About 63 partners and key actors of CARE’s Pathways Program in Tanzania met in Emirates Hall, Masasi between 9th and 13th September, 2013 to plan for the coming farming season. It also served as a platform for sharing ideas, rubbing minds and interaction between the key actors of the Pathways program in Tanzania on new techniques of cultivating food crops especially the two main crops of focus, cassava and sesame. At the end of the program, an integrated work plan using the cropping cycle was developed.
The participants included CARE staff, paraprofessionals, researchers from government research institutes, consultants, extension agents, Ward Agriculture Officers and District Agriculture and Livestock Development Officers drawn from Mtwara and Lindi regions of Southern Tanzania, the focal areas of Pathways program in Tanzania. The 5-day training program covered all the key components of the Pathways Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) approach with specific sessions focusing on agriculture, marketing, nutrition, gender, monitoring and evaluation.
The Pathways concept of sustainable agriculture is the one that is socially sustainable, economically viable and environmental friendly. In seeking to achieve the objective of social sustainability, all the functional areas of the Pathways program have a gender integration component which seeks to promote gender sensitive and responsive approach to the needs and interests of smallholder farmers. This is based on the assumption that gender hierarchies, roles and responsibilities create disincentives for women to engage in productive and market-oriented agriculture. This can be overcome when women are provided with opportunities to improve their productivity and profitability through empowering them to further fully engage in equitable agriculture systems.
The reflection on the program shows that much progress has been made as attested by many of the participants. Ziada, a paraprofessional from Misechela in Masasi District who attended the training, was happy to testify. “I experienced changes in the home because my husband now helps me with household chores. He helps me to prepare food which he doesn’t do before. My neighbor who is also a member of the group also helps his wife to fetch water and firewood and clean house.” Stephano Nguyeje, a male sesame grower also attested to this. In his words, “the improved gender relations has made it possible for women going to the market to sell the harvested crops unlike before when marketing and sales are the domain of men.”
This is having the desired impact on economic empowerment of the women smallholder farmers. Their involvement in otherwise male-reserved marketing activities is now giving them more income and helping them to take up higher responsibility in the home. Hear Jenifa Wambura, a cassava farmer, “I’m really grateful to CARE Pathways for bringing this innovative program to my village. I have really been empowered and my agricultural knowledge has been transformed.” Jenifa, who is also a paraprofessional from Chiungutwa in Masasi District, added, “Before the FFBS was introduced, my earning was meager and I struggled to send my children to school. After the last FFBS season, my yields increased and also my earnings. I am now able to send my children to school up to Standard 6.” Efforts for women’s economic empowerment are focused on cassava and sesame: two major food crops with significant market potential in which women play active roles. The people of the two districts are predominantly smallholder farmers who specialize in cultivating food crops such as cassava, sesame and cowpea.
A key component of CARE’s Pathways program is to address malnutrition so as to reduce poverty, promote development and prevent death. The Pathways approach to nutrition encompasses the availability of essential nutrients in appropriate amounts and individual equitable access to nutritious foods and care. Good nutrition is not only limited to access to nutritious foods, but to basic nutrition and care practices as well as adequate health and sanitation. This necessitated setting up a whole day to address the challenges of malnutrition in practical, interactive and different engaging sessions. At the end of the session on nutrition, Bakare Miransi, a paraprofessional and sesame grower from Naipanga in Nachingwea District was amazed by the knowledge gained during the session on cooking and nutrients’ preservation. In his words, “I learnt the need to cook food in a manner to prevent it from loosing nutrients and also how to combine different local food varieties to form a balance meal.”
The paraprofessionals and extension officers were trained on new techniques on germination, agronomic practices on crop life cycle among others. These were undertaken in practical sessions with the objective of imparting knowledge on the agricultural crop cycle, highlighting the pre-sowing, sowing, vegetative, harvest and post-harvest management practices. This method and experience gained from the training made a significant impact on the participants. According to Elly, an extension officer from Masasi, “The practical sessions on how to conduct germination test and how to make compost manure were really educative. I am sure with the knowledge and techniques learnt during the training, I will be able to offer solutions to some of the challenges faced by the farmers in my ward in the cultivation of cassava and sesame.” Bakare also promised to pass these lessons to all the members of his group upon his return to the village.
Obviously elated about the outcome of the training, Maureen Miruka, Pathwayas Senior Technical Advisor, Sustainable Agriculture, expressed her delight that the broad aim of the program is been achieved. She therefore encouraged the paraprofessionals to share from one another in order to deepen the lessons learnt during the program in Tanzania.
Pathways is a program of CARE USA being implemented in six countries of Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania, India and Bangladesh. The initiative in Tanzania seeks to better the lives of poor women farmers by increasing their opportunities while addressing their social, economic and environmental constraints in agriculture. In Tanzania, Pathways will achieve direct impacts on 16,484 married women in poor smallholder households and female heads of households. These impacts will extend to 68,406 additional members of their immediate households as well as poor community members, local leaders, members of village-level governance structures, and district agricultural offices.
Contributor and Photo Credit: Jumoke Adeyeye, AWARD Fellow with Pathways Tanzania