Tanzania: Grape growers use organic fertilizer to save money and boost soil fertility

| October 2, 2017

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Tito Nyambwa retired from teaching five years ago, but still has plenty of energy for farming. Since he no longer earns a salary, it’s difficult for him to buy chemical fertilizer for his grape vines. Instead, he uses organic fertilizer, and supports his family by selling his harvest to a wine company.
Mr. Nyambwa is from Mpunguzi village in central Tanzania’s Dodoma region. He says that organic farming makes his soil more fertile, which results in higher yields.
Mr. Nyambwa harvests two organic grape crops a year: a small crop during the dry season and a larger crop during the rainy season. He sells a kilogram of grapes for 1500 Tanzanian shillings ($0.66 US) to the Central Tanzania Wine Company in Dodoma city.
He says, “In one season, if there is good rain, I get between two and three million Tanzanian shillings [$880 to $1,325 US].”
Dickson Sulutya is another farmer in Mpunguzi village. He uses organic manure from his cattle to fertilize his grape vines and vegetables. He explains, “It’s lightweight fertilizer that you can mix with soil [before planting crops].”
Mr. Sulutya says he prefers not to use chemical fertilizers because he believes they deplete soil fertility after years of use.
Frank Joseph also grows grapes in Dodoma. He says organic farming helps keep his soil fertile, which improves vine health and increases production. Mr. Joseph has never used chemical fertilizers because his family could not afford them. He says organic fertilizer requires more work, but is better for human health, adding that he believes “[chemical] fertilizers … help only for a short period of time to enrich the soil.”
Hadija Jaicy is an agricultural officer in Dodoma region. She says organic farming is sustainable because it helps keep nutrients in the soil, which is healthier for plants, animals, and people.
Mrs. Jaicy adds: “When we farm, we must look forward to the interests of future generations. We [should consider] if the soil can again be fertile to produce after ten years…. Can our [future] generations get crops like what we get?”
Mr. Nyambwa plans to grow lots of grapes with organic methods and sell them internationally.
He says organically grown grapes are his livelihood—now and in the future. He adds, “Organic farming has been a great help. Since my retirement, it is the only activity that contributes to my family income.”