Beth White | November 2, 2015
Abushehe Hamis Ahedafa walks through his empty, harvested field. The only remaining signs of his bean crop are the evenly spaced rows in the soil where the plants grew.
As he walks, the sun peeks out through heavy clouds, its warm rays providing relief from the cool mountain breeze. He slings a heavy bag of dried beans over his shoulders and walks towards his granary.
Mr. Ahedafa farms near the village of Yoghoi, at the summit of the mountain range that crosses the Tanga Region of northern Tanzania. The land surrounding the village is lush and green, covered in trees and bushes.
When Mr. Ahedafa’s father passed away, his mother moved in with him, his wife, and their daughter. Mr. Ahedafa took over the family farm and planted tomatoes, sweet peppers, maize, and beans.
Drought isn’t usually a concern for farmers in this area, but Mr. Ahedafa and his neighbours face other challenges. Last season, heavy rain destroyed many of his crops. The family struggled to cope.
Mr. Ahedafa planted a little less than half of the family’s two-hectare farm with beans. Unfortunately, the heavy rains encouraged pests and diseases. The 31-year-old farmer could not afford the pesticides to manage them.
The impact was devastating. Mr. Ahedafa harvested only two bags of beans, less than half of what he expected. He recalls, “It was awful. I planned [to sell my surplus] so I could provide for my family.”
The family didn’t have enough food to eat, or money to pay for the daughter’s school fees. Mr. Ahedafa persuaded his daughter’s teacher to let her continue attending school by promising to pay the fees with the proceeds from his yet-to-be-harvested crops.
Elina George Leffi is the extension officer for the village. She says diseases are a challenge, but that farmers’ main problem is that they continue to plant beans in a haphazard way.
The local radio station, Sauti ya Injili, airs a new farmer program called Kilimo ni Utafiti, or “Farming and research,” every Tuesday between 6:30 and 7 p.m. The program helped Mr. Ahedafa.
Ms. Leffi says, “I am educating farmers to plant with equal spacing, but they are not putting it into practice. Hopefully, if farmers listen to the program, this will change.”
The program talks about best practices for growing beans and managing them after harvest. The series of programs started at the beginning of the crop season, discussing how and where to buy seed, then moved on to planting, weeding, and caring for the plants, concluding with harvesting and marketing.
Mr. Ahedafa loves the program and encourages other farmers to listen. He is particularly interested in learning more about pests and diseases, and how best to protect his crops from them.
Mr. Ahedafa has a plan. After paying his daughter’s school fees, he will plant enough beans to become a seed producer for other farmers in his village. He says, “Sometimes there is a problem with the supply of seeds. Why shouldn’t I produce them here for my neighbours?”