to improve on age-old practices.
Some of the women have been educated in how to farm fish – a first in this semi-arid region. As well as providing a valuable source of protein for household consumption, the fishponds are being used for irrigation, improving yields in other crops and enabling some of the village women to sell any surplus for much needed cash.
While honey production is a traditional activity in the region, output was low using age-old methods. With the introduction of improved beehive preparation, installation and management the community is reporting a three-fold increase in honey production.
With much of Africa and other parts of the world facing similar negative impacts from climate change as Chololo, this eco-village project offers a notable example of what can be achieved with knowledge transfer and training.
“Climate change affects virtually every corner of the globe regardless of a country’s greenhouse gas emissions, or its capacity to deal with the effects of climate change,” said Filiberto Sebregondi EU Ambassador in Tanzania. “The lessons learned by the Chololo Ecovillage project, [make] a valuable and timely contribution to the growing body of knowledge and experience on climate change adaptation in Tanzania.”
To read more about Chololo Ecovillage and the results attained so far, read this information leaflet.