Innovations in Agriculture
As Tanzania’s farming sector begins to shift to producing various other goods, the innovations in agriculture that enhance the productivity of the farming process are quick to follow.

Recently, the country has witnessed a transformation in its agriculture sector, especially among its smallholder farmers, after realizing the extraordinary benefits of sesame seeds.

Being both drought-resistant and considerably more resilient to climate change effects than other products, sesame has become Tanzania’s new popular food output. However, with these benefits also comes a drawback.

Though farming is essential and necessary for the well-being of the country’s citizens, the activity can sometimes be tedious and tiresome.

Sesame farming in Tanzania is labor-intensive and prolonged work, traditionally done completely by hand. Bending down, creating centimeter deep holes, dropping seeds and walking a great distance can lead to, among other things, back pain and fatigue.

That is where the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” rang true.

In response to complaints from fellow farmers, Constantine Martin from the Babati District created an innovation in agriculture that has since been welcomed and implemented by all.

Named the “Coasta Planter,” it is simply a hand-pushed machine designed to plant sesame seeds by digging a small hole and dropping seeds in, without the need of a person constantly bending down to do so.

Additionally, the Coasta Planter is also more efficient than humans, planting the seeds at a higher rate of speed. This significant upscale in food production and potential output could lead to the strengthening of Tanzania’s food security.

Agriculture is an essential part of Tanzania’s economy, especially in terms of food production and employment generation. As of 2015, agriculture accounts for 30.5 percent of the country’s GDP and employs 75 percent of the total labor force.

To further improve and promote the importance and longevity of the agriculture sector in Tanzania, initiatives such as Feed the Future have invested in the people and the country, specifically focusing on products including rice and maize.

With this new invention in hand, farmers all across the country should expect an easier workload in the future as further clever innovations in agriculture continue to be thought of and created, enhancing Tanzania’s food security one seed at a time.

Jordan J. Phelan

Communal land rights
The Nature Conservancy, the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) and the Northern Tanzania Rangelands Initiative (NTRI) have teamed up to find a solution for tackling communal land rights in Tanzania. They have come up with an initiative called the Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO).

The Nature Conservancy states that the “CCRO is a form of customary land tenure within a larger village holding. This is an effective tool for strengthening community land rights and securing communal lands.”

However, UCRT has updated the concept of land grants to a more secure communal forum where the land can be used by the community for several other purposes such as farming, grazing and foresting to name a few.

Historically, assigning land rights has been a topic of major concern throughout the world. According to the Nature Conservancy, 2.5 billion people “depend on land and natural resources that are held, used or managed collectively.”

This number includes 370 million indigenous peoples. These communities live on half the world’s surface but have recognized rights to only 10 percent of the land.

When the people who need this land lack any legal right to them, they are extremely susceptible to losing access to the very thing they need to survive.

Edward Loure, a program director at UCRT, has been working to give the people of northern Tanzania a voice in the communal community and to help reduce conflict. The main solution that has been put into place is the CCRO.

In its first year, the CCROs secured approximately 22,000 hectares of collective lands. By the end of 2015, the amount had reached 90,000 hectares with 200,000 more hectares hoped to be acquired by the end of 2017.

According to UCRT, “most traditional pastoralist and hunter-gatherer communities are currently at great risk of loosing (sic) their land and resources due to progressive land encroachment and lack of representation in modern Tanzania.” UCRT works to empower these communities.

Land acquired by hunter-gatherers or pastoralists often seems to be unused because the group is moving with the seasons or with the grazing patterns of the herd. This makes them particularly vulnerable to losing their land.

CCRO not only promotes equality in these communities but it also protects the rights of vulnerable people “who share and depend on communal land and its resources.”

Another problem in Tanzania that the CCRO works on solving is wildlife migration as 60 percent of African wildlife drift throughout the year. To that end, the NTRI has partnered with the Community Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) to help set up the corridors where livestock is not allowed during migration seasons.

As a result, the villages who are CWMA compliant are in a good position to negotiate with tourists during the migration seasons.

Recently, Edward Loure won The Goldman Environmental Prize for 2016 for Africa. The prize honors grassroots heroes who “take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

The winners of the prize encourage sustainability, protect endangered ecosystems or species, combat destructive development and fight for environmental justice and policies.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

3D Printing
Reflow, an Amsterdam-based startup, is using 3D printing technology to transform plastic waste into a valuable resource. According to its website, the company converts recyclable plastic into ethical, high-quality 3D print filament, which is the material needed for 3D printing.

