Bananas happen to be water demanding plants. Growing them in windswept, drought-stricken parts of Arusha Rural District should be nothing short of a miracle.
But through what is being described as sustainable ‘Rainwater Harvesting Technology,’ coupled with the use of organic soil enrichments, villages in the area have not only embarked on banana farming but the types of bananas being produced there are gigantic.
Executed under special farming program, the idea is meant to mitigate the impact of climate change, replenish vegetation cover in semi-arid areas while also ensuring food security in the area, which is located on the leeward of Mount Meru.
Rainwater harvesting technology in the area has been made possible by an Arusha-based ‘Research Community and Organizational Development Associates’ (RECODA), which is committed to relieve people from abject poverty, through simple farming technologies in line with ‘Kilimo Kwanza,’ initiatives.
So, far more than 500 farmers in the area have been involved in banana farming, despite being in dry area. They have also been selling banana harvests to outlets in Arusha City and other parts of the Northern Zone.
RECODA Executive Director, Mr Dominick Ringo said the project which kicked-off in 2008, is implemented under the Rockwool Initiative for Poverty Alleviation in Tanzania (RIPAT).
Mr Ringo said the project is geared to bridge the technological gap amongst farmers by improving their livelihoods, adding that RIPAT project is implemented in eight villages in Arusha-Rural and Meru districts , including Lengijave, Lemanyata, Ekenywa, Losikito, Likamba, Oloitushula, Engorora and Lovilukuny.
“This project made efforts to facilitate the climate change vulnerability assessment in the project sites and introduction of rainwater harvesting technology was identified as one of the major climate change adaptation measures which need to be undertaken in these two districts to overcome the problem of droughts and period of heavy rainfall,” he stated.
The Executive explained that 16 groups of farmers have been established in the area, whereby each group has its own banana farming demonstration plots.
“This project has been successful as we have managed to change peoples’ mindsets on farming, before the project there were people, who thought that maize was the only crop to be grown. But, now it is not the case, as of now more people have been engaging into banana farming, using rainwater harvesting technology.”
Mr Ringo maintained that crops like banana, cassava and potatoes can easily cope with drought caused by changing climate.
“The idea was to ensure that these people who are in semi-arid areas have enough food to eat and sometimes for generating incomes.”
The official said that different projects introduced during the four-year project, whereby there are people who were trained on how to engage into poultry farming, goats rearing and other related husbandry activities.
Ms Salome Charles is a mother of six in Losikito village, she said: “Apart from introducing banana farming, RIPAT project introduced improved breeds of goats, which were given to women in the village.
“I thank the organization as I’m getting two liters of goat milk daily, and this is enough for me. I sell and the remaining ,” she said.
The Arumeru District Commissioner, Mr Nyerembe Munasa Sabi said the project is in line the government-driven ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ initiative, because it is geared to use conservation farming as a tool towards addressing poverty.
DC Munasa also asked people in the eight villages to ensure they start investing in pastures, by embarking into land-use planning by allocating special areas for farming and pastures.
“This will also serve to reduce land conflicts in this area, through adhering to land-use management and plans that in turn will formulate guiding by-laws,” he said.