Tanzania farmers save on labor and cut food losses

For 56-year old Yohana Isaya, a farmer from Ndurungumi village in Kongwa District, central Tanzania, maize farming was always a losing game: a stressful, but extremely important subsistence venture. He has to do something or how else would he feed his family?

To begin with, shelling the maize harvest from his 5-acre plot was a back-breaking job which he, together with his wife and their five children couldn’t do on their own. They needed the help of at least eight extra pairs of hands to finish the job in three days. Isaya would then use the traditional “Kilindo”, a small cylindrical traditional bin made from peeled miombo tree barks, to store his maize to be used sparingly for feeding his family.   Most of the time, nearly half the stored maize would be moldy and inedible.

Farmers at Ndurungumi use PICS bag for maize storage.
Farmers at Ndurungumi use PICS bag for
maize storage.

What he didn’t know then was that there was a better way. There were new and efficient postharvest technologies developed by IITA’s AfricaRISING Project that could change the zero sum game that maize farming and storage had become to a winning one.

“Before joining the Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project activities and training, I was using a raised wood platform for shelling maize. Usually it took me up to three days to shell 700 kilograms. We sometimes had to ask for help from our neighbors whom we’d have to compensate by providing food, local brew, and sometimes cash. But, after the project trained us on using simple and affordable machines like the motorized maize sheller, the same kind of work now takes only 30 minutes,” explained Yohana.

But it is not only the maize shelling machines that the farmers have been introduced to. The postharvest training have also focused on a complete package of technologies including collapsible drier cases capable of drying 400 kg maize in five hours in the sun, and storage using hermetic bags. As a result, farmers have been able to reduce the
amount of time spent on crop processing, reduced food losses, and improved food security in their households.

The Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project aims to scale the use of postharvest technologies among 47,000 Tanzanian smallholder farmers.

Farmers shelling maize at Yohana Isaya’s farm during the postharvest training organized by the Africa RISING–NAFAKA scaling project in Ndurugumi village.
Farmers shelling maize at Yohana Isaya’s farm during the postharvest training organized by the Africa RISING–NAFAKA scaling project in Ndurugumi village.

Recent studies in the semi-arid areas of northern and central Tanzania have shown that 20−40% of grains and legumes are usually lost during harvesting; a further 5% is lost during shelling−even when the amount of grains shelled per day was very small due to drudgery and the lack of improved shelling technologies; a further 15−25% is lost during storage.

Practices like drying crops on the bare floor also often lead to contamination and storage when the moisture content is high leading to deterioration. These challenges are what drove the project to introduce postharvest technologies to the Tanzanian farmers.

Africa RISING ESA external review team praise research; call for improved efforts to ensure adoption of technologies

The IITA-commissioned external review of Africa RISING East and Southern Africa project concluded on 16 March after nearly 5 weeks of literature review, project stakeholder interviews, and field visits to project sites in Tanzania and Malawi. While presenting their preliminary report at the IITA Malawi offices, the team of reviewers expressed satisfaction with the majority of the ongoing research and also called for improvements in the integrated systems research approach by partners involved as well as the strengthening of the innovation/R4D platforms facilitated by the project.

Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon (right), Jim Ellis-Jones (second right), Regis Chikowo (center) and Colletah Chitsike (center left) view a mother trial for climbing bean varieties in Linthipe, Malawi. Jim and Colletah were part of the team of three reviewers.
Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon (right), Jim Ellis-Jones (second right), Regis Chikowo (center) and Colletah Chitsike (center left) view a mother trial for climbing bean varieties in Linthipe, Malawi. Jim and Colletah were part of the team of three reviewers.

The reviewers recommended a revision of some of the indicators in the project document, an update of the Africa RISING ESA logframe, a project-wide socioeconomic analysis of the technology combinations being tested and promoted as well as a stronger consideration of the gender component in all ongoing research activities.

“Great progress is being made in the project especially with the biophysical research work being implemented by the scientists. Of course there are areas for improvement that we have pointed out but really it has been impressive seeing, for example, the yield increases that farmers have testified to farmers introduced by the project. We think that the next step should now be to carry out an economic analysis of the technologies being promoted to ensure that they are adoptable by farmers,” noted the lead reviewer, Jim Ellis-Jones.

Another member of the review team, Colletah Chitsike gave further encouraging comments: “This project is breaking new ground in turning research into use and you have started very well. It will grow and spread,” she said.

The external mid-term review had been commissioned by IITA which leads  the two Africa RISING projects in East/Southern Africa and West Africa with the objective of assessing the conformity of the implemented work with the research framework developed, evaluating how the project was fostering learning by the stakeholders, assessing partnerships and project management. Results are expected to feed into the donor-commissioned program review later this year and the planning for the next project phase.

“This has been a very intense review,” noted Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, Africa RISING Coordinator for West Africa and East and Southern Africa, at the end of the debriefing meeting. “Thanks to everybody for being available and making contributions. We will look at the recommendations with careful interest, consult with the project donor, USAID, and see what adjustments are possible. Thank you, reviewers, for taking up the task. Your knowledge of the region was very helpful. We had a very capable team.” The final review report is expected to be ready by the end of April 2015. A corresponding review of the  Africa RISING West Africa Project was conducted in September/October 2014 and the final report has been published.

Africa RISING Project leads take part in Sustainable Intensification Cross-Learning Tour

Technical leads of the Africa RISING project in West Africa, East and Southern Africa, and Ethiopia, took part in a cross-learning tour on sustainable intensification from 28 January to 3 February. The event was organized by donors funding projects on sustainable intensification in Africa and South Asia. A diverse and multi-institutional group of 50 participants attended the event and shared perspectives on sustainable intensification in African and South Asian contexts. They came from USAID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID’s Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, the Innovation Lab for Small-scale Irrigation, CIMMYT, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Participants visited sites of CSISA in Bihar and Odisha States of India. IITA scientists who took part in the event were Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, Mateete Bekunda, and Asamoah Larbi.

