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Loti Philemon Malekela is a farmer in Nghumbi Kongwa in Dodoma, Tanzania. He is married and has six children. Though Malekela depends on small-scale farming to sustain his family, it has not been easy for him to produce enough grain to feed his family due to increasingly ineffective traditional farming practices. His agricultural productivity has been heavily affected by sporadic rainfall and prolonged drought, land degradation, low soil fertility and soil erosion and lack of pasture for his livestock.

‘I was struggling to feed my family because I did not know anything about agroforestry technologies, such as using contours in fodder farming, intercropping and shelterbelts,’ said Malekela. But I have learned from the village extension officer some good agronomic practices, such as the use of quality seeds, fertilizer, weeding and spacing of crops. These have helped but not solved my problems. Soil degradation: erosion, surface water runoff and low soil fertility are still a challenge for me and other farmers here, and we haven’t started to work together to solve them.’

In 2016, Malekela visited Moshi Maile in Mlali village to learn from him on the adopted agricultural technologies from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded, Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING) project, which has made him a successful farmer.

‘I knew some of the technologies Maile had adopted, such as tied ridges,’ said Malekela. ‘But I was particularly interested in his tree nursery and poultry farming, which were generating for him a lot of money from sale of cashew nut tree seedlings, eggs and chickens.’

During his visit, Malekela learned about tree nursery establishment and management and various agroforestry technologies, including Gliricidia–maize intercropping, woodlots, boundary tree planting and shelterbelts. Maile helped Malekela and his group to set up their first tree nursery at Ngumbi. Malekela and the group members adopted some of Maile’s agroforestry technologies on their farms along with soil and water conservation innovations they learned from TARI Hombolo Centre and other Africa RISING partners.

Malekela used to harvest 3–4 bags of 100 kilograms of maize per acre (about 0.4 hectare). This could not sustain his family, which required 8–10 bags per year. Therefore, he had to be involved in other off-season economic activities to earn more income to buy food for his family.

Adoption of good agronomic practices and agroforestry technologies has helped Malekela to increase his maize production to 18 bags per acre. He now harvests a surplus of at least 8 bags for sale to boost his family’s income.

‘It was my big desire to increase crop production to assure my family of sufficient food and obtain more money from farming,’ he said. ‘I also harvest fuelwood from the Gliricidia trees in the field and they are useful to reduce wind speed, provide fodder and improve soil fertility.’

Loti Malakela's grain harvest during the 2021 growing seasons in Ngumbi Village, Kongwa District, Tanzania. Photo credit: Emmanuel Temu/ICRAF.
Loti Malakela’s grain harvest during the 2021 growing seasons in Ngumbi Village, Kongwa District, Tanzania (photo credit: Emmanuel Temu/ICRAF).

Firewood produced from his trees on-farm has substantially reduced shortage of firewood during the rainy season. He harvests two ox-carts of firewood of about 800 kilograms, which is sufficient to satisfy his household cooking energy needs for the entire growing season of about six months.

Malekela also learned how to raise poultry in a closed environment and how to make poultry feed. Other farmers became interested after noticing his land improving, his increased maize harvest and trees growing on his farm that produced fuelwood, fodder and other benefits. This awareness made it easy for Malekela to form a farmers’ group and lead them to establish and manage a tree nursery.

‘Our group produced 10,000 Gliricidia seedlings in 2020 for Farm Africa and LEAD Foundation, earning us TZS2,500,000 [about USD1,000] from sale of seedlings,’ he says.

The seedlings were distributed to the intervention villages of these two organizations. Malekela and fellow group members had a target of producing 60,000 tree seedlings in 2021.

Malekela is now well known within and outside his village as a champion of agroforestry technologies and receives frequent requests to train other farmers who are interested. As a result, he was selected to attend the LEAD Foundation’s Training of Trainers in Dodoma, in which Maile also participated.

‘My participation was facilitated by LEAD Foundation, a non-governmental organization in Dodoma,’ said Malekela. ‘They looked at my contour bunds stabilized using Guatemala grass that I had learned from Maile. The village council selected me and four other champions to attend the training in Dodoma.

Loti Malekela and his daughter, who graduated from college. Photo credit: Emmanuel Temu/ICRAF.
Loti Malekela and his daughter, who graduated from college (photo credit: Emmanuel Temu/ICRAF).

Malekela has also been invited to train other farmers in agroforestry and soil and water conservation technologies within and outside his village. He has trained 80 people in agroforestry from Bondeni Anglican Church and students of Ngh’umbi Secondary School in raising Gliricidia seedlings in a nursery and the benefits of this tree species. Suguta Anglican Church members also invited him to train them in agroforestry technologies, the use of quality seeds, methods for controlling soil erosion and other sustainable agriculture technologies. Malekela has also been invited to Gairo to train in tree nursery establishment.

Apart from the increased recognition as an expert in agroforestry and soil and water conservation technologies, Malekela has used the income generated from selling surplus crops and tree seedlings to pay school fees for his four children, including his daughter, who recently graduated with a diploma in community development from the training institute in Uyole. He has also paid for electricity installation costs to his house and bought four pigs and several chickens to diversify his farming. He states clearly that land productivity on his farm has improved and his family is well secured in terms of food and fuelwood supply, such that he has ample time to focus on livestock keeping and other off-farm income-generating activities.

This blog was posted initially on the World Agroforestry Website by Emmanuel Temu, Andreea Nowak, and Anthony Kimaro.

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