Nelly Bassily | June 25, 2012
Elisa Pallangyo is a farmer in the village of Maweni, 30 kilometres outside Arusha, Tanzania. He lives on a small farm but manages to produce a large crop of maize, beans, and vegetables. Mr. Pallangyo attributes his large yields to intercropping his maize with pigeon pea or beans. He is very thankful for his farm’s success, because it has allowed him to put his children through school, he says “I have three girls and four boys and all of them are in secondary studies.”
This year, Mr. Pallangyo is intercropping maize with pigeon peas. Next year he will plant beans in his maize crop. He finds that intercropping maize and beans gives both crops a better yield. The peas and beans take nitrogen from the air, and transfer it through their roots to the soil. The extra nitrogen in the soil feeds the maize. The soil retains moisture due to less competition between the root systems. He learned this technique from the Salien Agricultural Research Institute.
According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, legumes like pigeon peas help maize grow better because they “have roots that are able to make soil nitrogen available to other plants.” When intercropped with maize, which requires a lot of nitrogen, the maize will “benefit greatly.”
The success of this method is visible in the field. The maize planted with pigeon pea is much taller than maize planted alone. Mr. Pallangyo will soon harvest his maize, leaving the pigeon peas to grow taller and produce a good yield.
Mr. Pallangyo has been intercropping maize for about ten years and says it has allowed him to expand his home. After one year of using the intercropping method and selling his crops at the market, Mr. Pallangyo was able to buy cement and begin building his home. He built up his farm throughout the years. Now, he has goats and a cloth greenhouse for growing tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins.
Mr. Pallangyo says there is a large market for pigeon peas and they generate a good income. Mr. Pallangyo grows all his crops without fertilizers and pesticides. His produce is bought by the local kindergarten to feed the schoolchildren.
With the help of his wife and family, Mr. Pallangyo spends three days a week working with his crops. He is also a minister in the village and spends much of his time visiting his fellow villagers.
His involvement in the community allows him to share his successful methods with other farmers. Every Thursday, Mr. Pallangyo hosts community meetings in his home. At these meetings, he instructs community members on how to use intercropping to boost crop yields. He takes people to his field, so they can see the difference between intercropped maize and maize grown on its own.
Mr. Pallangyo has built his home and supported his family with the money he has made from selling crops. He says, “I am happy because I could educate my children. My son could get a master’s degree because of farming. The house, everything is from the farm.”