Changing fortunes of farmers and empowering women in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania through legumes

20160311_163804While it is the number one cash crop for most farmers in Tanzania, maize is getting a serious run for its money from legumes such as beans, groundnut, and soybean which are becoming commercial crops in the cool and hilly terrain of the Southern Highlands. In addition, legumes are also good for tackling malnutrition and soil infertility as they are a cheap source of protein and are able to fix nitrogen from the air into the soils.

This turn of events is being fueled firstly by many years of collaboration between farmers and Tanzanian and international research institutions,  a range of development partners, and the private sector that has seen the development and dissemination of improved varieties and good agronomic practices enabling farmers to increase their legume yield by up to four times.

These include the government funded Uyole Agricultural Research Institute with technical backstopping from international research organizations such as the ), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),  International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT)and Wageningen University; development NGOs such One Acre Fund and Farm Inputs Promotion Services (FIPS)  and support from the Tanzanian Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

And secondly, a ready market within and in the neighboring countries of Zambia, DR Congo, Malawi, and as far down as South Africa.

On a recent visit to the region, we met a number of farmers whose fortunes have greatly changed and their livelihoods improved as a result of growing legumes.

Daudi Bukuku – from borrowing soap to a respectable bean expert

Daudi Bukuku, accompanied by his wife explaining on the benefits he has reaped from cultivating beans
Daudi Bukuku, accompanied by his wife explaining the benefits he has reaped from cultivating beans

Daudi Bukuku, a charming 38-year-old farmer has seen his life turnaround from at one time not being able to afford to buy soap for his family to being able to purchase and install a biogas plant at his home reducing the drudgery and time spent by his wife looking for firewood. All thanks to beans.

“Before starting this improved farming of beans, I used to harvest 200 kg of beans from an acre. Life was hard and I was struggling to even buy soap for my family. However, everything changed when I was invited for a training at ARI Uyole on improved farming methods for  beans and also received new, improved varieties to try,” Daudi says.

“I learned proper spacing, proper use of fertilizers, and how to harvest and store my crop. I applied everything I had learned and now my yield is up to 700 to 800 kg per acre. My life is so much better as you can see. I have even managed to buy livestock. I have cows, pigs, and chickens. I have also been able to install a biogas plant that converts the waste from my livestock into gas for cooking. I am no longer destroying the environment for firewood. And my wife now respects me as I have made her life easy. She is not struggling with cooking. In twenty minutes, all the food is ready,” he said.

Daudi’s farm acts as a demonstration site to transfer the technologies and knowledge he has gained from the researchers to the surrounding farmers who are inspired with what they see and by the changes he has made in his life. He has also been trained in the production of Quality Declared Seeds and therefore sells seeds of various local and improved varieties to surrounding farmers.

Empowering women and improving marriages

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Witness Sikayange, chair lady of Upendo women’s group shows the bean plants in one of their farms

Upendo women’s group in Mchewe village in Mbeya rural district has also seen beans change their lives and their marriages for the better.

According to the chair of the group, Witness Sikayange, the women came together in 2010 to find ways to work together to improve their lives and those of their families through farming.

“We realized we can earn more money from beans compared to maize as we can harvest up to three times a year compared to once a year for maize. We then approached researchers and government extension workers for training on improved farming methods and for improved varieties. And after that, we started commercial farming of beans.

“We are now living a very comfortable life. We all have improved houses and are taking our children to school. And our marriages are even better. Before we used to have a lot of quarrels with our husbands but since we started making our own money, they now respect us as we are not just sitting begging for everything,” Witness said.

The group is also growing Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) for the various varieties of bean released from Uyole Agricultural Research Institute to sell to surrounding farmers and processing pre-cooked beans for sale.

Spreading the success

Women selling an assortment of beans on the roadside in Mbeya, southern Tanzania
Women selling an assortment of beans on the roadside in Mbeya, southern Tanzania

There are a number of ongoing research initiatives to build on to these successes to  spread the benefits of legumes to more farmers: .

Building capacity of research institutes to develop new legume varieties:  Efforts to provide farmers with better varieties are also continuing through the Tropical Legumes III (TLIII) project funded by the Gates Foundation and  led by ICRISAT.