Africa RISING scientists Mateete Bekunda from IITA (right) and Kindu Mekonnen from ILRI (left) look at a mechanical seeder manufactured for use by small-scale farmers in India. The mechanical seeder is manufactured through a public-private partnership between the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and the private sector.
Africa RISING scientists Mateete Bekunda from IITA (right) and Kindu Mekonnen from ILRI (left) look at a mechanical seeder manufactured for use by small-scale farmers in India. The mechanical seeder is manufactured through a public-private partnership between the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and the private sector.

“Taking part in the cross-learning event provided insights for us on the work of our colleagues. We could clearly see how government’s subsidies help the adoption of technologies. Although we cannot change government policies in Africa, we have seen a lot of affordable and feasible options for the mechanization of smallholder farm activities which we can introduce in Africa and which will be beneficial to small-scale farmers. Examples are  the use of two-wheel tractors for line sowing and fertilizer application, fodder choppers, and axial flow pumps. We invite our CSISA colleagues to come to visit our activities and give us advice, based on their advanced experience in India,” said Dr Hoeschle-Zeledon, Project Coordinator for Africa RISING West Africa and East and Southern Africa.

Prof Mateete Bekunda, Chief Scientist of the Africa RISING East and Southern Africa Project, noted that such exchanges between sister projects in different parts of the world are beneficial for partners engaged in sustainable intensification projects to learn from each others’ experiences , refine project implementation, and consequently improve the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers.

As part of the US government’s Feed the Future (FtF) initiative to address hunger and food security in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, USAID is supporting three multi-stakeholder agricultural research projects under the umbrella program Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation – Africa RISING. This is designed to sustainably intensify key African farming systems in West, East, and Southern Africa (led by IITA) and in the Ethiopian Highlands (led by ILRI).

Use fertilizer to boost yield: key message during Babati Farmers’ Field Days

Inorganic fertilizers have a bad name in Babati and are accused of ruining soils. Therefore dispelling this myth and urging farmers to use them to boost their production was one of the key messages at a Farmers’ Field Day held in Babati District , 21 – 22 May 2014.

The guest of honor at the event Hon. Cade Mshamu, the Babati District’s Administrative Secretary, appreciated all the efforts by the researchers and partners of the Africa RISING program and encouraged farmers to make the best use of the new technologies being demonstrated to better their future.

Cade Mshamu, the Babati district's administrative secretary speaks to a farmer, taking part in the project's demonstrations, and his family
Cade Mshamu, the Babati district’s administrative secretary speaks to a farmer, taking part in the project’s demonstrations, and his family

He especially urged the farmers to stop holding on to their misguided belief that using fertilizers destroys soils and makes them unproductive.
“We have seen and heard from farmers in Seleto who have used the fertilizer as recommended by the project and have increased their yield to 5.2 tons of maize compared to only 2 tons by those who did not use fertilizer,” he said. “Therefore you need to disregard the myths on the use of fertilizer since they have been proven wrong by our agricultural scientists. And we have observed from the demonstration plots that fertilizer enriches the soil with nutrients and makes it more productive.”

Elizabeth Stanislaus sharing on her farming experience with the Africa RISING project
Elizabeth Stanislaus sharing on her farming experience with the Africa RISING project

Elizabeth Stanislaus, a mother of three and one of the farmers on whose farms trials to compare the new improved varieties and better farming methods are being conducted, has tested the use of fertilizer and improved seeds on a part of her farm. She reported she has seen a marked difference in the yield compared to her usual way of planting using manure only.
“I have tried out one of the new improved varieties, SC 627 with Minjingu Mazo fertilizer. The yields were very good. And it was profitable.”
pauloPaulo Johackim, another farmer from Sabilo village, who has used fertilizers and improved seeds also remarked on the difference: “In January I planted one of the new improved varieties, Pioneer 532 and applied DAP (Diammonium phosphate) fertilizer. The results are impressive. I advise my fellow farmers to engage in modern farming methods.

However he also pointed out the cost implications of fertilizers. “DAP and Minjingu Mazao are more expensive and this sometimes discourages farmers from adopting them,” said Mr Paulo Johackim; “ I therefore request the government to look into the cost of the seeds and other farming resources, since the expenses are high and discouraging to most farmers.”

On the heels of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND)

Dr. MacDonald Bright Jumbo from CIMMYT, Kenya, briefed the farmers on the MLND and its symptoms.
Dr.  Jumbo explaining to farmers the MLND and its symptoms.

Arica RISING researchers are also looking into the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, a viral disease that is caused by maize chlorotic mottled virus (MCMV) and sugarcane mosaic virus (SMV). The disease has become a threat to Seleto and Mafuta villages of Babati region. It can cause up to 100% yield loss.

During the field day Dr MacDonald Bright Jumbo from CIMMYT, Kenya, briefed the farmers on the disease and its symptoms. He said the project was conducting trials for different varieties to identify those with resistance to the diseases.

He however urged the farmers to be vigilant and to notify agricultural officers as early as possible if they detected the disease on their farms to stop it from spreading.

The participants at the event included Professor Bekunda Mateete (IITA), Dr. Lyimo Stephen (SARI) , Dr. Kotu Bekelee (IITA), Dr. MacDonald Jumbo (CIMMITY), District Officers, Extension Officers and farmers. Also present were journalists from various media houses in the country.

Story by Eveline Massam