Every day, millions of waste collectors in developing countries earn $2 a day sifting through endless masses of garbage. In the developing world, cities are experiencing rapid urbanization, brought about by fast population growth and high immigration rates.

Rapid urban expansion, combined with a lack of infrastructure, leads to the buildup of open waste in low-income neighborhoods, slums and squatter areas. The result is informal waste collection by members of those communities.

Reflow works directly with waste collectors to convert the plastic they pick up into high-quality print filament. The company increases the value of the recycled plastic by up to 20 times, increasing the waste collectors incomes so they earn the wage they deserve.

According to Kickstarter, the Reflow process begins by carefully selecting the plastic needed to make the print filament. The startup then works with local waste collectors to clean PET bottles and shred them into tiny, 6-millimeter plastic flakes.

PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, which is used in common plastic packaging such as water bottles, soft drink packaging and cosmetics bottles. A report by The Planet Bottle states that PET is popular for its strength, thermo-stability and transparency, while being inexpensive, lightweight and recyclable.

Once the plastic has been shredded, Reflow uses a low-cost, open-source extruder to convert the plastic flakes into 3D print filament. The company partners with universities and their corporate partners to test the filament, before shipping it in recyclable packaging to individuals who use the product for 3D printing.

Of note, 25 percent of Reflow’s profits are invested in local manufacturing and $3 from each roll of filament contributes to waste collectors’ incomes.

According to the Huffington Post, 120 plastic bottles can produce one kilogram of filament. However, Reflow said that the process is not so much about the final product as it is about empowering individual waste collectors and improving their lives.

Typically, waste collectors have to deal with unfair pricing from middle men in the recycling process. Their working conditions are extremely poor, as they collect garbage in toxic areas and must wade through unhygienic environments to find the appropriate waste to recycle.

Reflow also aims to provide the waste collectors with necessary tools to pick up and carry the plastic, so their health is not at risk.

The company is launching their project in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. According to a report by the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers, there are approximately 1,267 waste pickers in Dar es Salaam, who collect, move and trade 20 kilograms of recyclable waste per day. Most waste pickers that were interviewed for the report stated that the nature of their work was “exhausting”, “dangerous” and “unhealthy.”

“Of fifty waste pickers interviewed, forty-three reported that they had been ‘injured or admitted to a health facility’ in the past twelve months due to their recycling operations,” said the report.

So far, Reflow has raised €2,943 of their €25,000 goal (US$ 28,520). “We know this technology is going to transform our societies and lives,” said the company in a statement on their website. “We want to harness this innovation to create a better and more equal world. We want to ensure the revolution is shared.”

Michelle Simon

Farm Africa
Farm Africa is the top agency under the Food Trade project, a U.K. government-funded food crop trade enhancement program that assists farmers in Uganda and Tanzania to increase their household incomes and boost their living standards.

The undertaking is supported by a £3 million ($4.2 million) grant from the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID). The Guardian reports that the project will benefit 70,000 Ugandan and Tanzanian farmers, in part by expanding their export markets.

According to Farm Africa, 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated land suitable for crop production is in Africa. There is an enormous possibility for development in the continent that would allow for self-sustaining food production.

In the last year, Farm Africa has impacted 1.4 million people in eastern Africa. The organization has incorporated contemporary systems and methods to help farmers “grow more, sell more and sell for more.”

The Farm Africa project will assist Ugandan and Tanzanian farmers manage and supply exceptional quality grain and market it for maximum profit.

The project will help 12,000 farmers in the Teso sub-region, including 2,000 members of the Katine Joint Farmers’ Co-operative Society (Kajofaco). This will allow more isolated farmers to connect with high paying buyers, particularly in Kenya.

The Kenyan market has a large population and booming economy which is key for the success of Ugandan and Tanzanian farmers. Additionally, Kenya, for the most part, is a food importer due to its mediocre crop growing capabilities.

Farm Africa, through the Food Trade project, will train farmers in Katine which is one of the poorest areas is in Uganda. The agency will provide guidance for improving methods of harvesting, drying, sorting and grading grain in three staple crops: maize, rice and beans.

