Archive for the ‘Tanzania’ Category


Five Cities and the Organizations That are Making Them Green

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By Jenny Beth Dyess

Currently over half of the world’s 7 billion live in urban areas and according to the United Nations (UN), that number is expected to reach 65 percent by 2050. Dramatic population growth strains food resources and raises the challenge of feeding urban dwellers, particularly the poor. According to the UN, poverty is now growing faster in urban areas than in rural areas—there are currently 1 billion people living in urban slums.

Urban agriculture is cropping up in major cities worldwide. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights five cities and the organizations that are helping these cities become food-sufficient.

1. Dar es Salaam: Over 45 percent of Tanzania’s 2.3 million unemployed people live in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. Studies by the Tanzanian Department of Rural Development and Regional Planning have found that there is significant reduction in poverty among residents who practice urban gardening in Dar es Salaam. In 2011, 68 percent of residents are growing food and raising livestock in the city. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, 90 percent of vegetables and 60 percent of the milk supply are produced locally.

Dar es Salaam in action: The Mikocheni Post Primary Vocational School is training students how to make a sustainable living and grow food in the city. The vocational school has become a learning center for waste separation, composting, and urban farming. The composting chambers are built by the masonry students, the cooking and carpentry students contribute organic waste to the compost, and all students take turns attending the gardens. The school also offers free training seminars on composting to the local community.



Listening to Farmers’ Voices: An Interview with Eugenio Tisselli Vélez

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By Jenna Banning

Sauti ya wakulima (“Voice of the Farmers”) is a collaborative, multimedia database that brings together the knowledge and experience of farmers in the Bagamoyo District in Tanzania. The project was started in March 2011, and is currently being sponsored by the North South Center of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and supported by the Department of Botany of the University of Dar es Salaam and the Z-node research initiative of University of Applied Arts in Zurich.

Farmers who benefit from the Sauti ya wakulima project. (Photo credit: Sauti ya wakulima)

Using a laptop computer and smartphones, five men and five women gather weekly in Chambezi to document their daily practices, record their observations, and interview other farmers. The information collected is then published to a research blog website, which is accessed by the participants during weekly face-to-face meetings. This information is also available to researchers, agricultural officers, and policy-makers, thus helping to shape action around agricultural issues.

Eugenio Tisselli Vélez helped to initiate Sauti ya wakulima, and is currently the project’s general coordinator and IT person. He recently took the time to speak with Nourishing the Planet about Sauti ya wakulima and the lessons the world can learn from these African farmers.

The value of using technology to assist farmers and agricultural practices has only relatively recently gained attention. How did you become involved?

My involvement in Sauti ya wakulima is the fruit of two convergent interests. On one hand, I have always been interested about food and sustainability. I have studied this topic for some time, and I greatly value small-scale agriculture as a feasible and sustainable way for feeding ourselves in the future. On the other hand, during the last 7 years I have collaborated on projects that help groups use mobile phones and the Internet to express their issues and share their experiences. In 2011 there was the possibility of starting a new project with farmers in Tanzania and mobile phones, so I just went for it.



Red Maasai: hardy and disease resistant

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By Graham Salinger

In the developing world up to 1 billion people rely on livestock for food and income. Livestock production is the fastest growing sector in agriculture worldwide and remains an important way to improve diets and increase incomes in the developing world. With the demand for animal foods projected to double in developing countries over the next twenty years, less well-known livestock breeds contain valuable resources that could be vital to food security.  The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that around 1,710 breeds of livestock—21 percent—are at risk of extinction worldwide. As animal breeds are shrinking, indigenous livestock breeds will play a critical role in future food security.

Indigenous to northern Tanzania, south central Kenya, and Uganda, the Red Maasai East African sheep could have a big impact on food security. (Photo Credit: ILRI)

The Red Maasai East African sheep, also called Tanganyika Short-tailed, is a hardy breed of sheep indigenous to northern Tanzania, south central Kenya, and Uganda. The Red Maasai, which are distinct for having red hair instead of wool, are used primarily for their meat.