According to Emmanuel Monyo, the coordinator for this project, TLIII  is seeking to improve the breeding capacity of national agricultural research systems and of  three CG centers―CIAT, IITA, and ICRISAT to provide farmers with improved high yielding legume varieties  to improve the  production and productivity of the crops in Sub-Saharan Africa And Asia. Its target is to improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of smallholder farmers through increased legume production.

N2africa – adding  soybean to the mix:  The ‘Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa,’ project,  in short  N2Africa, led by Wageningen University in the Netherlands is promoting the production of soybean in the area and introducing  the use of seed innoculants and improved farming methods such as higher density planting and use of appropriate fertilizers both organic, inorganic and bio-fertilizers.

According to Fred Baijukya, an agronomist at IITA’s Eastern Africa hub  and N2Africa Country Coordinator for Tanzania, the project is currently conducting trials of new improved soybean varieties together with ARI-Uyole and lead farmers to identify the best-performing ones as well as have farmers preferred traits to recommend for release.

Freddy Baijukya, IITA Agronomist and N2Africa Country Coordinator explaining to the group on the long-term trials
Freddy Baijukya, IITA Agronomist and N2Africa Country Coordinator explaining to the group on the long-term trials

The project is also conducting agronomic trials looking into the best agronomic practices that will ensure the farmers get the highest returns including time of planting, spacing and use of fertilizers.

Dissemination of technologies: One challenge that faces research organizations is the wide-scale dissemination and scaling out of new technologies to reach many farmers. Two NGOs―One Acre Fund and Farm Inputs Promotion (FIPs)―are assisting in these efforts. FIPs is providing farmer with small packs of different inputs including seeds for improved varieties and fertilizers.  For testing and adoption of those they like and also providing advice on good agronomic practices. FIPS also links farmers to the agro-dealers and private sector companies to ensure supply of the inputs.

One Acre Fund on the other hand is providing loans to farmers to purchase seeds and other inputs such as fertilizers for their farms and training them on better farming practices.

The two development partners are now keen to work with the research teams to help in the dissemination of new legume varieties released from research institutes as well as inputs such as rhizobium and legume fertilizers.

Upendo Women Group holding small packets of inputs from FIPS to test on their farms and decide if they would like to usethem the next growin season.
Upendo Womens Group holding small packets of inputs from FIPS for testing on their farms

These successful cases show the clear link between research and development, says Jean Claude Rubyongo, a seed system specialist from CIAT and who is also one of the researchers who has been conducting research on bean in the country for many years parenting with ARI-Uyole.

If the successes achieved by Daudi and Upendo can be replicated throughout the region, then clearly the region will transform itself and make a big dent in the efforts to support the country to industrialize and reduce poverty and malnutrition.

A look at IITA’s gender journey

Although IITA has made great progress in integrating gender in its research there is still a lot that needs to be done to transform the Institute to a lead center in gender research and development outcomes. This was said by Dr Amare Tegbaru, IITA’s Gender Specialist, Unit Head and Humidtropics Gender Research Coordinator, during a seminar presentation entitled Engaging in IITA Gender Research aiming at enhancing equity and social inclusion in African Agriculture and Rural Development, held at IITA- Tanzania on 18 June 2015.

“When I joined IITA, gender was not a priority. We did not have any concerted efforts to integrate gender into our Research for Development.  There was some gender research going on but it was mainly donor-driven and based on individual interpretations of what that meant,” Dr Tegbaru said. “It did lead to some successful outcomes and outputs which were strengthened and built upon by the CRPs (CGIAR Research Programs) which stressed gender research.”

“Currently, Dr Tegbaru said, “IITA’s is ensuring that all its research programs are gendered so that all technologies generated are able to benefit women and other vulnerable people. The Institute also has a gender policy in place and is emphasizing training on gender mainstreaming in addition to hiring more gender experts.”

Why gender research?

“Gender is not just about numbers. It’s also about voices and access to assets and improvement in decision-making. IITA’s vision to reduce hunger and poverty and malnutrition through increasing the yield of important staples can happen only when gender concerns are taken seriously. Our quest to enhance efficiencies and improve nutrition in the continent will not happen if we do not understand the context. We also need to know how our efforts will affect women and how they will lead to gender equity between men and women and other marginalized groups,” he said.