Steve Ball, Farm Africa’s county director in Tanzania said to The Guardian: “By incentivizing farmers to grow bigger surpluses and making regional trade easy and affordable, this project will help lift tens of thousands of grain farmers in Tanzania and Uganda out of poverty as well as taking eastern Africa a step closer to agricultural self-sufficiency.”

Heidi Grossman

Photo: Flickr

end hunger in AfricaWhen Sirjeff Dennis was 17, he founded Jefren Agrifriend Solutions, a poultry business working to end hunger in Africa and eradicate poverty. A student at the University of Dar es Salaam, Dennis uses his leadership and knowledge to successfully run the organization while finding innovative ways to end hunger-related hardships.

Jefren Agrifriend Solutions works by providing communities in Tanzania with affordable chicken meat and eggs. Dennis was inspired at a young age to counter hunger after witnessing the death of a neighbor’s seven-month-old son, who passed from malnutrition.

Dennis founded the organization by saving the money he earned from joining Tanzania’s compulsory national service’s training program.

He earned $20 a month and was in the program for three months. Instead of spending the money on clothes or personal items, he put it away in hopes of starting the business.

At the end of the program, he used the money to purchase chickens and raise chickens in his yard.

Dennis was soon accepted into a local university and had received a small loan from the government to pay for school. The young entrepreneur used as little money from the loan as he could, living off of mostly bread and water for several months, so he could save for the business.

Thanks to his sacrifice, the business now produces roughly 2,000 chickens a month. Dennis markets poultry to informal traders, who sell the produce at nearly half the price of their competitors. This allows locals to purchase a good supply of food at a more affordable price.

Although the company has helped improve the slums of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania significantly, there have been many issues Dennis was forced to overcome.

When he was 18, he left the business in the hands of an employee while he studied at university. Unfortunately, the chickens went unattended and all died from a severe disease when Dennis returned from school.

However, he quickly overcame the situation by raising money to purchase more chickens. Now, nearly four years later, the company continues to thrive in Tanzania.

Last year, Dennis became one of 12 finalists for the Anzisha Prize, Africa’s premier award for young entrepreneurs.

He believes poultry and vegetable farming is the start of a more nutritional and profitable future in the fight to end hunger in Africa.

Julia Hettiger

Photo: Flickr

Poverty FreeEmerge Poverty Free is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty by enabling communities to take control of their own needs.

In partnership with a local organization, Sustainable Investments and Development Initiatives (SIDI), Emerge Poverty Free has begun a project in Mwanza, Tanzania to empower hundreds of fisher-women through economic and environmental conservation projects.

Tanzania is known as one of the world’s least developed rural countries, where 40 percent of the adult population earns less than 1.25 USD per day.

The goals of the Sustainable Fisheries in Mwanza project are to enable women to become self-sustainable while also improving the environment of Lake Victoria that is threatened by pollution and excessive fishing.

To reach these goals, 250 women from the Kabusuli village of the Sengerema District in Mwanza have been trained in fish farming and healthcare. The group hopes to plant 10,000 trees along the Lake Victoria shore at the end of the project.

These trees will eventually be used to provide local families with wood for cooking and building materials to reduce deforestation.

Though a fairly new project, Emerge Poverty Free reports that women involved in the group have already doubled their daily incomes by selling fish within their communities during the past 10 months.

According to Aneta Dodo, secretary of the Sustainable Fisheries in Mwanza, the group has planted 6,000 trees, created five fish ponds for domestic use and local sale that have brought high profits — and a portion of the money earned by these women funded school tuition for 30 local children.

“We have gained a lot of expertise in finance issues, fishing, environmental conservation and we are able to do most things by ourselves without having to depend on men,” she said.

Dodo reports that the group was able to secure low-interest rate loans after the group started a saving and credit facility in their village of Kabusuli.

Despite these successes, the women of Tanzania still face many economic challenges — girls have higher education drop-out rates than young men and have limited access to medical care and employment, according to Emerge Poverty Free.

Group member Asha Malando does not see these statistics as an end-all and believes that women are still capable of empowering themselves by becoming involved in community projects.

“The government cannot do everything for us. We just have to use some of these organizations well so we can develop ourselves.”

Coleta Masesla, a female fisher in Tanzania, is now able to run her own food kiosk that provides income for her children’s education and home essentials like food and clothing.

