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Tanzanian farmers testify benefits from virtual irrigation project

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Mrs. Asmini Mkangamo shows off a motorcycle bought from rice proceeds

Launched in 2015 in Tanzania to deliver transformative impact in terms of increased productivity, profitability and economic returns from investments, the Virtual Irrigation Academy project (VIA) is set to deliver as promised. Having noticed a positive trend from initial investments, farmers are motivated to make critical investment decisions, which they wouldn't’t have done when they had limited information. Significant productivity changes have been reported in nearly all intervention schemes, with yields growing by over 50 percent on average. Below are testimonies from selected farmers in Tanzania:

Asmini Mkangamo (pictured above in motorcycle), Msolwa Rice Scheme

I harvested 23 bags (each of about 150Kg) of unthreshed rice which I sold at Tsh120, 000 (about US$ 55) per bag, earning Tsh2, 760,000 (about US$ 1,255). From the income, I bought a motorbike and rehabilitated the family house. The balance was used to buy food and re-invest into the farm.  The women have experienced reduction of workload, respect from the community and better family relations due to increasing stakes in the family economy. I have additional time to make mandazi (African dough-nuts), which earns me about Tsh 300,000(about US$136) as additional income. I also have spare time to participate in the mosque and community banking.

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Daudi Mtangi (pictured below), a youth farmer, Msolwa Ujamaa, Tanzania

 Before the introduction of the VIA monitoring tools, the village folks had nicknamed my garden Mtera farm. They were comparing it to Mtera River because the garden was always flooded like a river. The rice often turned yellow and was stunted, resulting into poor harvest. I consider the project a blessing because it has created standard procedures for irrigation and application of fertilizer. I have registered improvement on a 0.5-acre farm from five bags before the project to 11 bags. I earned Tsh 1,320,000 (about US$600) after selling harvested rice at the peak price of 120,000 (about US$ 54) this year. From the proceeds, I bought a plot of land to build a house and allocated some funds to renovate my father’s house. Besides, I have saved time to help my father in his farm, and work in a sugar factory where I earn Tsh 185,000 (about US$ 84) monthly. Many youth who were once averse to farming now consider me a role model and have adopted farming.

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Santia Muna (pictured below), Buigiri, Dodoma, Tanzania

Information from monitoring tools has enabled me get net earnings of 2,812,500 (about US$ 1,278) from okra. Okra is that it is harvested the whole year. In the last year, I harvested 280 buckets on 0.5 acre garden, which fetched about 2,870,000 (about US$ 1,305) at Tsh 10,250 (about US$5) per bucket. When I deduct the production costs, I remained with 2,812,500 (about US$ 1,278). This is all a result of skipping a week before the next irrigation. Because I am confident of a good harvest, I didn’t hesitate to invest Tsh 30,000 (about US 13) to establish a dug-out well to sustain the current crop after the main supply dam dried up.

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Robert Chilewa (pictured below), Buigiri, Dodoma Tanzania

I am set to earn Tsh 5,124,000 (about US $ 2,329) from yellow bell pepper from just a 0.5 acre. I have already started harvesting 10 bags monthly. As long as I continue supplying regulated amounts of water, I will harvest for another 7 months. That means 80 bags. Sold at average price of Tsh70,000 (about US$ 32), I will fetch a gross of Tsh5,600,000 (about US $2,545) and Tsh5,124,000 (about US $ 2,329) after factoring in the costs. It is not magic, it is about relying on the Chameleon monitoring tools to determine when to provide water and manage the use of fertilizer. 

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Sina Mliyuke (pictured below), Kiwere Irrigation Scheme in Iringa

Before, I could harvest only 12 bags of maize in a season, which earned me Tsh 480,000 (about US$218). Today, the harvest has increased to 30 bags, which translates to Tsh1, 200,000 (about US $ 545) when sold at Tsh 40,000 (about US$ 18). I have reduced the frequency of irrigating from three times weekly to once per week.  I have also reduced the amount of fertilizer applied from three times (about Tsh 339,000 or US$ 154) to only twice (about Tsh 201,000 or US$ 91) now. Because of these changes, I have spare time to make mandazi (African dough-nuts), which earns me Tsh40, 000 (about US$ 18) monthly. During the planting and harvesting seasons, I employ seven to eight people in my farm.

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Written by Ben Moses Ilakut (ASARECA). Originated jointly with Moses Odeke (ASARECA) and Tanzania project leaders, Dr. Chitutu and Dr. Nuru, during interactions with farmers at a monitoring mission in October 2017. All photos taken from VIA sites

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Date Published: 
Wednesday, 31 January 2018