Farmer learning activities at a training session in Karatu, Tanzania (photo credit: Inviolate Dominick/WorldVeg).

Martin Nicodemus is a farmer trainer from Bashay village and a Jitambue Farmers’ Group member. He is an example of a farmer trainer who supports farmers from neighbouring villages in Karatu, Tanzania, with knowledge of improved agriculture technologies, including good agronomy practices for vegetables and other crops.

In 2020, Nicodemus’s group visited Doffa village in Karatu District to share knowledge gained from the Kilimo Endelevu initiatives with fellow farmers.

‘We started with the sensitization meetings at the village level. Most members from this village were willing and ready to practice most of these technologies,’ noted Nicodemus.

He led Doffa farmers to create groups. At least two groups were formed for group learning purposes. Two of these groups are Ebeneza, with 19 farmers, and Eden with 21 farmers, have been provided with start-up seeds of vegetables and other crops.

Florian Gitu, the Eden Farmers Group leader, is happy with the improved vegetables, fruit, animal husbandry, poultry keeping, banana plantation, and nutrition technologies introduced to farmers in his village. He noted that good agronomic practices such as proper spacing and irrigation now support healthy crops and assure farmers of higher yields. 

Gitu gave a part of his land to demonstrate packages of improved agriculture innovation. His garden contains healthy green vegetables such as Ethiopian mustard, African nightshade, tomato, amaranth, and other varieties. The vegetables are planted in rows with a well-structured raised bed, proper spacing, and an affordable set irrigation system to supply water to the garden. In addition to vegetables, Gitu has also planted banana using improved banana seedlings while combining with good management practices, including mulching. He also keeps livestock on his farm including pigs, dairy cows and goats. Near the pig-house is a tree nursery with mango, avocado and citrus other tree seedlings.

The farmer-to-farmer trainers’ approach has been promoted and enhanced by the Africa RISING-Ile de Paix [Islands of Peace] (IPD) partnership project in Karatu. This approach enables scaling of the improved validated technologies for broader impact. 

The training of trainers (TOT) approach is used to train farmers to use Integrated Pest Management Practices (IPM), which include using Good Agronomic Practices (GAP) for vegetables and other crops, particularly banana and other fruit crops. The training model involves practical learning, where farmers, researchers, and extension agents work together to develop the demonstration plots. The graduate farmers (nominated as lead farmers) become the lead farmers or farmer trainers.

In June 2022, the team of experts implementing the Africa RISING project drawn from the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Kilimo Endelevu and Recoda visited Doffa village. They witnessed how farmers there are adopting the improved technologies. Organized on a farmers’ field day, the visit allowed the team of experts to interact with and share experiences with farmers. They also collected farmers’ feedback on areas where additional technical advice/clarification is needed to enhance the use of the technologies. 

The field day was in four villages in Karatu District: Doffa, Kambi ya Simba, Rhotia Kainam and Qurus. In each village, farmers and other members of communities gathered and learned the integrated improved agriculture technologies for vegetable, banana, and fruit production, livestock farming, and tested food preparation recipes for a healthy diet. More than 35 villages in Karatu are scaling up technologies introduced by Africa RISING IPD.

At Doffa, farmers and other community members gathered at Gitu’s farm and learned packages of resilient and sustainable agriculture technologies. Hassan Mndiga, World Vegetable Centre training coordinator, applauded farmers’ commitment to agriculture initiatives in the area and explained the health benefits of consuming vegetables and other local crops.

Inviolate Dominick urged the farmers to continue applying the improved technologies they had tested to improve access to food and healthier diets. She said eating vegetables and fruits is essential for both adults and children. Children under five, pregnant and lactating mothers, and women of reproductive age particularly need to eat a varied and healthy diet. Options for the commercialization of vegetable production for income generation were also discussed. 

Theophili Tramo, Recoda assistant director, challenged farmers to take advantage of market opportunities they are exposed to and called on them to adapt and apply improved innovations they had learned about. 

The use of locally obtained ingredients was promoted among the farmers. There were various demonstrations of recipes for preparing local foods such as pumpkin, amaranth grain with extra-nutrient yellow maize, stiff porridge (ugali), doughnuts, chayote leafy vegetables, and vegetable soup, amaranth grain and pigeon pea fried bread (mandazi), vegetable pumpkin soup, banana with beans and vegetables, rice with vegetables, and boiled maize with beans/pigeon pea and groundnut (makande), among other ingredients.

‘We wish to see farmers consume part of what they produced from their farms. Today, farmers have learned how to cook varieties of these recipes, and we are happy that they liked most of the dishes,” said Monica Morrison, a nutritionist at Kilimo Endelevu.

On the second day, the team visited Qurus village. Farmers saw packages of improved vegetable production technologies from Mama Paresso’s farm. In this village, the keyhole garden built at the farm showed how to plant improved vegetables on a pile of fertile soil with good agricultural management practices. For example, Mama Paresso uses the marigold flower as an insect repellent to control nematodes in her vegetable garden and uses castor oil seeds to produce organic pesticides. WorldVeg promotes keyhole garden technology through the Africa RISING Project.

