Nelly Bassily | June 3, 2013
Abushir Swaleh Bushir’s small, iron-roofed brick house stands in Zingibari village, in the Mkinga District of eastern Tanzania. Mango and orange trees surround the house. Dressed in a track suit, Mr. Abushir sits on a mat under a mango tree. He is joined by two men who are tired and sweating. They have just returned from the fields.
It is planting season. Mr. Abushir points to the ploughed area in his five hectares of land. He says, “These guys have just finished digging, and I paid them ten thousand shillings ($6 US).”
Mr. Abushir is 45 years old. He has been farming all his life, and knows that what he earns from the soil feeds, clothes, and educates his family. In 2003, he decided to relocate from his home village to find farmland. He planted pineapples, oranges, maize, cassava and beans in his new location. He became famous locally, producing enough food to supply four surrounding villages.
Although he grew many crops, he focused on cassava. He appreciated the fact that he could both sell it and use it for food. Mr. Abushir says proudly, “I’m famous in all Mkinga District because of cassava.” However, he had a problem with marketing.
He remembers a season when he could not sell all of his very large cassava harvest. He took a sample of his produce and looked for customers at the big market in Tanga town. But no one would pay the price he wanted. So he hired women to peel and slice the cassava, then turn it into flour, which can retail for up to 800 shillings (50 US cents) per kilogram. He recalls, “I got 200 fifty-kilogram bags, and sold the flour for only 300 shillings per kilogram (18 US cents). That discouraged me a lot.”
Rather than giving up, Mr. Abushir realized that he had to move closer to the big markets. Although he had a reliable source of income from the surrounding villages, he decided to relocate closer to the big market in Tanga. Mr. Abushir says, “I sold my land of twenty-one hectares for one million shillings ($615 US), which is throwaway price!” Shaking his head, he adds, “No way, no way … I don’t want even to remember it!”
But Mr. Abushir did not get discouraged. He bought land near the village of Mtimbwani and started again. He planted two hectares of cassava and sold his whole harvest from the farm. Mr. Abushir grows the Mpemba and Kitumbua varieties of cassava because they are sweet and produce many roots. He has a reliable market in Tanga town, earning between fifty and sixty thousand shillings ($30-35 US) per day.
Mr. Abushir says cassava has put him in a good position economically. Laughing, he says: “I’m proud of cassava. Through cassava, I have a decent house, and I’m in the process of building a big modern house. I have managed to pay school fees and to buy school uniforms.” He has also supported his father to start a business.
Mr. Abushir wishes that all villagers in his area could have the kind of success he enjoys. He says, “I’m sure if they will start agriculture, especially cassava, they will get prosperity even more than I.”