This African family have a simple dream - to have a good life together. Could you help make that a reality?
PUBLISHED: 16:30 22 December 2014 | UPDATED: 16:30 22 December 2014
While Tanzania might be famous for Kilimanjaro - Africa’s highest peak - and game parks such as the Serengeti, more than half of the population do not have enough nutritious food to eat.
Most people rely on small-scale farming in rural areas, but 57% of households struggle to provide healthy and vitamin-packed food.
In the country’s forested regions, people often resort to selling timber products like firewood and charcoal to make ends meet, causing deforestation and soil erosion.
Farm Africa’s latest project is helping around 3,000 farmers in Kilosa and Gairo districts of the southern Morogoro region of Tanzania, to grow themselves out of hunger for good by introducing a new highly-nutritious crop, the humble orange flesh sweet potato.
Despite the local climate being favourable to growing crops, many families struggle to provide their children with a nutritious diet as they can only afford poor-quality seeds which produce meagre harvests, and their crops are often decimated by pests.
According to a recent study by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, approximately 42% of children living in the Kilosa district are stunted and malnourished.
Farm Africa’s new project has been designed to tackle the daily problems faced by local families through the introduction of the highly-nutritious orange fleshed sweet potato which will lead to increased incomes and improved nutrition levels.
Thanks to the efforts of the Tanzanian government to educate and encourage people to grow and eat crops which have a higher nutritional value, the demand for these crops is increasing which is also having a positive knock-on effect by boosting their value too.
The charity is working side-by-side with farmers helping them grow the orange flesh sweet potatoes.
Farmers are given practical training at demonstration plots, which are pieces of land where farmers are shown new techniques which will boost harvests and they can try growing new crops.
This approach allows farmers to learn without taking risks with the land where they grow food to feed their families. This gives farmers the confidence to use their newly acquired skills to grow the new crops on their own land.
Orange flesh sweet potatoes also have a strong advantage over other local crops which are frequently destroyed by a pest called Mburumundu, which are flying insects like locusts.
The new potatoes grow in the ground, increasing in size, safe from the pest until they are ready to be harvested.
In the past farming families had little financial security as they did not know what price they would get for their crops when they sold them. It meant they could not plan for emergencies or for the future.
Mariam Mbasa, a local mum from Zombo village, said: “When there is an emergency, we have no back-up plan.”
For families like Mariam’s this frightening uncertainty will soon be a thing of the past thanks to the training that Farm Africa is giving to farmer groups.
The charity’s training will provide farmers with the skills and confidence to work together to negotiate and sell their harvests direct to large-scale buyers. These buyers pay a fair and consistent price for produce which allows farmers to make plans for how to spend their money, and gives them the confidence to invest in seeds and other necessities to provide for their families.
When families can plan they are better able to break the cycle of poverty.
“I want my children to finish university; I want a nurse and a doctor,” says Eva, a mother who lives in Kiegaya village, Kilosa district. She has high hopes for her daughters’ education and futures thanks to the new project.
Despite Eva and her husband Sylvester’s best efforts, their humble income from a road-side kiosk and their tomatoes and maize crop mean the family struggle to make ends meet.
They never know how much they can sell their produce for and so they can’t make secure plans for their children’s future. Eva wants to make sure that her daughters get the best education she can provide for them.
They are looking forward to the future more now that they have joined the Farm Africa project. In the New Year they will start to grow new, more nutritious crops which will feed their family. They will also sell the excess they produce together with other local farmers to get the best possible price for all the hard work that they have invested in their harvests.
Eva’s dream is a simple one “I want to have a good life with my family.”
Farm Africa has worked in eastern Africa for nearly 30 years in a bid to end hunger by providing smallholder farmers with specialist training and tools so they can grow more food in ever more challenging conditions.
It also brings in disease-resistant native crops, drought-busting techniques and skills that make tough farming viable, profitable and sustainable.
This Christmas East Anglian Daily Times readers can help play a role in making the dreams that families like Eva and Sylvester’s have, a reality. Please show your support for farming families in eastern Africa this Christmas and give them a New Year filled with hope and prosperity.
See more about Farm Africa here