Tanzania: Fruit and vegetable farmers turn to organic farming to meet increased market demand

November 24, 2019
A translation for this article is available in French

Teresia Alexander is in her backyard garden carrying a bucket of water on her head and holding another in her right hand. The mother of six pours the water into a plastic tank in the middle of her garden. It’s humid, the sky is partly cloudy, and it’s 20 minutes past eight. The bright morning sunshine hits the fresh vegetables that the 53-year-old widow is about to irrigate.

Mrs. Alexander gets the water from a community borehole about 500 metres from her corrugated iron sheet house. Her vegetables are flourishing and she has started harvesting the other part of her garden. She smiles and says, “This is the fourth round. I will have to go three more times to the borehole before I start irrigating my vegetables … but it is tiring.”

Mrs. Alexander grows fruits and vegetables in Kimbi-Juu village, southeast of Moshi town in the Kilimanjaro region of northeastern Tanzania. She uses organic methods. She doesn’t apply chemical fertilizers and pesticides because many people are beginning to prefer organically-grown vegetables and fruits.

Mrs. Alexander grows spinach, tomatoes, sweet pepper, and cauliflower. She also grows fruits such as papaya, avocado, and mangoes. To avoid using chemical fertilizers on fruits and vegetables, she uses manure from her animals. She rears two goats and a dairy cow, and has a poultry farm on her one acre of land. Almost every day, she wakes up by five o’clock in the morning to clean the barn and chicken coops. She collects the manure to use as fertilizer.

She says that more and more farmers are adopting organic practices because it attracts many customers who prefer to buy food that is healthy and environmentally friendly.

Organic farming practices are providing Mrs. Alexander and other small-scale farmers in her area with a good market both within and outside their villages. She explains, “People come from nearby villages to learn and also buy my vegetables. They always say that they are healthy simply because no chemicals are used in the farming process.”

Erica Lyimo is a nutrition officer in Moshi. She says people are turning to organic fruits and vegetables at an increasing rate. She adds, “For many years, due to the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides during the farming process of vegetables and fruits, people have been doubting the nutritional benefits from these foods.”

Romana Matei is the extension worker in the area. She says many farmers are rushing towards organic practices. She adds, “The reason is that they find it cheap and sustainable since most of them also keep livestock such as cows, goats, and poultry on their farms.” Using that readily available source of manure to fertilize their crops saves them money.

To combat pests in organic farming, Ms. Matei says that, instead of buying chemical pesticides, farmers in the area use roots from a common, local shrub named mtuba. Farmers smash the root and ferment it for two days. It is believed that, when applied on the farm, no insect pests, disease organisms, or other pests come near the crops.

Jackson Mushi is a vendor who sells fruits and vegetables in Moshi. He says his clients mainly prefer buying organic produce. He adds, “If customers find out that your vegetables or fruits are organic, you are assured of an instant market.”

Mrs. Alexander says that organic farming has changed everything for the better in her family, and that she now has a stable income from selling fruits and vegetables. She says she earns between 20,000 and 30,000 Tanzania shillings ($8.60 – $13 US) a week from selling fruits and vegetables.

She adds that she is now able to feed herself and take care of her family, including her daughter who is going to university. She says, “I tell you—there is a growing demand for organic food and so the market is [growing].”

Uniterra Tanzania works with local partners in the fruit and vegetable and tourism sub-sectors to help young people and women access better economic opportunities. Uniterra provided support for this story. Uniterra receives financial support from the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca. Learn more and follow Uniterra Tanzania on Facebook at: facebook.com/wusctanzania