Dr Tegbaru speaking during the seminar.
Dr Tegbaru speaking during the seminar.

Dr Tegbaru gave examples of some of the initiatives he had been involved in at the Institute that had integrated gender into their research agenda for greater impact. These included developing a gender strategy for the Humidtropics to address gender issues in systems thinking. “The strategy is distinct in that it is guided by the social science definition of gender as one among other  systems of classification, such as those based on age, generation, kinship, race, ethnicity, religion, and social class. It emphasizes social inclusiveness of marginalized and minority ethnic groups and goes beyond gender responsive/adoptive research approach to a transformative research approach that contributes to change in power relations and the empowerment of women.”

Addressing Gender norms constraints

According to Dr Tegbaru, innovations in agriculture and Natural Resource Management (NRM) are constrained by existing gender norms which legitimize gender inequality in the control over and use of productive assets and resources. This holds back development.

On the other hand, more gender-equitable control over and use of resources leads to higher levels of poverty reduction, food security, nutrition, and sustainable resource use.

He gave examples of the Making agricultural innovations work for smallholder farmers affected by HIV and AIDS, in short, the MIRACLE project. This was implemented in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, and sought to address the immediate health and nutritional needs of people living with HIV and AIDS. But in the end, the women who were marginalized and excluded owing to their HIV/status rose up in the community to become change agents and some were even elected as community leaders.

“The project and its innovation platform partners contributed to more transformational changes in the form of a reduction of the stigma and improvements in social inclusion. We are now trying to understand how the project transcended from addressing the immediate health and nutritional security needs and unlocked the hidden and suppressed potential of women. “Backed by measurable evidence we are working to produce the stories of these women. They had become change agents and innovative champions serving their communities as lead farmers, elected community leaders, and some of them in the Training of Trainers on post-harvest processing and value addition,” Dr Tegbaru said. In conclusion he said there was still a lot of work ahead to be done to consolidate these gains and strengthen gender research at IITA. This in turn would ensure there
was a sustained analytical capacity
that could effectively translate IITA’s science-based outcomes of change not only in terms of income and improved nutrition but also in enabling the empowerment of women and other marginalized groups in decision-making and change in social and power relations.

HRS raises awareness on harassment and discrimination policy

IITA’s Human Resources Services (HRS) had conducted seminars for all staff on the Institute’s harassment and discrimination policy on 26 and 27 May at the IITA Conference Center in line with the CGIAR’s campaign on gender and diversity.

The policy was launched last June 2014. Mrs Lilian Mendoza, Head of HRS, explained that the purpose of the seminar was to raise awareness on the existence of the policy, IITA’s stance on the subject, what constitutes harassment and discrimination, and how victims can get help in IITA.

IITA is a global organization and has 1000 nationally recruited staff and 200 international staff. With this multiracial workforce IITA is committed to providing a work environment that respects the dignity of individuals and is free of all forms of discrimination based on ethnic, social, or political background, color, nationality, religion, gender, disability, or sexual preference, and devoid of both general and sexual harassment.

Mrs Mendoza address members of staff during the awareness seminar.
Mrs Mendoza address members of staff during the awareness seminar.

It is imperative to note that diversity skills are critical to IITA’s effectiveness in working with partner organizations and the end-users of the knowledge and technologies developed in meeting our fundamental objectives of fighting hunger and poverty.

At the seminar, staff members were encouraged to report any cases of harassment and discrimination and were assured of their privacy and protection against reprisal.

Dream it, work hard, and you will Make it Happen

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The tough journeys

“When I went to the United States, to do my Masters, I was the only black person in my class, the only female, and the only foreigner. On top of that I had two small children. It was not easy. However, with determination and hard work, I was able to do exceedingly well in my studies, ” says Dr Mary Mgonja, the Head of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Dr Mary Mgonja, Head of AGRA in Tanzania sharing her journey to becoming a scientist. Next to her is Dr Rose Shayo from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam.
Dr Mary Mgonja, Head of AGRA in Tanzania sharing her journey to becoming a scientist. Next to her is Dr Rose Shayo from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam.