While other sheep, known as Dorpers, were imported to East Africa from South Africa, Red Maasai have become a proven resource for farmers in recent years because of their resistance to worms and adaptation to semi-arid climates. Red Maasai  are known to be resistant to a number of parasites, making them popular among the local population.  Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have begun cross breeding the Red Maasai with Dorpers in efforts to pass the worm resistance on to other breed. Leyden Baker of ILRI  predicts that farmers could see sales from wool and meat drop by as much as 40 percent as the worms grow resistant to drugs and sheep start to die prematurely.



Trouble on the Land

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Tonight, check out this broadcast of “Dan Rather Reports”, where they travel to Tanzania to investigate the issue of land grabs.

Photo credit: HDNet

With global population set to rise to 9 billion by mid-century and an estimated 90 percent of the world’s arable land already being cultivated, scientists worry that we could be on the brink of a global food crisis. And with the land going for pennies on the dollar, big U.S. investors have started putting money into agriculture in Africa. But, they are not just buying commodities or stock – investors are buying the farmland directly.

These investments have posed the underlying question: Will these massive farms help feed the continent or are they just “land grabs”?

The broadcast will be at 8 PM on HDNet. Click here for more information on the program.

What do you think? Are large-scale land investments a problem or a solution to food insecurity in Africa?

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Saving Tanzania’s Agricultural Sector

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By Abisola Adekoya

Deforestation, soil erosion, degradation of water resources and loss of biodiversity, pose a tremendous threat to Tanzania’s economy. The agricultural sector employs nearly 80 percent of Tanzania’s labor force and generates 42 percent of the nation’s income, making environmentally sustainable practices more important than ever.

Farming is an important sector in Tanzania, but land degradation has put a severe strain on food security there. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Unfortunately, not enough is being done to safeguard Tanzania’s ability to feed itself. Inadequate crop rotation practices, deforestation, and overgrazing are just a few of the causes of land degradation throughout the country. As a result, 40 percent of the Tanzanian population is susceptible to chronic food deficiency.

But it isn’t all bad news. Throughout Tanzania, agricultural experts, farmers, and everyday citizens are working to address these issues and at Nourishing the Planet, we are trying to raise the profile of these efforts.

While traveling throughout sub-Saharan Africa, assessing the state of agricultural innovations from cropping methods to irrigation technology to agricultural policy—with an emphasis on sustainability, diversity, and ecosystem health,  we have uncovered a whole slew of innovations aimed at addressing the continent’s agrarian crisis.



What Works: Microcredit

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By Matt Styslinger

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!

Microcredit is the lending of small loans to the very poor to allow them to start or expand small entrepreneurial projects. In order to bring financing appropriate for the poor to impoverished communities, micro-lending organizations make small loans to women with little or no collateral by doing rural outreach—unlike traditional banks. Poor farmers can use loans to purchase seeds or farming tools and other inputs they need. With the extra profit from bigger harvests, the farmers can pay back the small loans and increase their incomes.

BRAC women’s microfinance meeting in the Korail slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh (Photo credit: Matt Styslinger)

But several micro-financing organizations have been criticized for charging high interest rates and making huge profits that outweigh the benefits seen by the poor families who take their loans. Sam Daley-Harris—founder of the micro-lending group Microcredit Summit Campaign—says he hopes that the future of microcredit will be guided by “redemption” instead of profit. In a July 2010 TEDx talk, Daley-Harris tells the story of an ex-gang leader in Kenya who was approached by a grassroots microfinance organization in Kenya to rebuild a market that his gang had destroyed during the post-election violence in 2007. The organization paid the gang members to build the market during the day and to guard the building materials at night. And once the market was complete the organization provided the gang leader and approximately one-third of the gang members with a loan to create a small business producing small metal cases for children’s school supplies.



Nourishing the Planet TV: Improving Farmer Livelihoods and Wildlife Conservation