Improved Maize Varieties : A Tanzanian’s Journey of Adoption

Simplified science and technology applications in agriculture are changing smallholder farmers lives for the better in many places across Africa.

They range from ensuring healthy soils, bring to smallholder farmers improved seeds, good husbandry and use of new storage technologies, among others.

According to Dr. George Bigirwa, AGRA Vice President,  such activities along the agriculture value chain are translating previously mundane farms into productive business units, when access to markets and processing are also taken into the book.

Tanzania is one of the nations in the continent with a high rate of new adaptations of new crop varieties, use of fertilizers and other agronomical practices.

According to Mr. Wilson Joel, Regional Agricultural Advisor (RAA) Njombe, this has brought about higher productivity, subsequently, the movement from subsistence farming to commercial farming by smallholder farmers has gained momentum.

The journey to adopting new ways of life in farming practices is sometimes not very smooth despite the apparent benefit, and stringent approval by the government of technologies introduced.

The story of Mama Enesi Ndondole and her husband Mr. Eskia Kaduma, based in Lunguya Village, Mtwango Ward in Njombe Rural, highlights how such struggles are real.

When an opportunity came for free training to enable villagers to improve productivity and increase their incomes, thanks to Kilimo Tija project supported by AGRA, the couple, who have 7 children,  decided to give it a go.

For the lady, there was no turning back, she was convinced if she would farm as per advice by the experts, it would mean increased income and improved living standard for her family.  For over 20 years, they had been farming, without making any substantial inroads in turning their farm activities into a commercial venture. “This was our golden chance.

However, the husband was pessimistic. The “miracle” solutions promised sounded untrue. And after all, he was farming using old age, tested ways of his forefathers. “How can I ditch all the knowledge passed to me by my elders for something new and untested! ”  He decided he was not going to buy any of the tricks of the educated.

There was a huge disagreement at the home. For the sake of peace and sanity, the man took the lead. He divided their family 5-acre farm into two, and gave one side to the wife, to try out her crazy adventure, with new agronomic practices. The wife got 2 acres.

For his good self, the good man would remain with the ways of his fathers. He would plant traditionally as he has known it for years. And at the same time, even if he was produced successful more crops using new varieties, they were not going to be eaten at his home.

“No, I can’t allow an experiment with my family, what if what is produced is not healthy? We can only eat it, after many tests by others to confirm, it not poisonous,” he said. Even after assurance that new maize varieties had been tested and approved by the government, he would hear none of it.

Later on, the husband decided it was actually a waste giving the wife one part of the land to try the new farming methods. The lady of the house had to pay rent to her husband of Tsh 100,000 to be set free to use the land the way she wanted.   He was also mad that at one point, his wife would depend on loans for inputs. “Do you want our house to be sold because of a loan.”

To beat the odds and adopt the new farming technologies, she had to go the extra mile. During the kilimo Tija project training, she joined Isoelo Amcos.

She paid 20 percent to buy new maize variety- Uyole UH615  through Isoelo Amcos. The rest she would repay after harvesting. Samwise, thanks to AGRA connection, a fertilizer company, gave her the input on credit (50%). She was very keen on practicing the best husbandry practices so as to get the best output as trained.    Mama Enesi Ndondole stands proud as she displays her well-grown maize. Its late April 2019. Her portion of land, is all green, with healthy maize. Come June 2019, she expects to harvest over 70 sacks of maize, each 100 kg.

In contrast, her husband’s maize though in the bigger portion of the land it looks emaciated and has little produce.  The good man of the village expects to harvest 10 to 15 bags, as he has been doing for years.

Her husband has realized her wife made the right choice after checking out with other farmers away from his village.  He has accepted defeat, that his yield is low.

Like many smallholder farming households in Tanzania, the majority have more than one adult decision-maker. Often the decision to adopt new methods or not has to be supported by the male head of the family.  Despite gains in gender equality, patriarchy is still a problem.

Research, which undertaken in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania shows that adoption of agricultural technologies helps “to increase yields and incomes, save time, improve food and nutritional security, and even empower women.”

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