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Tanzania: Young farmers fight climate change in Zanzibar (by Adam Bemma, for Farm Radio Weekly)

In the small village of Kiombamvua, young Zanzibaris are turning to farming. Drought and sea water intrusion have taken their toll on the island’s farmland, and the young people are trying to combat the effects of climate change.

Ali Abeid is a 26-year-old vegetable farmer. Over the last three years, he has grown spinach and okra, and has diversified this season into tomatoes, eggplants and bananas. Mr. Abeid is a member of the Bahari Haikauki co-operative, an agricultural, fishing and carpentry co-op which is part of the Cooperative Union of Zanzibar, or CUZA. CUZA focuses on educating farmers on the benefits of organic agriculture.

Mr. Abeid says: “I’ve been sensitizing youth to agriculture. So far I’ve trained 35 youth in total on JFFLS [Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools] methodology: 20 women and 15 men!”

Mr. Abeid attended his own JFFLS training on the mainland, in Kibaha, Tanzania. The goal of the training is to empower vulnerable youth and provide them with livelihood options and skills needed for long-term food security.

Stambuli Mbaraka is the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s National Program Coordinator for Tanzania. He says, “We have trained more than 100 youth across Tanzania on JFFLS. In Zanzibar, 44 youths have graduated from the program.”

Each graduate is expected to mobilize 25 to 30 youth when they return to their home villages. Graduates promote agriculture in their local area and provide training and mentorship to others interested in becoming farmers.

Mr. Mbaraka said: “The number of young people taking up agriculture isn’t high … we’re trying to encourage and educate the young to turn to farming. It’s a money-making activity.”

United Nations statistics show that almost 87 per cent of the 1.2 billion young people around the world live in developing countries. Over half live in rural areas. In sub-Saharan Africa, almost half of rural youth work in agriculture.

Suleiman Mbarouk is CUZA’s youth coordinator. She says: “Young farmers are more willing to accept new ideas. Old farmers tend to be more conservative. For example, young farmers know the value of compost, while older farmers don’t.”

Mr. Abeid believes that agriculture is a sustainable career path which can alleviate unemployment, poverty and climate change in Zanzibar. He says: “I’ve never received much help from agricultural extension officers. Once I was given some pesticide but it didn’t work, so I’ve been using physical labour to uproot the damaged crops.”

One of Mr. Abeid’s first trainees was 26-year-old Zaituni Maabadi Kombo. She grows mainly cucumbers on her shamba [small farm].

Ms. Kombo says: “Initially, village leaders didn’t recognize my efforts to mobilize youth … but I’m sure they will be convinced once they see how young people are generating income and are contributing to the community’s well-being through their horticulture activities.”