FRIDAY January 12, 2024
By Deus Bugaywa
The tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania
The semi-arid central region of Tanzania, Singida, is on its way to sustainably maximise its agricultural potential without destroying the environment again, thanks to Ukijani Project by Helvetas Tanzania.
Ukijani, a Swahili word for greenish, is a European Union (EU)-funded project under Helvetas Tanzania, aimed at empowering women socially and economically through a Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) model, among other drives.
The project aspires to empower women in Manyoni, Iramba and Ikungi district councils by increasing economic opportunities, imparting knowledge on climate-smart practices and inspiring them to participate in leadership in their community decision-making mechanisms for them to improve livelihoods of their families and restore their community landscapes through agro-forestry.
Agro-forestry is an agronomic system involving trees, shrubs and perennial plants mixed to retain natural forest appearance – the most stable and sustainable type of ecosystem, given the current hostile climate.
With the agro-forestry system, which mixes crops, flora and fauna to increase agricultural yields and sustainability, farmers become biologically sustainable, productive enough to cope with climate change, among other natural disasters, and yield a number of different produces in large quantity.
The Ukijani already has trained community facilitators to form groups of agroforestry farmers, or forest gardening as the project coins it, and has supplied a total of 4,569 seedlings of grafted and improved varieties of different fruits to 207 households.
The fruits seedlings include 1,050 of passion, 1,656 of papaya and 621 of mango, lemon and orange each. Ukijani Project has also distributed a total of 20 kilograms of moringa, cedrella odoreta and grevillea seeds to the households.
Joyce David, a community facilitator from Iglansoni Village, says the training in agroforestry is a reality, as it abounds with multiple benefits to the community and its environment.
Agro-forestry is vital if the community is to succeed, given the semi-arid nature of the weather condition of the area. Singida is the portion of Tanzania’s semi-arid central region, with an unpredictable rainfall pattern, brief rain seasons, and a fairly severe drought spell at least once every four years.
Singida experiences geographic and seasonal variations in its annual total rainfall, ranging from 500mm to 800mm.
“Being a facilitator, I train a group of 25 women and youth, mostly aged below 30 years. Their response is very positive, they are very happy with the project and we hope all farmers in the village will, in a long run, embrace it,” Joyce says.
Neema Kiwesi, a farmer leader from Minyunge Village, admits that the climate-smart practices the Ukijani Project introduces are impressive techniques, as a piece of land produces multiple benefits to a farmer.
“I already have a demonstration farm for my group members and fellow villagers, its clear and loud results have impressed them. I grow fruits, timber and traditional medicine trees and a variety of vegetables at the same piece of land,” she narrates.
Ukijani Project aims at reaching out to 5,000 direct beneficiaries in housholds’ farms, 3,300 being women and 2,500 youth aged between 18 and 35 years.
It also eyes to reach out to 25,000 indirect beneficiaries in the primary stakeholders’ households and families, 100 local service providers, of whom 66 women and 50 youth aged between 18 and 35 years.
Other beneficiaries will be 200 Village Savings and Loans Associations and Community Resource Persons, 55 wards and 150 villages, 10 forest garden learning centres and 10 learning centres on other innovative practices like beekeeping, IPM, water conservation.
Three major achievements the project targets are responsible community land governance for women to equally access, manage and benefit from natural-resources-based capital, including private land, village land, forest land, non-timber forest products and water.
The project believes empowering women with knowledge on climate resilient and diversified farming practices and providing them with extension service, inputs, and business development and financial skills will significantly contribute to restoring land productivity/soil fertility and biodiversity and engage women in economic activities in sustainable landscape-based value chains in a bid to generate additional family income.
Acting Regional Administrative Secretary Stanslaus Beatus urges participants in the project to adhere to the good climate-smart agroforestry practices training and to observe discipline in using the equipment the project provides them.
Beatus was addressing the participants gathered at Puma Village in Ikuguni District Council to receive seedlings and associated agroforestry equipment.
“You are the selected few amongst many who wished to have this chance, don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Make the best out of it, these equipment are very expensive, use them according to the intended purpose to ensure the project attains its goal and you and the community at large benefit from it,” he says.
Ukijani Programme Officer Maxmilian Saku urges the beneficiaries, in turn, to become good ambassadors of their respective communities in a bid to impress others to embrace agroforestry.
The equipment the project supplied to the community facilitators and the farmer leaders include wheelbarrows, water canes, spades, water storage drums and grass cutting scissorsΩ