East Africa / HUMIDTROPICS / IITA / Intensification / Maize / Participation / Southern Africa / Tanzania

Tanzania farmer harvested 60 bags of maize despite severe drought

Mashehe Salum Photo credit: Shabani Ibrahim/IITA

Mashehe Salum

Mashehe Salum is a small scale maize and legume farmer in Ngipa village, Kiteto District in central Tanzania. Four years ago, maize yield from her 4 acre farm was barely enough to feed her family of five. She knew she could get more from her farm, but didn’t know what to do improve her farm productivity.

Mashehe’s farm is located in a semi-arid region with low and erratic rainfall. So water access was a significantly big challenge to her farming endeavor. And just like other farmers in Ngipa village, she also planted recycled seeds.  Year after year, she would use the broadcasting technique to plant her maize and year after year the result would be the same –poor harvest, not adequate to feed her family.

But Mashehe’s story today is a stark contrast to her story 4 years ago. She has become a model farmer for her colleagues after she harvested a whopping 60 bags of maize while her fellow farmers were once again deprived off any significant harvests, thanks to a severe drought that affected Kiteto district last year.

According to Mashehe, her life changed the moment she decided to participate in the Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project’s demonstration farms. She was one of beneficiaries of a training on climate-smart farming in KIteto District they received trainings various good agronomic practices and soil water conservation strategies in semi-arid areas like Kiteto.

“We received training on planting drought resistant maize varieties, line spacing, fertilizer application and use of tied-ridges to conserve soil water. I implemented all the best practices we were trained on and I am grateful it has paid off in such a big way!” she says with a bright smile. “My fellow farmers wondered if I used “uchawi” (magic) in my farm since it remained green while others were drying,” she adds.

Mashehe asserts that, “the higher yields from my farm were largely due to use of tied-ridges that held the little available rain water for longer period”. This meant that soils were wetter for longer periods compared to neighboring farms that used flat planting.

“This time the yields are more than enough to feed my family! I intend to apply the postharvest best practices were trained on to store them and sell at the right price in order to generate school fees for my children,” she explains.

After seeing Mashehe’s success, neighboring farmers are now eager to also learn the new techniques. Mashehe notes that, “Prior to the Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project, only a few villagers were interested in attending farmers’ meetings, but today because they can see the benefits firsthand, mobilizing them has become relatively easy. They are now eager to learn and use the new knowledge to get better harvests from their farms.”

The previous farmer’s field day organized by the Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project in Ngipa village was attended by over 200 farmers. Mrs. Mashehe adds that, “this level of attendance was historic since it has never been witnessed before in Ngipa village. Even farmers from neighboring villages attended!”

Mashehe Salum in her farm. She hopes to get better harvests this year too.Photo credit: Shabani Ibrahim/IITA

Mashehe Salum in her farm. She hopes to get better harvests this year too

The Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project is working to introduce farmers in Kongwa and Kiteto districts in Tanzania to simple seasonal in-situ water-harvesting innovations such as tied ridges, planting pits and trash lines, combined with contour planting to reduce the consequences of both heavy rainfall and short-term drought. The on-going work also integrates other aspects like nutrient management and improved maize seed varieties that are sensitive to low soil moisture. It is anticipated that this work will ensure 47,000 farmers can be able to adopt these practices through this initiative.

5 thoughts on “Tanzania farmer harvested 60 bags of maize despite severe drought

  1. This is great but the photo gives a different story. As an Agronomist it is difficult to understand how with the low plant population in this photo, the farmer got so much maize. The article does not indicate the “total Area” from which the 60 bags was harvested – is it the 4 acres? It is always good to indicate the weight of the bag – is it 90 or 50 kilos? That would help put the “whopping 60 bags” into context. This is a dry area and any technology that produces such high Maize yields should be scaled up.

    • Hello Moses, thanks for your feedback on the story. I must say all are very valid comments that I am seeking answers for from our scientists on and giving feeback to you about. As a comms person I must say I totally agree with your observation about the photo used, it just so happens that the quality of photos that were taken weren’t good enough. For sure there could have been better photographs to go with this story. Getting back to you on the other questions shortly

    • Hi again Moses, I conferred with one of our scientists who visited the field and he had the following response:

      Dear Jonathan, in Dodoma Region and Tanzania at large I bag = 100 kg (+); implying that Mashee farmers at Ngipa village produced 15 bags/acre (1500 kg/acre) . Usually maize grain yield under farmers field conditions varies between 2 and 8 bags/acre with an average of 5 bags to 6 bags (500 to 600 kg/acre)/ acre. The maize grain yield will be determined by choice of variety for instance hybrid maize usually result in high yields compared to OPV however it has be supported with Good Agronomic Practices (GAP) including optimal plant population; use of fertilizer, timely weeding and being semi-arid areas use of efficient soil moisture conservation techniques( IRWH) is of paramount importance.

      In view of information reported so far combination of aforesaid could reflect yield obtained under severe drought conditions during 2014/2015 cropping season whereby majority of farmers had complete crop failure in the same village i.e Ngipa.

    • Hello Philip, the process to have the hybrid move to Nigeria will involve testing it there (in Nigeria) and then it has to go through the variety release process which would require some seasons of testing in multi-location trials/ national performance trials. Please note that the number of seasons for the trials will depend upon Nigeria’s variety release procedure.

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