Multipurpose trees help Tanzanian smallholder farmers build resilience

A World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) pilot of growing multipurpose, fast growing leguminous trees such as gliricidia (gliricidia sepium), grevillea robusta and melia is helping hundreds of smallholder Tanzanian farmers build resilient farming systems.

The pilot, conducted in collaboration with Africa Rising Project, has seen Tanzanian farmers in soil erosion-battered districts of Kongwa and Kiteto get good harvests by planting the tree varieties that can be used for improving soil fertility. The trees can also be used for fodder, wind erosion control and supply of fuel wood.

“Farmers now know how to raise these tree seedlings and plant them in strategic parts of their fields depending on site condition and land availability,” said Anthony Kimaro, the ICRAF country representative in Tanzania and the Africa RISING research theme leader.

In a blog posted on Africa Rising website, Kimaro said the success of the project was underpinned by distribution of seedlings to selected lead farmers who took part in the demonstration of the tested agroforestry technologies of growing the trees and later shared the knowledge with other farmers.

He said more than 16 000 gliricidia seedlings were distributed for planting in the 5 villages of Mlali, Molet, Ilakala, Manyusi and Njoro in 2015 at the start of the project. On curbing deforestation, Kimaro said planting gliricidia would help reduce the overdependence of households on fuel wood from forests.

Fuel wood extraction is said to be responsible for nearly 30% of deforestation in Tanzania. Trees felled for firewood provides 92% of Tanzania’s energy needs, causing unsustainable use of forest resources, according to Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS).

Winnie Saigodi, a mother of five, from Moleti village in Kongwa District, is one of the hundreds of beneficiary farmers who had long given up harvesting any meaningful produce from their semi-arid farmers.

“I am happy that my field is green and I have started enjoying the shade from the trees during lunch or breastfeeding breaks when working in the farm,” says Saigodi. She is looking forward to harvesting a good amount of wood in December this year from the year-old gliricidia trees, which is much more than she gets from crop residues.

She says knowledge from the project is changing the beliefs and misconceptions of farmers in the village. “We believed trees couldn’t be planted in the farms because they suck away nutrients from food crops, but we now know the types of trees that are friendly to crops and that add nutrients in the soil,” she says. “Moreover, planting trees at the farm is helping reduce farm boundary conflicts.”

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