“These women have become great role models in their community as they have proved that everything is possible. Most of them had lost hope but right now they are the ones running their families. We at Emerge Poverty Free are pleased by the attitude they have shown toward lifting themselves out of poverty,” stated Jeremey Horner, Emerge Poverty Free CEO.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Emerge Poverty Free 1, Emerge Poverty Free 2, IPP Media, The Daily News
Photo: Flickr

Asante_SanaOn Dec. 11, 2014, the nonprofit organization Asante Sana for Education Inc., or ASFE, was honored by the remote village of Mnindi in Tanzania and the country’s government for the construction of a primary school.

The ceremony was attended by the Founder of ASFE Ashley Washburn, Parliament member Dr. Shukuru Kawambwa, Tanzania’s Minister of Education and other government officials.

Asante Sana means “thank you very much” in Swahili and Washburn was inspired to create ASFE in 2010 after she volunteered at pre-primary and primary schools in Tanzania. “Day to day it seems like it’s taking so long and year to year so much has gone on,” Washburn said.

Despite being a fairly young non-governmental organization, the latest primary school was the second school built by ASFE and its donors. The first primary school was built in June 2011, in a village called Mogogoni. Prior to the construction of that school, Mogogoni children had to walk five miles to get their education.

In addition to building schools in impoverished communities, ASFE creates a unique learning environment for students in rural Tanzania to connect with students in the United States using Skype.

“One of the first Skypes we ever did was to connect my Tanzanian students with my other passion which is the Covenant Preparatory School in Hartford, Connecticut,” Washburn said. “I thought that these kids and my kids over here have so much in common and I wanted them to meet each other, not just through letters, so we tried Skype.”

The Student Empowering Students program for secondary students works to teach Tanzanian students English communication, writing and hands-on computer skills. These traits are especially valuable in an environment such as rural Tanzania, where electricity and access to the internet are limited.

Members of the program are provided funding for tuition and school supplies, as well as medical expenses, in order to minimize the impact of factors that prevent poor children from getting an education.

The Parents Empowering Parents Group was established to ensure that students of the program get after school support in their studies from parents and guardians. Members also take the opportunity to use ASFE to improve their own English and computer skills.

“The last five years have been challenging, frustrating, joyful and have made me so proud,” Washburn said.

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: HartfortCourant, ASFE
Photo: Pixabay

Tanzania Red Cross Society Uses Mobile Phones to Aid Disaster Relief- BORGEN
Mobile phone technology is sweeping across Africa in the rapid, all-encompassing style of a pandemic. However, mobile phone usage and supporting networks actually offer a solution to treating disease and other disasters.

Using Open Data Kit (ODK), a set of free, open-source tools organizations can use to author, field and manage mobile data collection, the Tanzania Red Cross Society has been able to facilitate data collection through phones.

Red Cross volunteers are able to upload surveys to their mobile phones that they then use to interview beneficiaries of Red Cross relief efforts about the aid they received. After completing each survey, volunteers can remotely upload results to the server. From there, the collected data is analyzed, allowing Red Cross officials to determine the effectiveness of various emergency relief efforts.

Kibari Ramadhan Tawakal, disaster management coordinator at Tanzania Red Cross Society, reports that Volunteers prefer the mobile platform, referencing how easy it is to use in comparison to pen and paper surveys.

“Using the mobile phones is exciting for them, and helps increase their confidence when interviewing beneficiaries. It also enables us to collect more consistent data,” Tawakal said.

It is true that recording and distributing data in the developing world can be a challenge. Without guarantees of a power source or specialized hardware and network access, information is not always current or reliable.

Created by researchers at the University of Washington, ODK was designed to offer an accessible solution to data collection in developing nations.

Cellular service is uniquely reliable even in the developing world. This enables data to be sent and analyzed in real-time. Mobile phones also contain cameras and GPS units, which ease data collection, and are capable of establishing USB and WiFi connections to desktop computers. Smartphone cameras additionally function as a tool for reading barcode information.

With telecom companies investing millions in rural mobile networks, cell phones are accessible even in the most remote areas of countries like Tanzania. The nation’s Communications Regulatory Authority reports that as of 2015 there are approximately 33 million mobile subscribers in the country.

For this reason, ODK software offers an extremely promising solution to data collection challenges. With dependable real-time information about the appropriateness of disaster relief efforts, Red Cross officials will be able to quickly make informed decisions with regards to future aid.

