It is a beautiful Saturday morning and Abdulsalum Njelekela is in his field irrigating crops. He says, “I have access to abundant water from the dam near my field, which helps me to practice intercropping throughout the year.”
Mr. Njelekela lives in Lilido village, in southern Tanzania’s Mtwara district and near the Mozambique border. He has a three-acre farm and uses water from the dam to intercrop vegetables, fruits, and grains such as maize, beans, and peas.
He says: “The demand for food crops is high in my area. I decided to start intercropping in order to produce more on the same piece of land and sell to consumers to make more money.”
Mr. Njelekela adds, “People in my area buy vegetables like green peppers, okra, and eggplants. Intercropping helps me to supply my produce to different customers.”
He says that intercropping has many benefits: “Intercropping helps me to achieve income, food security, and a nutritious diet for my family. It also helps conserve the environment because with this farming technique, I do not cut down trees but allow them to grow together with the food crops.”
Joseph Denis is a farmer in the nearby village of Kitere who has been practicing intercropping for two years and grows a variety of vegetables in his one-hectare farm. He says, “The benefit of growing different crops together in the same field is that a farmer is guaranteed a market for at least one of the crops.”
Mr. Denis says that intercropping brings him bigger profits than growing just one crop on his farm.
He explains: “Because of intercropping, I am guaranteed to earn between 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 Tanzania shillings (US $864-1,297) in a year. I sell one kilogram of tomatoes, hoho, or eggplants for 1,500 to 3,000 Tanzania shillings (US $0.65-1.30).”
He adds, “If the price for one crop is low on the market, I do not panic or worry when I fail to sell because with intercropping, I can always rely on another crop.”
Mr. Denis says that weeding and irrigation are easy and not labour-intensive with intercropping, since he weeds or irrigates only once for two or three crops. He explains, “I do all the weeding at the same time for all the different crops. The same happens when I want to irrigate.”
According to Mr. Denis, farmers who practice intercropping also save money on inputs such as pesticides because the quantity of pesticides used is reduced.
Salma Said is a vegetable farmer from Lilido village who also practices intercropping, growing cucumbers, bitter tomatoes, and okra. She says, “From a small piece of land, I am able to harvest different crops which I eat with my husband and our two children and then I sell the surplus.”
Philipo Mrutu is an agronomist and agribusiness entrepreneur from Morogoro district in Tanzania. He says that the benefits of growing different crops in a single field are that the land is well-utilized and the crops support or depend on each other.
He adds: “It also helps to increase fertility, for example when a person cultivates and grazes at the same time, the livestock remains used in agriculture are already fertile, which can help agriculture to thrive.”
Mr. Mrutu points out that mixed cropping helps maintain soil moisture and if trees are planted along the edge of a pond, it gives shade and improves the climate, especially during the hot summer period at a time when the world is facing the challenge of climate change.
Mr. Njelekela says that intercropping has helped him in many ways. He explains: “I advise farmers in my area to start intercropping because for me I have seen numerous benefits, including better income. I am able to support my family because of intercropping.”
This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Biovision Foundation.
Photo: Vegetables are displayed for sale in a market near Morogoro, Tanzania on May 28, 2014. Credit: Sylvie Harrison.