On the third day, the team visited Kambi ya Simba village, and on the fourth day visited Rhotia Khainam village. Bakari Khamis hosted the field day in Rhotia Khainam. Khamis practices mixed farming. He produces vegetables and fruits and practices animal husbandry. He is also a farmer trainer and works with other farmer group members. With facilitation from Africa RISING in partnership with the Kilimo Endelevu Project, they have established a local seed bank for vegetables and other crops in his village. 

Andrea Margwe, the seed producer in charge for Rhotia Kainam village, noted that seed banks ensure farmers have access to traditional/local and improved seeds during the planting season. Wayda Peter, the Karatu District agriculture and projects liaison officer, thanked the event organizers and appreciated the farmers’ commitment to working in groups. He also called on farmers to keep practicing and adapting the improved technologies after the project closes. 

‘I believe you are well trained and now are good ambassadors of all these technologies. I encourage all to continue working in groups as this will ensure you all receive most of the benefits associated with improved production technologies,’ noted Wayda.

This initiative in Karatu was led by WorldVeg, a partner member of the Africa RISING Project. It was implemented within the IDP Kilimo Endelev program by Recoda and Mviwata.

What the farmers had to say

“We used to consume insufficient vegetables because we did not know how important it is and the nutritional benefits of a balanced diet. We also lacked good quality seeds of traditional vegetables. Thanks to the Project, we were trained on the nutritional benefits of vegetables and how to cultivate and consume varieties of vegetables. For example, we did not have a clue about Chayote, but now that we know its nutritional benefit, and if well-cooked, it also tastes good.” Pelagia joined the project initiatives in 2020. She is a member of the Agape farmer group, is interested in vegetable production, and is curious about her family’s healthy eating. She now produces a diversity of vegetables in her home garden, enough to feed the family, and the surplus is sold and provides vegetable seeds for the next season. Among the vegetables she cultivates are African eggplant, nightshade, Ethiopian mustard, amaranth, jute mallow, sweet potato leaves, cassava leaves, Chaya, and tomato. As a farmer trainer, Pelagia uses the knowledge and skills gained from training with support from the Africa RISING_IDP project to train other farmers from her village and outside her community. “Most farmers dislike consuming nutritious food such as pumpkin and potato leaves. But after they learned the benefit of these food crops, they realized their importance and are now consuming pumpkin, sweet potato, and other traditional vegetables as well”, said Pelagia According to Pelagia, she trained different groups, including pregnant women, youth, and elders. She said, “They are so happy and concerned about a balanced diet. Before receiving the training, mothers complained that their children had complications, stunting, and other malnutrition types such as anemia, especially among children under five, an issue in our village. And this might be because of a lack of knowledge on the balanced diet”. Ms Pelagia Gaudence. a farmer from Kambi ya Simba village. Photo Credit. Eveline Massam/IITA.
Mary shared her experience with the field day participants. It was her first time attending a farmers’ field day. “I like the vegetable technologies, especially the keyhole garden, also the fact that they use natural pesticides to keep away pests and diseases from the vegetables. “The fruit nurseries captured my interest too. For example, with the variety of pawpaw grown, I learned that it takes a few days to mature!” Mary is eager to take up technologies such as local manure and pesticides to her farm. “I will use the animal manure and pesticide on my vegetables which I will establish in my small garden back home,” expressed Mary. Mary also enjoyed the cooking learning section, which involved mouth-watering nutritious dishes made from locally grown vegetables and other crops. “I like the ugali mixed with amaranth grain flour, pumpkin, and the vegetable soup! I wish my husband could taste this! Mary Mushi – From Lungali Village. Photo credit: Eveline Massam/IITA.
Josephat is among over two-thirds of young farmer participants of the field day events at Rhotia Khainam village, who mainly cultivate maize and pigeon pea for home consumption and commercialization. According to him, he had never thought of the vegetable business before. However, after learning from Bakari Hamisi, he is giving the vegetable business idea a second thought. “For the next cropping season, I will give it a try. First, I will cultivate vegetables for my family’s consumption, and second, as a business project. If it is profitable, I will stick with vegetable cultivation for business and, of course, consumption at home.” “I like the African nightshade and African eggplant production. I will look for the seeds and plant”, said Josephat. Josephat Kutubaso, a farmer from Rhotia Khainam village. Photo credit: Eveline Massam/IITA.
“Vegetable farming is important to me; I eat and sell the vegetable I produce.” Rose, a 67-year-old farmer trainer and host of the farmer field day in Qurus village, started using improved vegetable production technologies, intercropped with other crops and livestock farming, in August 2021. Water scarcity affects most farmers in this village; however, Rose never gave up vegetable farming. She used to buy water kilometers away from her house. “I don’t wait for winter to start cultivating the vegetables, and I buy water. Even if it is expensive, I am sure I will get enough income to cover the expenses when I sell,” said Rose Rose sells Ethiopian mustard, African nightshade, and amaranth leaves. According to her, there is a high demand for Ethiopian mustard and African nightshade. She uses the profit from the vegetable business to buy livestock such as goats, which she later sells for profit. “The profit I got has supported me. This year, I managed to pay for running tap water at my home from the profit I obtained from selling vegetables and from the cow project, and now, I am assured of water throughout the year. I plan to grow more vegetable types for home consumption and business,” said Paresso. Ms Rose Paresso at her vegetable field in Qurus villagea day before field day. Photo credit: Inviolate Dominick/WorldVeg.

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