THE agricultural sector in Tanzania is the most important economic sector, constituting the largest part of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Research shows that 80 per cent of households depend on agriculture. This dependence makes the country more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Farmers are grappling with inconsistent weather that have affected rainfall patterns in most parts of the country.
Michael Farrelly, Programme Officer on Climate Change and Gender at Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAT) says that climate change will severely affect agriculture and the many millions dependent on it.
There is an urgent need for adaptation of the agricultural sector to the changes in climate. He proposes for farmers to adapt organic farming which builds the soil structure and soil fertility. Organic food means the food cultivated without the use of chemicals including pesticides and fertilizers.
Soil fertility is achieved through compost, vermicompost and numerous other techniques for maintaining soil fertility and balance. Even the land used for cultivation of organic food must be free from such chemicals for a minimum of about 3 years.
“Organic farming brings degraded soils back to productivity, it reduces soil erosion caused by wind and water. It also reduces financial risk through less external inputs and increases biodiversity and resilience to pests and disease,” he asserted.
Mr Farrelly explained that the benefits of organic agriculture in climate change mitigation is to capture carbon from the air and effectively store it in the soil in high levels for long-periods; it integrates trees, hedgerows and pastures into farming systems to increase carbon capture and biodiversity.
“To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use through an appropriate combination of organic fertilizers, cover crops and less intensive tillage, uses no synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which clearly reduces emissions caused during the energy demanding process of fertilizer synthesis,” he elaborated.
Farrelly’s research document shows that due to climate change Tanzania will experience the following impact: There will be a 40 deg. C increase in temp (central and west of the country), a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall (central and west), a 30-50 per cent increase in rainfall and floods in the coastal area, a loss of agricultural land, shorter growing seasons and more droughts.
In Zanzibar, the Association of Vegetable and Fruit Growers (UWAMWIMA) has been practising organic farming. They have been growing spinach, ginger, cinnamon and other vegetables. Their main customers are from South Africa, Germany, China and Greece.
UWAMWIMA was launched after it was discovered that 80 per cent of vegetables consumed on the isles were from the mainland and also the prices were very high. It has helped minimize the use of agro-chemical and encourage using local available materials to reduce the cost of production and increase profit, also to produce healthy food to its customers.
The association has managed to sell over 67 tonnes of organic vegetables and spices and raked in US Dollar 186,000. Khamis Mohamed, a board Member of the Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement and an organic farmer says there is still a high demand of organic products because there is awareness among people on the value of the vegetables.
The association started in 1999 and now has 243 members in Zanzibar, Pemba, Tanga, Morogoro, and Kigoma. “Farmers have a keen focus on organic farming because it takes care of forests and the environment in general. But mostly it provides healthy products that are free from chemicals to its customers,” he said.
Rehani Mirani Secretary of UWAMWIMA, said the demand for products produced by organic farming are 65 tonnes per month, saying, however, they are capable of producing 17,000 tonnes. Their target is to produce 45,000 tonnes per month by 2015.