“Gender equality, livelihood security, raw materials and, in particular, agroecology are the core areas that SWISSAID is working on in Tanzania. As the new programme manager, I had the opportunity to gain an in-depth insight into the ongoing projects for two weeks in November 2020. The exchange with the beneficiaries revealed a great deal of innovative spirit and resilience under difficult living conditions.
A ray of light in the raw materials sector
Hardly any other country in Africa has such a wealth of resources as Tanzania. However, the almost 60 million inhabitants have little of the treasures lying dormant in their soils. Mining often brings with it dangers for the environment and health, as well as inequality.
SWISSAID supports sustainable small-scale mines with safer working conditions, less impact on the environment and better pay for the employees.
But there is another way: this is demonstrated by my visits to three small-scale mines supported by SWISSAID. In these three mines, the transition to sustainable operation is being supported. In addition to ecological criteria, social factors and the empowerment of women naturally also play a role. One of the three mines is run by a woman. Together with partner organisations, SWISSAID is in close contact with state and non-state actors in order to improve business conditions in small-scale mining. New national price regulations offer further rays of hope.
Nevertheless, Tanzania still has a long way to go before it can boast sustainable gold. The next necessary step in our projects is the establishment of jointly developed, realistic and binding social and ecological standards.
Agroecology: harvested at the right time is half the battle
Crop calendar, seed diversity, market oversaturation: For two days, 50 smallholder farmers discussed the many factors that need to be factored in for a successful harvest. They are also supported by nutrition specialists and other local experts in the fields of agriculture, seeds and nutrition. There is a lot of knowledge to share: Not only should the crops planted be good to market and nutritious. In order to avoid a market surplus, they must also be harvested at the right time.
As part of our agroecology projects farmers receive support in production and in drawing up business plans. Innovative collaborations with urban buyers promise exciting new opportunities.
In Tanzania, the demand for organic products is increasing – women farmers are adapting by switching to agro-ecological farming methods. SWISSAID supports the smallholder families in production and in drawing up business plans
The smartphone app “Macho Sauti” is also innovative. With the help of an app co-developed by ETH Zurich, women farmers in Tanzania can exchange solutions to problems in converting to agroecology and also seek advice directly from experts.
In a research project with ETHZ and Sokoine University in Tanzania, agroecological production methods are also being scientifically investigated, for example which biological pest control is most effective, or which method for improving soil fertility has the greatest impact on crop yield. This will enable the recommendations for farmers to be continuously improved. But what is already clear is that agroecology works!
Sustainable fish farming for food security
My last project visit takes me to the idyllic coastal region in the south of Tanzania. Here, too, the majority of the population keeps its head above water with subsistence farming. Fish is of existential importance – both nutritionally and financially. Due to industrial overfishing, however, fish stocks in the sea continue to decline. In order to facilitate access to the coast, but also to obtain cheap firewood, important mangrove stands are being cut down.
The objectives of SWISSAID’s fish farming project are therefore highly relevant: Catching fish from near-shore breeding ponds and reforesting mangrove forests. And while there is still a lot to do – it takes up to three months to build a fishpond – the enthusiasm of the local population and the support of the local authorities give me confidence.
The coastal district of the Lindi Region is one of the poorest communities in Tanzania. The majority of the population barely keeps its head above water with subsistence farming. Fish is largely the only source of animal protein.
On the right track
I leave Tanzania after two intensive weeks, enriched with many impressions and in an optimistic mood. The projects are locally anchored. Research, implementation and awareness-raising work go hand in hand. Together with the beneficiaries and Tanzanian partner organisations, our committed local team overcomes new challenges every day. And thus achieve step by step more food security, equality and justice.”