Dr Mgonja was sharing her journey on becoming a successful scientist as part of a panel discussion organized to mark this year’s International Women’s Day held at IITA offices in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The event dubbed “#Make It Happen for Women in Science” was in line with this year’s theme of the day “Make It Happen.”

The panel discussion brought together female researchers in Tanzania working in diverse research fields and at various levels of their career―those starting out and those at their peak to discuss and share their stories, successes, and challenges before an audience of IITA researchers and partners, the media, and aspiring young scientists drawn from surrounding secondary schools.

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The panel members: From left, Dr Francesca Nelson, Dr Costancia Rugumaru, Ms Mary Maganga, Dr Rose Shayo, Dr Mary Mgonja and Ms Eddah Mushi.

In addition to Dr Mgonja, the other panelists were Dr Costancia Rugumaru, Dean, Faculty of Science at the University of Dar es Salaam, School of Education; Dr Francesca Nelson, Senior Food Security Specialist, IITA; and Mary Maganga  and Edda Mushi, both Research Supervisors at IITA. The session was facilitated by Dr Rose Shayo, a Senior Lecturer at IDS.

All the panelists shared on the various challenges they had undergone and the lessons they had learned along the way and offered words of encouragement to potential female scientists on the theme that kept repeating itself―hard work.

“In all the places you will work, be yourself, respect your superiors, and do your job well,” said Dr Regina Kapinga who will be joining IITA as Head of Advocacy and Resource Mobilization from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr Kapinga shared her journey from a simple village girl to working as a Senior Program Officer with the Gates Foundation.

Dr Kapinga
Dr Kapinga shares on her journey from a simple village girl to an international researcher in Seattle, USA as the facilitator, Dr Dr Rose Shayo looks on.

“One of my biggest challenges was the lack of facilities to study science in my high school. We did not have laboratories and equipment, however, I persevered, did well, and processed to the university to pursue my degree in agronomy. At the university, we were very few students as many women said agronomy was very hard,” added Edda Mushi, on her challenges in school.

Eddah Mushi, a young researchershares on her short but challenging journey to becoming a researcher at IITA
Eddah Mushi, a young researchershares on her short but challenging journey to becoming a researcher at IITA

Dr Franscesca Nelson focused on the importance of tackling existing social conventions which were disadvantageous to women. These included issues such as violence against women and discrimination of women that were deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and social norms.

???????????????????????????????She also noted it was important for female researchers to use their knowledge and skills to find solutions to the challenges faced by poor rural women. For example, developing labor saving equipment and tackling inequalities.

Gender at IITA

Dr Manyong welcoming  the participants
Dr Manyong welcoming the participants

While officially opening the event Dr Victor Manyong, IITA Director for Eastern Africa briefed participants on gender issues at the Institute. He said gender was very important to IITA as an international research organization whose goal was to tackle hunger, poverty, and malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We cannot address poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in Africa without understanding and addressing the constraints faced by women farmers who in most communities provide the majority of agricultural labor on the family farm, and process food for markets as well as family consumption.  In some communities, they are not allowed to own land or other agricultural assets and they have no say in any decisions on farm incomes and activities,” he said.

Dr Manyong added, “It’s therefore important to factor these considerations in our research-for-development interventions to ensure they benefit all Africans, women and men alike.”

Inspired

Science students from near by school listen keenly
A science student from a near by school listens keenly

The students from nearby secondary schools invited to the  event appreciated the opportunity to meet and hear from successful researchers and said  they had been  very inspired.

“We were very happy to meet all these senior successful scientists who have motivated us and showed us that science can be for girls. We do not have many such opportunities and wish there would be more of such forums and even reach out to more girls including those in the rural areas,” said Glory Venance, a form 5 student at Jangwani Secondary School.  “However, in our school similar to what one of the panelists shared, we do not have good facilities and equipment. Therefore even as we are being motivated to take up science, the government should also look into this challenge.”

The event was declared to be successful in many ways and the participants urged IITA and its partner institutions to find ways to organize other such forums to motivate girls to take up science and encourage the young scientists starting their careers.

The event was organized by the IITA in collaboration with AGRA and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Dar es Salaam.