Improved data collection may also feed directly into Red Cross efforts regarding HIV/AIDS. As a part of their project in Tanzania, the organization cites improving knowledge about HIV at a community level and reaching 35,000 people “through community-based educational activities that focus on preventing HIV and reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with this disease.”

Having accurate, region-specific information about HIV/AIDS can only help when it comes to community outreach.

– Emma-Claire LaSaine

Sources: IT Web Africa, IFRC, Ars Technica, Open Data Kit
Photo: Flickr

Child MarriageWhat do chickens and goats have in common? Well, chickens and goats live on farms, and both can help end child marriage.

In Ethiopia and Tanzania, many families are given livestock in exchange for marrying off their young girls to adult men. However, if these girls already own animals, the trade becomes less vital for poor families and the marriages are less likely to occur.

Population Council, an organization that conducts research on health and development issues, spent three years in Ethiopia and Tanzania implementing methods to reduce child marriage rates. They discovered that educating the community, donating school supplies and providing girls with goats and chickens were the most effective ways to end early marriage.

Child marriage is most closely associated with poverty because struggling families are in desperate need of the dowry that adult husbands are willing to pay. In Tanzania and Ethiopia, nearly 40 percent of girls are married before they turn 18, and in just Ethiopia, nearly 20 percent of girls are married before age 15.

Population Council conducted research in Ethiopia that drastically reduced the possibility of illegal child marriage. They discovered that by giving girls between the ages of 15 and 17 two chickens every year, they were half as likely to be married by 18 than those who did not receive the animals. Additionally, 12 to 14-year-olds who were given school supplies were 94 percent less likely to be married as a child.

In Tanzania, the legal marriage age is 15, but by providing 15- to 17-year-old girls with goats, the odds of child marriage could be reduced by more than 60 percent.

Early marriage prevents girls from attending school and receiving an education. It heightens the risk of HIV/AIDS and limits a girl’s potential to get a job and earn a wage. Child marriage ultimately dehumanizes young girls by taking away their right to choose what they do with their lives.

Still, more than 14 million girls around the world are married each year before they turn 18. Educating developing communities on the harmfulness of child marriage and providing school supplies so girls can attend school are basic yet successful ways to reduce the rates at which young girls marry.

Goats and chickens, too, are playing a highly successful role in ending child marriage and breaking the cycle of global poverty. Hats off to Old MacDonald. E-I-E-I-O.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Take Part, Girls Not Brides 1, Girls Not Brides 2, Population Council
Photo: Girls Not Brides

Female farmers are often less successful than males mostly due to gender inequality. Females have greater difficulties in securing land rights and accessing the necessary resources to properly run a farm. In Tanzania, for example, female farmers produce 14% less than male farmers. In Africa, almost half of all agricultural workers are women; therefore, farms across the continent are not as productive as they could be.

If women were treated equally in the agricultural sector, farm production would increase by up to 30% per day and feed 150 million more people each day, which would have the power to drastically reduce world hunger.

Undoubtedly, the mention of “reality television” procures an image of Kim, Khloé and Kourtney or that HGTV series where they renovate rundown homes, but how can reality television fit into this issue? Well, in Tanzania, “reality television” resonates most closely with the popular series starring female farmers.

About 25 million people throughout Tanzania tune into Mama Shujaa wa Chakula, or Female Food Heroes. The show focuses on female farmers sharing farming techniques, attending agriculture training sessions and learning lessons on finance. Female Food Heroes also, of course, includes competitive challenges.

The entertainment of the show comes in the form of these challenges; this season, for example, participants must create a tool, test new cooking techniques and embark on a treasure hunt. The show will shoot for three weeks in August, where a winner is selected through viewer votes and a panel of judges.

Created by Oxfam, the series seeks to empower female farmers and educate them on progressive farming techniques, while providing the stars of the show a place to demonstrate and voice their agricultural aptitude. Oxfam is an international organization dedicated to ending global poverty, composed of 17 individual organizations working together with partners and communities.

Although about 75% of farmers in Tanzania are women, gender inequality overlooks their involvement. The show, however, spotlights and praises female farmers for their contributions and actually provides the means for them to efficiently farm.

The overall winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize, but other prizes include solar panels, irrigation tools and harvesting machines. Perhaps the greatest prize of all, however, is the status and respect each contestant leaves with. Female Food Heroes provides female farmers with the opportunity to fight against global poverty and gender biases.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Take Part, PRI , OXFAM 1, OXFAM 2
Photo: Flickr