SPICE farmers in Ulugulu Mountains are earning windfall profits thanks to a project which has
introduced them to modern agriculture practices and use of hybrid seeds
A recent report by Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania said over 1,500 farmers from the Uluguru Mountains catchment area and 172 model farmers from other regions backed by 31 agriculture extension officers are benefited directly from the Uluguru Spice Project.
The USP was initiated for farmers living in the Ruvu River catchment area along Uluguru Mountains and facilitates knowledge of sustainable cultivation methods as well as marketing strategies with the main focus on spice production and trade.
The project’s goal is to improve productivity of small-scale spice farmers who are organised in a cooperative societies and practice organic agriculture while protecting sensitive catchment. One of the farmers who have benefited from the project is Ramadhanu Sanda, a smallholder spice producer.
In 2016 Mzee Sanda and his fellow farmers joined the USP through SAT with the expectation to make a proper living out of farming with the hope to increase productivity and quality of his crops. He said that before joining the USP, his harvest was five kilograma of cardamon, 35kgs of cinnamon and 70kgs of black pepper per acre. "But after improving cultivation practices, I now get 10kgs of cardamon, 70kgs of cinnamon and 200kgs of black pepper on the same piece of land" he revealed.
Mzee Sanda said since adopting spice production as a business, he has increased his productivity
and earned more money which has prompted him to increase his farm size by buying more land.Last year he added to his 2.5 acre another farm of 1.3 acres where he is practicing intercropping with agroforestry integrated with cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and even vanilla.
As soon as he starts harvesting crops, it will be another boost of his income, he said. “Farming as a business pays off,” he said while explaining that in addition to buying new land, he has also constructed a new house for his family which is equipped with solar panels (100W) for electricity supply.
Knowledge is key to success in agriculture, he noted while saying that through the USP, he has learned, among other things, agro-ecological technologies which demanded that in order to increase productivity, one has to improve soil fertility through application of compost manure. He also used hybrid planting materials, practices proper spacing of seedlings and manages diseases and pests with botanical plant extracts.
“Organic way of farming is the future! Many of my friends have also adopted agro-ecological farming as it has helped us produce quality commodities in huge quantities while protecting the environment,” Mzee Sanda noted saying his success has inspired five farmers in his village to join organic farming.
In December last year, the veteran spices farmer became a founder member of a cooperative society called CHAUWAVIMU where he acts as marketing committee member on zonal level. He expects that through such steps the farmers will find better prices through joint marketing efforts. Currently Sanda and his fellow farmers are preparing for external inspection which will take place in June.